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I haven’t been this binged out since I discovered Mad Men. Unlike that devouring obsession, my latest time-eating diversion is a slow binge. I watch the FX series The Americans with one eye closed, white-knuckling through my knitting. I can get through maybe one or two episodes before it gets to me.

In a nutshell: The Americans is a period drama about the complex marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington, D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected president.

The territory is rich—yes, it’s about spies and their dastardly ways, but it’s also about love, marriage, parenting, and how to fold up a dead body in a suitcase. (Pro tip: rethink how you fold a limb.) So much lying cheating doublecrossing backstabbing prevaricating treachery—all delivered in a perfect, excruciating re-creation of what America looked like in 1982. Remember the Ford LTD? There are a thousand Ford LTDs in this show.

It can be hilarious and appalling in one scene. I can’t think of another show quite like this.

Spoilers galore in this New Yorker piece about The Americans (read it after you finish Season 3), but Joshua Rothman does a better job than I can at explaining the allure of this show.

Tonight the Emmys will be on, and I’ll be rooting for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as best actors. Not only are their performances riveting, they have done four seasons of a show where they constantly slap on wigs and disguises from the early ’80s. Reliving ’80s style is just about the hardest work any actor could ever do.

The first three seasons stream free for Amazon Prime members. Season Four is on iTunes. And what binge is complete without good recaps? Vulture has a juicy archive covering all four seasons.

I’m curious if anybody else is watching this. The Great British Bake Off it ain’t!


  • The Americans sounds like A perfect diversion from my never ending obsession with Grace and Frankie.
    I have to wait until May for more of !

    • Those two are a couple in “real life”. My one issue is I still need to look at what I am knitting quite a bit while TV is on and when they start speaking Russian I HAVE to look to read the sub-titles!
      I am a late bloomer BUT finally got desensitized to all the head rolling in Game of Thrones and am on Season 4.

      • That is when I use the rewind function.

  • I’m with you on this! I was hooked from the opening sequence of the first show. But I am also definitely ready for Netflix to put up another season of the Bake Off up. And why don’t any of these services show The Great British Sewing Bee.

    • You can see Sewing Bee on the internet. I found some episodes the other day.

  • I find it hilarious that it is technically a period drama – set in a time period that I have actually lived through!

    So much 80s detail to love in that show, awesome walk down memory lane. And I loved the use of that Fleetwood Mac track “Tusk” in the first episode – my parents were big fans.

    • Each episode features a different hit song from the era, used in a really compelling way. I love how they use the soundtrack like this.

  • I’ve watched it since the beginning. My husband and I are hooked on this show. I graduated high school in 1982 and they really captured the look and feel of the 80’s. Matthew Rhys is Welsh but his American accent is excellent and Keri Russell is fantastic as Elizabeth. It’s hard to believe she was Felicity in the show of the same name. It’s tough to wait for the new episodes next year.

  • The Americans is simply the best show on TV right now. I’ve been hooked since the first year.

  • We discovered it this summer on Netflix. More than a couple of episodes at a time leave me feeling mildly depressed, with a strong need to shower. I love it. I hate it. It is riveting.

  • I’m working my way through Alias on Netflix right now before it gets pulled later this coming week. (Yes, I have the whole series on DVD. That’s not the point.) Then Longmire comes back for its last season. But The Americans is on my to-watch list, too.

  • Hands down one of my favorite shows. Break up that binge with episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix and you will forget it is 2016.

  • I absolutely LOVE The Americans! Riveting television, to be sure!

    However, Netflix made my heart go pitty pat yesterday with an email announcing Season 4 of Luther!

    The perfect accoutrements for sweater knitting! And, perhaps just the thing Kay needs to get through those last rows of her EPIC SWEATER PROJECT!

    • What fab news! Luther is so darkly good!

    • Yessssss. Luther!!!!!

  • Absolutely love The Americans. And has a podcast after every episode where they talk with the actors, special effects guys, writers, real FBI and KGB agents, you name it. If you like the show I highly recommend the podcast.

    • Yes, the podcast is terrific! I can’t actually knit while watching The Americans, but the podcast is good knitting time.

  • I started watching after the second season aired, I think, and had to catch up via Neflix. It is sort of weird to think of it as a period drama, but it really does capture the ’80s so well. Matthew Rhys is so good that when I saw him in another period drama (Death Comes to Pemberley), I was completely thrown off by his (normal) British accent!

  • Thanks for this review. I’ve never heard of this show but I graduated high school in 1982 (just like fellow commenter Kathy) so I’m sure I’d love the 80’s vibe. Just checked my local library and I can get season’s 1, 2 and 3.

    I’m currently loving A Place to Call Home season 3. Set in 1950’s Australia.

  • My first car was a ’71 LTD Brougham—bright red with a black vinyl top. If it hadn’t rusted away, I would still be driving it.

  • This is the favorite show in our household. I prefer not to acknowlede the 80’s a a “period”, but I acfually was about the same as as Eliizabeth. (Shudder)

  • One of my favorite shows! I’ve watched it from the beginning. You are a more fearless knitter than I. Anytime I knit while watching that particular show my gauge goes haywire from the tension and tighter knitting.

  • Watching it too. I wasn’t hooked immediately but now I am.

  • I love this show! I really think it’s the best series that I’ve watched in years. Martha is my favorite. What an amazing actress.

  • I can never figure out how to watch any of these shows (really, in getting ready to move I just found out after HOW many years that I get Showtime–who new?). So these Sunday reviews have been generally lost on me. I do like to watch reruns of an interesting old movie or a good sitcom, if offered.

  • Mid-way through season one and we are HOOKED.

  • I watched it as it aired in FX. Hope there is another season coming. One of my favorites!

  • Thanks for the bump for “The Americans.” It is so good; and yet at times so hard to watch. Which makes it great drama. That suitcase bit gave me the willies.

    I still miss “Mad Men.” Though watching “Indian Summers” and waiting for “Poldark.” Guilty pleasures abound.

  • The Americans is an awesome show probably my favorite I can hardly wait for the new season the acting is marvelous and each week I can hardly wait until the next week

  • The Americans: everything you said, exactly. Lately my streaming channels are confusing me, I could swear I got FXNOW specifically to watch the Americans but it maybe it expired or maybe I am misremembering, back to APrime it is. Staying culturally current is kind of daunting.

  • Echoing in agreement that The Americans is one of the best shows ever.
    And love that Luther is coming back – and Longmire, I am watching it again in anticipation…

    However, Orphan Black is my true favorite. <3

    • Ditto on Longmire-Season 5 starts Sept. 23rd on Netflix!

  • YES! I’ve kept up with all four seasons and love it! Who says there’s nothing good on television?

  • I love The Americans. I lived through the 80s by I must have blocked out a lot because I don’t remember people looking like that! I noticed a bunch of other recommendations in the comments that I agree with as well: Longmire, Luther, Poldark…great television these days.

  • Curmudgeon comment alert! I started listening to Longmire on audiobook while stuck on the couch with a broken ankle, then discovered that it’s streaming on Netflix so I tuned in for a couple episodes. The casting’s all wrong according to what’s in my head–Vic’s not blonde, Bear’s twice Lou Diamond Phillips’ size (although I could watch him do pretty much anything all day)–so I had to quit.

    Haven’t watched The Americans or Luther or Game of Thrones, maybe I’ll go see what the fuss is about.

    I love the Lazy Sunday posts (well, all of them actually) and reading everyone’s comments. Makes it feel like a real neighborhood in here. Kind of like an expanded knit night.

  • I am watching too! I have only seen Seasons One & Two (from the library – watched right through), but you are right. It is appalling and hilarious. I can’t wait to watch Season3, and if they show previews tonight throughout the Emmys, I shall be ignoring and concentrating on my knitting during same. No spoilers for me!

  • I’ve watched this since the beginning. I’m always reminded how technology today would make much of what they do undoable. Cameras everywhere. GPS tracking, etc. I find it scary at times.

  • i started the first season earlier this year. its brilliant but my job is so stressful that i cant watch it right now… need comedies and low stress things – no violence (have only watched a few eps of the first season of GOT … one of these years) .. i will dip into it now and then. eventually will see it all.

    do hope that they win because they are both fabulous in it.

  • My husband and I never miss an episod – thanks to our dvr machine.
    Have watched since show # 1. Love it.
    We’re hoping they both win tonight

  • I know what you mean about the tension, that is how we feel when watching House of Cards (US version); can only watch one or two shows at a time. I have seen a couple of the Americans and liked it but didn’t get hooked. I still miss The Newsroom. If you want to feel great after 1&1/2 hours of tv, watch the newly released Ron Howard production of Eight Days a Week. It is about the touring years of the Beatles and it just made me want to jump up and down and scream (I didn’t, still some self control left). I think I am showing my age here!!

    • And if you see Eight Days a Week in the theater, there’s the restored Shea Stadium performance at the end. It blew my mind, thinking about the sound coming through the tinny PA & how none of them could hear each other — or themselves!

      (The Americans for me was a slow burn. I appreciated the craft of early episodes, and then suddenly it started punching me in the gut. In. Uh. A good way.)

  • I really hope both of them win tonight because it’s the best drama on tv and has been unjustly ignored by the award folks. But Keri Russell also deserves attention for hiding her baby bump behind rain coats and cookie sheets an entire season! It was masterful.

  • I watched Luther last night and this morning. I have to watch it again with Mike since I Netflix cheated on him.
    I will have to shock out the Americans. My curiousity is piqued.

    • Martha, Martha! That’s the phrase I need “Netflix cheated”. Sometimes I’m tempted NOT to introduce my husband to a good series when I find it, just so I have something to watch when he travels. 😉

  • Thanks, Ann! I’m always looking for good shows. I’ll see if my library has it.

    My friends just tirned me on to Outlanders. It’s A-MAZING! Great female protagonist hot men, & the outfits! Altjough i sudpect you’ve already found this one. I’m usually late to the party. It’s a Starz series.

  • I have been a fan for years and must say that the re-watch is better because…no commercials ! You forgot to mention the FBI agent who moved in across the street, and the fact that the two major actors just had a real-life-baby together !!!!

  • I’ve watched this show since the first episode aired and have been trying to convert people for years. I’m so happy that it’s finally getting the attention it deserves ~ such a great show!! (And they recently announced it will air for two more seasons ~ yippee!)

  • I binge-watched through the spring. Such a great show!

  • When it first came on, I watched a few episodes, but then lost track of it or something. Just recently, I’ve started over – I’m about halfway through the second season, and really loving it!

  • I caught up with The Americans after the New Yorker raves. I love it! Everything you said — plus, they film in Brooklyn, so I play “spot the location standing in for ’80s DC” a lot.

    I don’t know if I could do anything other than plain stockinette while watching the show – it’s too intense.

  • I’ve watched this show since the beginning and have been a huge fan. The acting is outstanding, the evocation of the period is wonderful and the storylines are absorbing. Good counter to anyone who says there’s nothing good an TV anymore.

  • I discovered the Americans right before Season Three aired and happily binge-watched Seasons One and Two on Amazon Prime. Part of this show’s allure for me is that it takes place where I live and I always have my eyes peeled for familiar suburban D.C. landmarks and inconsistencies.

    Thank goodness for Amazon Prime — how else would I have been able to watch the entire Season One of Poldark over a weekend? Is it just me, or does anyone else feel the urge to spread Aiden Turner on toast and devour him? Loved him in “Being Human” but Poldark is on a whole new plane of existence.

  • Watched and loved it from the beginning. Kudos for Margo Martindale for her Americans-related Emmy; any episode she is in is great, but no disrespect to Frank Langella. Have you listened to the Slate Magazine podcasts?

    • Margo Martindale is also very good indeed in Season 2 of “Justified”, as a family matriarch with a knack for serving poisoned moonshine to unsuspecting guests….

  • Is it as good as “Homeland” because I sure love me some Homeland.

  • So it looks like The Americans was passed over in the Emmys again. I guess whoever Emmy is, she can’t tolerate the ambiguity of loving these people who are, while you are loving them, trying to defeat your country using the most violent possible means. Here in the DC area, where there are a lot of people with security clearances, there are those who absolutely WILL NOT watch the show and are somewhat disapproving of those who do. As for me, I think it’s one of the greatest things ever on TV, but as I forgive them their transgressions every time, it makes me understand how it can be possible to accept fanaticism as a normal thing.

  • I too watched it a lot, great one, great show! –

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