The Americans on FX is a Spy Thriller of the Highest Order

By | January 26, 2015

The Americans on FX is a Cold War drama that centers around next door neighbor KGB and FBI agents as well as their handlers and higher-ups in Washington, D.C.

The hit FX show, which is set in the Reagan years, is ready to kick-off season three this week.  The Americans on FX is a super-smart show for people who remember, or have an interest in, this fairly recent history.  It shows the Cold War spy game as it was played in the capitol city in both the Soviet Embassy and FBI Headquarters in the 1980’s.  It is action-packed with quite a bit of wild, uh, romance thrown in, to boot.  Otherwise, there is always The Kardashians.  Needless to say, the twain do not mix.

Season three of this FX show promises to be a bell-ringer, for sure.  For anyone who has not given this show a chance, you are strongly encouraged to do so.  In fact, you will be doing so.  Or, perhaps, you might prefer the climate of Siberia, no?  Your choice, shipping is free of charge.

Season two left us with a few, very untenable situations.  First of all, the Soviet spy machine is honing in on the teenage daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), of our very sympathetic KGB sleeper cell agents.  They want her as a potential new super-sleeper recruit.  It is amazing how this FX show has shown just what an impossible situation Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), the D.C. area travel agents who are hiding their KGB reality, are faced with.  Their life is really tough and, as the main characters of the show, you can’t help but sympathize with them even if they are from Reagan’s nemesis, the so-called Evil Empire.  Their next door neighbor, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), a key FBI counter-intelligence agent, is not totally oblivious, but he might as well be since he has gotten his rear end in the deepest of slings over Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru), a femme fatale, Mata Hari, if there has ever been one.  She works in the Soviet Embassy and Stan is thoroughly compromised.  However, he has finally, albeit ungracefully, managed to get somewhat of a grip on himself.  Nina’s sublime charms are such that she has also attracted the attention of Oleg Burov (Costa Ronin), a high-ranking and slick KGB agent in the Soviet Embassy.  Stan’s lovelorn wife, Sandra Beeman (Susan Misner), is the odd one out in this dangerous love triangle and she has had enough.  Season three will provide either further entanglements or further answers for these four.  At least, Stan has good taste in women.  Both Nina and Sandra are quite attractive, as is Elizabeth.  Ah, FX, you gotta love it.

While season two focused on the family and romance problems of our key figures, season one was action-packed with spy intrigue.  The pilot for The Americans on FX, which kicked-off season one, is a must see and I would reckon is one of the best pilots for a television series ever.

One draw for fans and would-be fans of The Americans is a good look at actual spy craft from the 80’s cold war.  This is no holds barred and dangerous work for only the most dedicated.  One slip-up and your cover could be compromised as well as your life.  One aspect of this that has been shown on The Americans is the phenomenon of spy numbers shortwave radio stations.  There has been at least one scene in The Americans where KGB agent, Phillip Jennings, has decamped to the woods somewhere around Washington D.C., and set up a shortwave radio receiver complete with long-range antenna.  After tuning in to a preselected shortwave frequency which is broadcasting numbers from Mother Russia, the Soviet Embassy or somewhere else, he copies down these numbers and then later translates them using a code book.  This really happened in the Cold  War and numbers stations were definitely out there.

Shortwave radio enthusiasts have been intrigued by listening to these stations in the past for a Cold War spy versus spy thrill.  In fact, today, numbers stations do still exist and can be heard on shortwave radio.  For more information on these numbers stations and other Cold War shortwave relics you can still hear, check out these links: and  You will need a shortwave radio to hear these spooky transmissions.  If you don’t have a giant antenna, you are going to be pretty limited.  If you would like to try and hear some of the foregoing, check out this link to a shortwave receiver in the Netherlands that has a 20 meter high antenna.  It is a slick set-up where you can listen to shortwave over the internet and save selected stations, if you like.  There is also a chat board where enthusiasts will point out numbers stations, if they hear them, and other interesting shortwave radio transmissions.

Anyway, that’s just a little background information for the next time you see Phillip Jennings twisting the knobs on his radio gear out in the forest.  As for Stan, the FBI agent who got in way over his head with the enticing Nina Sergeevna, it is a pretty easy code to decrypt.  Alas, on The Americans on FX, the language of love is universal, but Stan, poor Stan, poor, compromised Stan, don’t go, whatever you do, falling in love with a Russian spy.  Stan thought he had it under control.  Stan did not have it under control.  Nina played him like a balalaika.

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