By Jacqueline Cutler
The toughest hurdle to get around with FX's "The Americans" is that setting the action in 1980 qualifies the drama as a period piece.
For those already adults when President Reagan was in office, the days of Madonna being relevant don't seem distant enough to be a period drama. They are, though, and the series that premieres Wednesday, Jan. 30, does them quite well.
The drama stars Keri Russell ("Felicity") and Matthew Rhys ("Brothers & Sisters") as Russian KGB spies living in the U.S. The pilot explains how Elizabeth and Philip came to live in a suburban house with two children. It flashes between Washington, D.C., of 1981 and 20 years earlier in Moscow, when they were introduced and later assigned to be a married couple in the States.
Elizabeth is a stolid Communist, which she was bred to be. When she went through training, she was an unquestioning soldier of the state, which included a KGB officer beating and raping her. A couple of decades later, that officer is bound and gagged in the trunk of Elizabeth and Philip's Delta 88.
Elizabeth is a complicated woman; she appears icy and self-contained. Affable Philip adores Elizabeth and has grown quite fond of the American lifestyle. Whether she loves him, as much or at all, isn't certain.
"He has arrived at a place, he has fallen in love with her and loves his children, and the longer they prolong this spy life, the chances are he will lose everything," Rhys says. "The research we have done on it, I am constantly surprised as to how these people maintain these double lives."