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I’ve been binging The Americans on Hulu (FX Network). I had never seen a single episode before I started but had heard good things. I knew the premise: Soviet spies operating in America at the start of the Reagan administration. When the current young guns talk about their time in the war, they’re talking about Viet Nam, not Desert Storm. When the older crowd is talking about fighting the Nazis, they mean fighting actual Nazis in World War II. I admit that it drags at times, and it relies on the far too frequently used trope of emotional idiots making huge mistakes to create the needed drama. The latter is especially frustrating considering that it unnecessary in a show where the anti-heroes are being chased by the FBI and CIA. However, it’s a good show overall with a solid cast of actors, some of whom are new to me. The first five seasons have 13 episodes each, and the sixth has 10 episodes. They do a good job of demonstrating how most spies are recruited; most aren’t government workers. Each episode is about 45 minutes, but with a Chrome extension that allows me to speed up the episodes to 1.25x speed, I’m blazing through it.
I love period pieces because of the music and current events that they work into the script, some worth remembering, and some worth forgetting, but this one is particularly special to me. It takes place in the Washington, DC area, and the creators did a remarkable amount of research (perhaps because they grew up there as well). They get a lot of small details correct, from long gone television commercials playing in the background to various restaurants. The spies live in in Falls Church, Virginia, and though I didn’t move to Northern Virginia until 2000, I grew up in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland. I know all of the areas portrayed. As a recent graduate of the University of Maryland in the 90s, I started spending my weekends bar hopping in downtown DC and Northern Virginia. Honestly, the night life in Montgomery County was atrocious around that time, so the spots the show visits are where I hung out. I hope they visit the “Exorcist Stairs” before the show ends. I urinated down them when I was a stupid, young adult who had a lot too much to drink. It’s not an uncommon thing to do, though I doubt you’ll find mention of it on many websites.
Early this morning, I watched an episode entitled “A Roy Rogers in Franconia.” For those of you from the western United States that have a special place in your heart for In-n-Out, Roy Rogers is my burger joint that I like more than I should due to nostalgia, but with a menu that went far beyond burgers. When I finally moved to Northern Virginia, it was near Franconia, so I visited that Manchester Lakes Roy Rogers more times than I could possibly count. The last episode I watched before this post went live is called Lotus 1-2-3. I forgot that software existed. It was released when I was in high school but was already losing the war against MS Excel and Borland’s Quattro Pro by the time I was out of college and working as a software engineer.
Watching the show really brings me back to several times in my life, from childhood to recent college graduate to recent law school graduate, even though much of that time occurred long after the period in which The Americans is based.
As always, YMMV.
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