TV Takes Up Soviet Sleeper Cells in the United States: FX's New Series The Americans

The show was created by Joe Weisberg, the brother of liberal journalist and editor-in-chief of the Slate group Jacob Weisberg. Its producers evidently want American audiences to root for the Soviet agents to win! Executive producer Joel Fields actually told The Hollywood Reporter that “it might be a little different to believe and get used to, but we want you to root for the KGB. They’re trying to get the Soviets to win the Cold War.” As the trade paper commented, believe it or not,

the creative team behind the high-profile launch expressed a confidence that more than enough time has passed for American audiences to not hold a grudge.

It is hard to believe, given the script and the reactions one has as the show develops, to think that any viewer would actually be rooting for the Soviets. Even if a young audience knows nothing about Communism and the Cold War, what each episode to date reveals is the horrendous immorality of the Soviet agents. The couple, who dote upon their own children and always worry what would happen to them if they are caught by the FBI -- remember that their children have no idea who their parents really are, and were born in the U.S. and raised as regular American kids -- are willing to poison a maid’s son and let him die if need be to get a bug into the secretary of Defense’s home. They have no scruples at all. They eventually murder the defecting KGB agent in cold blood, after having locked him in their car trunk for a few days.

Indeed, the tension between the KGB husband and wife is that the husband thinks at times that they too should defect, get witness-protection identities, and live normal lives with new names so they no longer have to engage in horrendous acts for the Soviet spy agency. Phillip Jennings loves what America has to offer, from cowboy boots to modern technology, while Elizabeth is a loyal Communist who does not want to betray Moscow, “our country,” as she refers to Russia. She also does not want her children to grow up in the American consumer culture. At a secret meeting with her KGB control, she even considers ratting on her husband because of his doubts, and pledges to her boss that she will do whatever is necessary for Moscow Center. At one point, Phillip tells Elizabeth that if they defect, perhaps their children would be alright and would “grow up to be socialists.” Elizabeth does not buy this for one moment, and obviously hopes for the eventual triumph of world Communism. As Alyssa Rosenberg writes in Slate, the 13-year-old Paige

can’t possibly understand that her mother is terrified by the prospect that the daughter she hoped would grow up to be something other than a "regular American" is abandoning not just childhood, but Elizabeth’s own socialist values, lured by patent-leather blue sandals and bright red bras.

Creator Weisberg revealed his own bias when he told the trade journal that “these were really competing value systems. And there’s no question that repressive socialism failed, but unbridled consumption hasn’t exactly led to great satisfaction.” Note the term “repressive” socialism; the usage by Weisberg implies that the non-repressive type would be different and lead to better results. Tell that to the writers and producers of HBO’s monster hit The Sopranos. Today’s Wall Street Journal runs a story about how Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess have spent millions renovating their 2 million dollar Greenwich Village brownstone three times, so they could get it perfect. Evidently, they had great satisfaction and are very happy accomplishing what money allowed them to do. I hope Weisberg will get equal satisfaction from the proceeds from The Americans, without socialism prohibiting him from doing so.