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By Jason John.
Critics love The Americans, the Cold War era television drama about KGB spies who masquerade as a suburban couple living just outside the District of Columbia. Since 2013, The Americans has been garnering critical praise that review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes estimates to be a 96 percent approval rating for its fourth season.
Aside from being in agreement that The Americans is one of the best series on television, critics have also collectively wonder what is keeping the show from being elevated to the ranks of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. The show is on FX, a network that is included in most basic cable television packages, and yet the third season finale garnered viewership figures of less than 1.5 million. While more than a million viewers tuning in may sound significant, other shows with the production costs of The Americans may have already been cancelled. FX is certainly willing to risk ratings for the purpose of keeping its flagship series on the air; in fact, the show has been confirmed for another two seasons, but fans are wondering what could be done to make it even better.
To a great extent, the success of The Americans is similar to Mr. Robot, another critically acclaimed drama that currently plays on another basic cable network. Mr. Robot’s viewership is similar to that of The Americans; in fact, the spy drama sometimes gets even more viewers than its hacking counterpart. At the 2016 Emmys, both Matthew Rhys and Rami Malek were nominated for the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, with Malek winning it in only Mr. Robot’s second season.
Some critics argue that FX is what is keeping The Americans from becoming a TV legend, this is to say that perhaps a premium cable network such as HBO could be a better fit; however, many critics argued that the incredible series The Wire was better than The Sopranos and still languished on HBO. Other critics believe that The Americans would be more welcome on a digital streaming giant such as Netflix.
The days when profanity and nudity made American cable network shows more popular has basically come to an end, which means that the series can do without those creative plot elements. Besides, FX has been pushing the envelope in this regard, and thus naked bodies and curse words could be in store for The Americans, but this would mostly be a gimmick. Thus far, the production team of this great series has not ventured into changing the fabric of each episode. Still, there is definitely room for improvement, and here are some ideas:
Staying On Track With Paige
One of the most endearing plotlines of The Americans has been Paige, the teenage daughter of the cold-blooded killers at the center of the show. Played with great acumen by Holly Taylor, her character development could be similar to that of Anthony Jr. in The Sopranos. As with all parents raising children in the United States, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings care deeply about their daughter even as they dispatch targets and rivals. For the time being, Paige is on track to become a KGB spy like her parents; nonetheless, fans of the show are starting to see some of that American sass that teenage girls mastered to perfection during the Reagan era. This means potential rebelliousness that could endanger the dangerous and despicable work her parents do.
Providing a Glimpse Into the Future
As a period piece, The Americans seasons are finite: once the Berlin Wall comes down and the Soviet Union breaks up in failure, the show could be considered to be over. Given that fans of The Americans are living in the Trump era of possible collusion with Russia, future seasons of the show could feature storylines about espionage and treason at the uppermost levels of the White House; perhaps a new character who is a young and successful real estate developer in New York?