FX's TCA panel on its upcoming drama (Jan. 30) "The Americans" got off to a good start, with waiters passing out caviar on blinis to TV critics in keeping with the Russian theme.
The show focuses on a married couple (Keri Russell and Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who's fantastic) who are Soviet spies -- sleeper agents -- living in America as a typical Washington, D.C. suburban couple with two kids.
"We want you to root for the KGB," laughed creator/executive producer Joe Weisberg, who worked for the CIA from 1990 to 1994.
The show has a cloak-and-digger thriller element to it, but it's every bit as much a domestic drama.
"It's a show about marriage, which is an allegory for international relations," executive producer Joel Fields said.
The show is set in 1981 at the height of the Cold War.
"If you tried to tell a story like this about al-Qaeda now it would be impossible," Weisberg said. "Enough time has passed" where we can view Soviets more as people than enemies.
There are several compelling facets of the show, not least of which is seeing how this couple deals with living in -- and raising children in -- a capitalist country that represents everything their homeland abhors. Rhys' character seems far more amenable to the American way than his more strident wife, played by Russell.
"We thought a lot about who was going to be the more stalwart, tried and true KGB agent," Weisberg said. "Something about it seemed a little fresher and more powerful if it was Elizabeth (Russell)."
"She scares the sh-- out of me," Rhys joked.
The '80s soundtrack delivers a great blast of nostalgia. So does the '80s fashion, even if it's limited largely to high-waisted jeans.
"Putting a gun in her waistbelt makes it incredible difficult," Rhys joked about his co-star's wardrobe.