I’m close to giving up on The Americans, ITV’s US import about two Russian agents living in 1980’s America.
The series so clearly wants to be another Homeland but fatally lacks that show’s tension and atmosphere and is bereft of likeable and sympathetic characters.
After three episodes it still seems anaemic and under-developed – the stories are big, broad brush efforts with little layering of personalities and plot lines, no nuance or shades of grey.
And the whole ‘FBI agent lives over the street’ thing endlessly reminds of Little Nikita, the 80’s Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix film which covered much the same ground and, so far, to better effect.
But I think the biggest failing is the historical setting.
Homeland’s contemporariness allows it huge storytelling freedom – when you’re telling your story ‘now’ anything can happen, but historical settings inherently limit the scope of the stories you can tell.
Think of the tension Homeland served up as Nick Brody schemed to kill off the US Vice President – how can The Americans match this with its in-built need to reflect political and historical accuracy?
Unless you’re a hysterical Mccarthyite it’s hard to find much scare or excite.