THIS WEEK THE LOSER REVIEWS: THE AMERICANS

This is one of the darkest pitchers — OK, technically it’s a series — ever shown on TV. Of course, any drama pertaining to the Cold War is going to be dark, but this is dark in a different way. What I mean is, it’s very hard to see. I have a better title: Dark Is the New Black.

Oxydationen, Portfolio III. Image Courtesy of Veruschka.net
Oxydationen, Portfolio III. Image Courtesy of Veruschka.net

I’ve watched only the first season so far of this FX offering, produced and written by former CIA hack Joe Weinberg. I suppose the sun might come out in subsequent episodes; as of now I have counted off exactly fourteen seconds of daylight. In addition to its literal darkness, we get a color palette — albeit barely registering on what few macular cone-cells are being triggered at all — consisting of brown, ochre, bronze, brown, olive, umber, brown, burnt orange, and brown.

 
And this is not rare but consistent, ubiquitous. During one scene my lesser half blurted out, “Look, I see some red!” We froze the frame. Nope, false alarm — we both had to admit that what we were looking at was a kind of A1 Steak Sauce color. In another scene I noticed that a character’s blouse was actually cut from the same cloth, an orange and umber cotton print, as that of the kitchen curtains she was standing in front of. It was an effect similar to those bewitching “Oxydationen” photographs of Veruschka, in which her nude figure is painted to blend in with complex architectural and natural backgrounds.
 
Oxydationen, Portfolio III. Image Courtesy of Veruschka.net
Oxydationen, Portfolio III. Image Courtesy of Veruschka.net

Personally I am not as … intrigued, shall we sayby this series as I was by a less well-known British production called The Assets. Set in approximately the same period, The Assets closely attends to the real Aldrich Ames treason case. (Paul Rhys, presumably no relation to fellow Welshman Matthew Rhys of The Americans, gives an absolutely shattering performance as Ames, surpassing even his highly regarded Edgar in King Lear at the National.)

 
Still, The Americans is pretty good as entertainment. And who wouldn’t be impressed with its production values? I mean, how do they come up with whole parking lots’ worth of ’76 Ford Granadas and ’81 Chevy Novas, all of them bronze-colored or brown? Perhaps those cars were never available in other colors.
 
 
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