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TV Series: ‘The Americans’

There aren’t many TV shows I miss long after they end. The Americans is one of them. Even though the series ended in 2018, I still miss the anticipation of the next episode.

The Americans is an American television period drama series created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg. It premiered in the United States in 2013 on the FX network and concluded after six seasons and 75 wonderful episodes.

The Americans is about the marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected President. The series centers around the arranged marriage of Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), who have two children – 14-year-old Paige (Holly Taylor) and 12-year-old Henry (Keidrich Sellati). The children don’t know about the true identity of their parents. The spies live next door to Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. From there it gets complicated.

This is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen. What makes it special is the interplay between the spying and what’s going in the family of the Russian spies and the family of the FBI agent next door. In the end, I was more interested in the personal relationships than I was the spying. I easily connected with the relationship issues.

The relationship between the more practical Philip and the rule-following Elizabeth makes for some fascinating issues. Keri Russell’s beauty enters the plot in many different ways. The spying was just plain fun to watch, partly because of the now dated technology of the the era (the 1980s) in which the series takes place.

The New York Times said “The Americans” is “one of those rare series that actually has gotten better every season.”

If you want insider information about the show, Slate has a podcast about the show featuring cast, crew and creators.

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TV Series

‘The Honourable Woman’

The Honourable Woman’ is a 2014 British political spy thriller miniseries in eight parts. It was directed and written by Hugo Blick for the BBC and SundanceTV.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is the beautiful, immaculately dressed star of the series. She portrays Nessa Stein, a London heiress whose father was a big-time arms manufacturer and Zionist. Gyllenhaal, an American, does a convincing job of portraying an English woman.

Most of Nessa’s family perished in the Holocaust. She and her older brother, Ephra (Andrew Buchan), are dual citizens of Israel and Britain. On top of this, their mother died in childbirth and their father was murdered in front of their eyes in Jerusalem when they were young children.

The story includes the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, kidnapping, rape, chronic trauma and high stakes philanthropy and investment.

The New York Times called the series a “smart, moodily complex thriller” and a “lavish homage to John le Carré.”

I had to watch the series more than once to follow all the twists and turns and loved every minute.

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TV Series

Discovering Great European Television

The Euro TV Place is an excellent source of recommendations for great European television. Linda Jew, the founder of the site, regularly publishes detailed reviews.

I enjoy French television because it helps me keep up and improve my French. Modern television lets you hear the way people speak in everyday life, which often is different from what is taught in foreign language classes.

I’ve enjoyed great television I learned about at The Euro TV Place including:

  • Le bureau des légendes, a great spy series (one of the best pieces I’ve ever watched)
  • Call My Agent, a very funny French TV series about a top rung Parisian talent agency on Netflix
  • No Second Chance which is in French but written by Harlan Coben, a famous American writer, also on Netflix
  • Deutschland 83, a funny German spy story
  • Engrenages (Spiral in English), a wonderful series now in its eighth series,

If you’re interested in exploring new television, The Euro TV Place is a great resource. The blog discusses many new shows each month.

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TV Series

‘The Bureau”: A Great French Espionage Series

The Bureau” is a French spy TV series (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) on Canal+ created by Éric Rochant. The series concerns the daily life and missions of spies within the French Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure or DGSE. The DGSE is the French equivalent of the CIA. Its head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.Variety reports that the creators of the series had the cooperation of the DGSE and that the DGSE liked the series. The series won Best TV Series from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

The series begins with the return to Paris of French intelligence officer Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly ( Mathieu Kassovitz) after six years as an undercover agent in Syria. Guillaume struggles to reconnect with his former life. But after learning that his lover in Syria (Nadia, played by Zineb Triki), is in Paris, Guillaume breaks agency rules and approaches her as the man he was in Damascus: Paul Lefebvre. As Guillaume begins living a double life, he opens himself up (and the DGSE) to serious dangers.

Henri Duflot ( Jean-Pierre Darroussin) portrays the head of the French clandestine service. He’s never himself been an undercover agent and this bothers him because he fears he lacks the respect of his operatives. At the same time, he’s very likable and down-to-earth. He wears garish neckties, which makes him seem more normal.

The beautiful Léa Drucker plays a DGSE psychiatrist with a top secret clearance. Marina Loiseau ( Sara Giraudeau) portrays a naïve but determined young undercover operative.

The acting is first-rate and the spying seems realistic. This is among the best espionage stories I have seen on TV or in the cinema.

The series now concluded after five magnificent seasons. It’s available on Sundance Now including the Sundance Now channel on Amazon.