The economics behind the new FX show 'The Americans'

Scene from "The Americans," starring Matthew Rhys.

"The Americans" is a new show on the FX Network. It's set in 1981 and revolves around two Russian sleeper agents sent to America years before. They have an arranged marriage, a couple of kids and live near the nation's capital. The characters are sinister, but not as sinister or as evil as how we usually remember Russian spies to be.

When show creator Joe Weisberg approached FX with the idea for the show, his pitch for this show was that the Russians were actually the good guys. He says, "they didn't even flinch." And that's why the show is here today.

Executive producer Joel Fields says one reason the show works is because you care about the characters. "You do care about them, and you care about their marriage," he says. "The show is really about the people and the human relationships in this intense moment in history."

In addition to the life of the characters, the show touches on the competing economic visions at the height of their competition.
"These two people came here, they moved in to a subdivision in the suburbs of Falls Church, Va., that to people that grew up the way that they did in the Soviet Union -- which was essentially a very poor country -- it would be heaven," says Weisberg. "It's something almost unthinkable to live like this, which to an average American would be a fairly ordinary way to live."

He adds, "how the economics of it affect people on a personal level, I think is a big part of the story we're telling."

"The Americans" airs on Wednesdays on FX.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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