×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PopPolitics: The Surprising Truths of the ’80s in ‘The Americans’ (Listen)

FX’s “The Americans,” set in the last great gasp of the Cold War in the early 1980s, jogs memories of Yaz and K-cars, but the third season also is marked by reminders of just how much history repeats itself.

Executive producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields talked to Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM about one of the season’s storylines: the efforts by Soviet-spies-as-suburban-couple Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) to glean any information about the CIA’s covert operation to support insurgents in Afghanistan, where the Soviet occupation is quickly turning into that country’s Vietnam.

“What we were very aware of is that this war that the Soviets fought for 10 years was of course something that we failed to learn our lesson from,” Weisberg says, noting that former Soviet soldiers went on TV and radio and pleaded with the U.S. not to go into the country after 9/11.

“They said: ‘You guys don’t know what you are getting into. We do. And we are going to tell you and please for your own sakes don’t do it.’ And, of course, we waded into the exact same waters and lost the war for more or less the exact same reasons.

“Obviously everyone knows that history repeats itself, that isn’t news to anybody, but on our show, to be able to go back to the earlier war, and from a more sympathetic viewpoint, now that we have stumbled sort of in the same way, to see the pain and suffering that the Soviets endured and see by a certain degree a substantial amount of it was caused by arms that we paid for, and were inflicted by people who were our allies then but are our enemies now, is just sort of poignant and sad.”

The show draws a lot of its tension from the severe rift in Soviet-U.S. relations during that period, and since “The Americans” debuted, present-day relations between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated.

The analogy of 1982 to 2015 goes only so far, Fields says, as that era was one of an existential threat of thermonuclear holocaust. “That feeling is gone now,” he says. “There is the threat of terror now, but nothing seems so apocalyptic as that, and then there is just the recurrent shock that people see this as a period show, when to me and Joe, it’s just our high school years,” he says.

Listen below:

This season features references to Philip having gone through a kind of KGB sex training, practice to prepare himself for gleaning information from extramarital encounters, all in duty to the home country. Weisberg talks about the true-life case that inspired the storyline.

Listen below:

The show tries to stay faithful to the era with vintage news clips and commercials. One, a sexually suggestive spot for Love’s Baby Soft, a baby powder, really did run on TV. See it here.

Listen below:

Comedian and activist Dick Gregory, who participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965, talks about some of the misperceptions of that chapter in the civil rights movement. He was actually in Selma two years earlier, for a voting rights campaign in 1963, and while his celebrity status helped draw crowds and media interest, he knew that he also had to make a genuine commitment, one that meant multiple arrests along with his wife, Lillian. Gregory talks about how he overcame his fears, even that he would be killed, before going to Selma and other parts of the South, including Greenwood, Miss.

Listen below:

David Cohen of Variety and Nikki Schwab of U.S. News talk about trust in government at a time when dramas like “House of Cards” and “Scandal” give such a dark view of D.C. and the motivations of politicians. They also talk about why, despite ample cases in the past, politicians are still prone to the temptations of expensive airline travel and lavish office space.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s politics channel POTUS 124.

More Biz

  • Everybody Changes

    New Cadence Productions Acquires Domestic Rights to Panama's 'Everybody Changes'

    New Cadence Productions has acquired North American rights to the transgender family drama “Everybody Changes,” Panama’s official selection for the 92nd annual Academy Awards. The movie from writer-director Arturo Montenegro tells the true story of a Panamanian couple with three children who grapple with the father’s decision to come out as a transgender woman. “Everybody [...]

  • Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division nominee

    Justice Department Moves to End Paramount Antitrust Decrees

    The Department of Justice will seek to end the Paramount consent decrees, the landmark agreements that have barred studios from owning theaters for the last 70 years. Makan Delrahim, the head of the department’s antitrust division, made the announcement Monday in a speech to the American Bar Association fall forum on antitrust. He argued that [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    ViacomCBS Sets HR and Inclusion Chiefs

    ViacomCBS has named corporate heads of HR and inclusion as the companies prepare for the merger that is set to close early next month. The soon-to-combine Viacom and CBS have tapped Nielsen alum Nancy Phillips to serve as exec VP and chief people officer. Viacom alum Marva Smalls will serve as global head of inclusion, [...]

  • Sony Pictures Studio Culver City

    Sony Pictures Entertainment Buys AT&T's Stake in Game Show Network

    Sony Pictures Entertainment has bought out AT&T’s minority interest in Game Show Network for about $500 million. The deal makes Sony the sole owner of GSN. AT&T had owned 42% of the company, which the telco giant inherited with its purchase of DirecTV in 2015. AT&T has been on a mission this year to pay [...]

  • John Malone

    John Malone Boosts Stake in Discovery With $75 Million Stock Purchase

    John Malone has upped his stake in Discovery Inc. by purchasing $75 million worth of stock on the open market. Malone picked up just under 2.7 million shares in Discovery at $28.03 on Nov. 14, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Malone was already the company’s single-largest individual shareholder who holds super-voting shares [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content