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Is ‘The Americans’ the new ‘Homeland’?

omg! TV
February 7, 2013

"Homeland" may be on hiatus until it returns to Showcase for season three, but fear not, TV fans: "The Americans" has stepped in to fill the spy drama void. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Elizabeth and Peter Jennings -- Russian KGB officers posing as an American family in 1980 -- the series compels you to begin cheering for "the Motherland," leaving you to somehow justify the immorality of Russian intelligence.

However, "The Americans" has more than just "political thriller" in common with the Golden Globe-winning "Homeland." And to gauge just how much, we've compared "Homeland" with "The Americans" to determine which series is better -- or at least more insane.

Music: "Homeland" and Miles Davis, "The Americans" and Fleetwood Mac
While Claire Danes' Carrie Matheson kicks back to jazz, "The Americans" opening scene -- a kidnapping -- is set to Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk." If Stevie Nicks doesn't give a show soundtrack cred, nothing will.
And the winner is: "The Americans." After setting the bar with Fleetwood Mac, the first episode actually ends with a Peter-Elizabeth sex scene to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." It's an obvious winner -- we've got ears and hearts, don't we?

The protagonists
"Homeland's" Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) create the ultimate dream team by foiling terrorist plots while offering each other personal life advice. Meanwhile, on "The Americans," Philip and Elizabeth have one goal: to ruin the United States, and to lie to and (probably) kill as many people as possible in the process.
And the winner is: "Homeland." While you still root for Philip and Elizabeth despite their horrifying actions, it goes a little too far when they poison a college student so his mother will bug her boss's office. No, thank you, KGB.

1990s teen icons: Claire Danes ("Homeland") or Keri Russell ("The Americans")
Claire Danes ran the 1990s thanks to "My So-Called Life" and "Romeo + Juliet," but teens of '98 and beyond worshipped at the alter of Keri Russell and "Felicity." Both now play women who could easily kill you -- but which comeback is more triumphant?
And the winner is: Keri Russell. While both actresses have maintained their careers, Keri kept a lower profile. Thus, she was clearly laying the foundation for the role of a spy. Now let's pray she doesn't cut her hair.

Gratuitous violence
When it comes to homeland security and the opposite of that, you're bound to be faced with fights, stabbings, torture, and men locked in the trunks of cars. And these are just images from the first episodes of each.
And the winner is: "The Americans." True, "Homeland" saw Peter Quinn stab Brody's hand last season, but during the first 68 minutes of "The Americans," you're faced with imagery you won't forget (no matter how hard you try). Turn your heads away, sensitive souls.

Double life
Explained: Brody returned from the war a changed man in "Homeland": formerly a U.S. soldier, he defected and secretly aligned himself with the Taliban so he could take down the American government. "The Americans," however, are doing the same. Posing as a perfect American family, Elizabeth and Philip spend their time bugging clocks and awaiting orders -- all while trying to keep their kids oblivious.
And the winner is: "Homeland." "The Americans" may be built on the double-life scenario, but Brody's late-night trips to the garage and climb up the American political ladder is the stuff of stress-eating while watching terrified.

Family life
"Homeland's" Brody is forced to play perfect dad (despite his wife's affair with his best friend, and obvious post-traumatic stress symptoms), while both Philip and Elizabeth must pose as the ideal neighbours and family. This includes befriending the FBI agent who lives next door.
And the winner is: "The Americans." Let's say it again: their family is friends with the FBI agent who lives next door.

Daughters who might clue in
Explained: Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) was one of the first to realize her dad was a changed man post-war -- and it was her voice on the phone that prevented him from detonating a bomb in the White House. On the flip side, there's Paige (Holly Taylor), who so far has only clued in that her parents are strict. Well, mostly her mom.
And the winner is: "Homeland." Dana Brody's expressions of disgust will forever live in infamy. And she needs good reason to use them (like the assumption that her father's a terrorist).

Could it be true?
There was something plausible about "Homeland" (well, until Season 2, anyway), which made it that much more compelling. Meanwhile, "The Americans" borrows from history, and because some of us may not remember back that far (or weren't born at all), they could take some historical liberties.
And the winner is: Neither, we choose to believe. Because otherwise it is all just too much.

Final score?
"The Americans": 4
"Homeland": 3

"The Americans" has more violence, a better soundtrack, and the return of "Felicity." But will that make it a more watchable show in the long run? We'll know for sure come next year's award season. But for now, you can tune into FX on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET for your fill of KGB spy antics.

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