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‘The Americans’ heats up Cold War

The FX Network became a major player in the cable world with “Sons of Anarchy,” “American Horror Story” and “Justified.” Its latest offering, “The Americans,” only adds to the quality the cable channel has to offer.

The series debuts at 10 p.m. Jan. 30 on FX.

“The Americans” looks at what appears to be a typical suburban couple — played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys — living the American Dream during the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration. They’re actually two KGB agents who have been living a secret life for almost 15 years.

It’s a dark and thrilling look at the spy game during the peak of the Cold War. It’s not your typical Americans-are-better series because its told from the point of view of the Russians. The natural tendency is to hate them but the series shows that behind the cold determination of the spies are two humans trying to deal with love, parenting and a mortgage.

Russell’s performance is particularly strong because the series doesn’t take the usual tactic when it comes to spies. Her character is the one who has the unwavering loyalty to the Motherland while Rhys plays the role of realist who knows if they continue their ploy, it can only end badly. Russell is anything but the typical casting to play a female Russian spy which makes the deception all the more believable.

She and Rhys have an interesting chemistry. They work very well together when they are spies but their personal relationship is complicated by so many emotional barriers that it’s hard to tell if either really cares for the other or its all just one big espionage lie.

“The Americans” is set more than 30 years ago but it’s story is as current as today’s headlines. There are people secretly living in the United States today who are plotting against the government. Plus, this is a story of a relationship that must deal with lies, deception, cheating and infidelity — concerns that many modern marriages must face.

The series is a lot like ‘Breaking Bad” in that the natural thing is to dislike the main character for the despicable things they do. But, the superb mix of a fascinating spy drama with a compelling relationship tale makes this a show that will command your attention no matter what you feel about the central characters.

It all goes to make “The Americans” the best new workplace/relationship cable drama since “Mad Men.”

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