13. The Americans (FX)
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Annet Mahendru, Margo Martindale, Richard Thomas, Maximiliano Hernandez, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Susan Misner, Alison Wright, Derek Luke
Of all the news shows that have premiered in 2013 so far, The Americans is the only one that can legitimately be compared to HBO’s forever almighty The Sopranos.
Which isn’t to say that FX’s spy drama series is as good as David Chase’s groundbreaking mob saga—we’re talking about the story. Like Tony Soprano, The Americans’ two protagonists, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) constantly walk the fine line between being heroes and villains, often leaping back and forth from side to side in any given episode. It’s a daring conceit that, fortunately, series creator Joe Weisberg and his team have been more than able to handle.
The Jennings husband/wife team, along with their two children, are just trying to live normal suburban lives, but with one catch: They’re also undercover KGB agents. Though they’re America’s enemies, Russell and Rhys’ characters are difficult to root against, thanks to the actors’ strong performances and the show’s taut, smart, and challenging scripts.
The Americans isn’t a two-person show, though. Russell and Rhys are surrounded by a stellar crop of co-stars, namely the underrated character actor Noah Emmerich (playing their FBI Agent next door neighbor) and Emmy-winner Margo Martindale (Justified). It’s an across-the-board winner. —MB