Awful Americans and Great Americans

Before I go into the very nub of my gist; I believe I have found a new program that vies for the title of worst show on TV. I do love me some awful TV. I wrap myself in the world of the show, pitying those who are involved and celebrating their effort to purposefully make a terrible product. These shows basically just take the best/worst parts of Melrose Place and make a reality show from them. Melrose Place was soapy fun. Pretty, wealthy people scheming and backstabbing each other. The reality shows that follow this model just take out the pulpy enjoyable dialogue and semi-likeability of the characters and go for decadence and backstabbing.

Of course I speak of the latest E! offering. – WAGS. Standing for Wives and Girlfriends of Sports. I don’t know, is this sports guys? Sports stars? The real term is athlete – but here its sports…guys we’ll go with. It’s about the world of attractive young ladies who are either married to or date pro-athletes .WAGS comes off of the success of Total Divas which is a reality show that follows around women wrestlers. This premise is actually kind of interesting because being a woman wrestler is cool job and the “divas” are pseudo-reality performers anyway so they know how the show goes. WAGS tries to make some characters likeable but instead they come across as weak, and villainous and do not have that, “I can’t wait to see what they do next” essence of a bad guy/girl. Rather it’s the, “you are too evil for me to enjoy” essence. Like Mr. Burns vs Chairman Mao. The whole show is based on the premise that guys need sex and girls need money, and that is a commandment of the show. Their mission statement, if you will. The shows’ awfulness is encapsulated through Nicole – probably the lead villainess. She has almost a million Instagram followers, by the by. Well, she goes off to the to the doctor, to get some vaginal rejuvenation. To wit: the doctor lets her know what surgery can make her feel like she’s 21, 18 and/or 14? He said this on TV.  A doctor! You can’t say that or do that! This takes the show from bad to repugnant. I’ll probably watch every episode.

Let’s clean the palette shall we. Good TV. Honest to goodness great TV, with scripts and lots of sets and characters. In perhaps the greatest technological achievement of the modern era, within a 24-hour span I was able to fix my sick computer (anything goes wrong, just keep hitting F2 – it works!) Then fiddled around with my DVD player. With no manual mind you, just my will, cunning, and confidence. Fixed it! I have a pile of unopened DVD’s, so I crack one open. The Americans. I have seen endless commercials for this program. Tony Kornheiser said it was good. He is a sports reporter who use to write for The Washing Post style section, is an old man and when he’s on TV would just say things like, “The Americans… phew…I mean…man!”

So I began with the arduous bingeing process. It’s great. You can IMDB who is who, I give the characters my own names so bear with me. It stars Felicity – yes, long-haired hot Felicity from Felicity. There is the belief that Felicity didn’t get a longer run because she cut her hair. Well, it has grown back now and she is a sexy spy. She’s a super undercover KGB agent who lives in DC. She is seducing Americans to get secrets out of them, then sometimes kills people and goes on missions. There is a lot of seducing going on. Which I mean is a spy narrative staple, but if I had nuclear codes, I’d be pretty weary of hot Felicity offering to get busy with me in a bar bathroom. The show is set in the early 80s so maybe this is common and AIDS wasn’t a big deal yet, so stranger bathroom hook-ups were when it was Raquel Welch day on Turner Classic Movies. Not common but not rare either. I mean you would have to be really into getting busy if you had spy secrets. I guess it is the equivalent hot Felicity giving me Japanese wrestling DVD’s and the new scorcher double down from KFC – but still I’d raise a Spockian eyebrow as to why this woman (out of nowhere) would be so generous, a day after I got a high security clearance.

She is the star of the show. Her husband is also a KGB spy. He looks like half Paul Rudd half Shia LaBeouf. He seduces and murders too. He has a few more disguises and wacky personalities in his spy works. He is a nerd, a drifter a cowboy, etc. I’m thinking he did some decent improv in the audition and the creators were thinking they had a handsome Ryan Styles on their hands. The thing is, he’s not that great at the characters, but does them anyway. He’s also a wiener. Felicity runs the show.  So Felicity and Shia Rudd have kids who don’t know their parents are no-good commies who run a sham Travel Agency as cover. There are a lot of twists and turns. You have to pay attention. It’s good to watch on DVD because you will have to go back. Some dialogue is in Russian so business is going on when you’re reading the subtitles.

My favourite character is Stan, Felicity’s neighbour and (wouldn’t you know it) an FBI agent who has to hunt down commie pukes. Stan is your by the book company man. He likes beer with pretzels and uses great colloquialisms that only guys like him say, “Jesus Murphy”, “three sheets to the wind”, etc. He is so bland he’s fascinating. Manly but not overly macho, very bright but not a know-it-all. He is played with a great tired energy. Stan is always exhausted. He also has no clue how to interact like a normal person. His marriage is just kind of there. Her doesn’t love it or hate it. The relationship is like a bulky piece of furniture. It would be an awful chore to move it. Although you could do something with the space in its absence. So, lets just leave it be and live around it. His poor wife wants some sort of pizzazz from her man. It’s not coming from Stan though. His first love is his country, his second love is banging sexy Russian spies, then racquetball, then beer, and then I guess the wife and his kid.

The other great character is Claudia, a chubby stereotypical older spinster Aunt. She is the cagey spy who gives missions to Shia and Felicity, serving as the liaison between Moscow and the field agents in the states, she tests their allegiance to the cause and is generally annoyed by their youth and good looks. She is a stone cold bitch. It’s just a jewel of a role that are few and far between for actors of her age and stature. She plays her part with a gorgeous finesse. Like an amazing side dish that outshines the entrée or killer back up vocals. She knows it too. She has this slight subtext of, “I’m stealing the scene right now, and there is nothing you can do about it”. She rarely has more than two minutes in a row of camera time but is arduously efficient with it.

The Americans befits with its 80s setting. Familiar songs are used for montages and spy technology is in its infancy, so cool spy hijinks are needed over gizmos. The gadgets they do have are awkward and bulky. They have to go out into the world to set up antennas for recon, physical audio tape has to be handed off and rewound. There is a comfort with that type of spy work. It’s the kind we grew up with, so this is quaintness amongst the sex and violence. There is plenty of that – the violence is pretty brutal, but there are no bare boobs so the show also has that 007 non-nude sex appeal. Lots of close-ups on tummies though. Poor Felicity – she has to be a spy, raise a family, and do crunches.

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