Tag Archives: “The Americans”

Why ‘Stranger Things’ Is the Perfect Show for Middle-Age Guys

I just finished the second season of “Stranger Things” and if ever there was a perfect streaming series for middle-age guys, I don’t know what is.

For the uninitiated, “Stranger Things” is a bit of “The X-Files” meets “Stand By Me,” the coming of age movie based on the short story by Stephen King of a group of boys on an adventure to see a dead body.

For those repulsed by the premise of that plot and who wonder how boys could unite behind such a “mission,” well, I would just offer these two thoughts: You never were a boy and/or you don’t have sons.

Without giving away key plot points, “Stranger Things” tells the story of a band of preteen boys who fall into a series of supernatural adventures.

My wife recently summed up the central premise of the smash series this way: It’s boys doing stupid things.

To which I responded: Yeah! Isn’t it great?!

For guys of a certain age (read: in their 50s), this show hits all of the right buttons.

It features boys on bikes, using walkie-talkies, playing dorky games and trying find their way through school while fending off bullies and the stray supernatural occurrence.

It captures the gangly awkwardness of preteen boys and their sense of camaraderie and loyalty, even when it is punctuated with swearing at each other.

The show absolutely nails the preteen boy angst of trying to figure out girls: We don’t like them, right? Oh wait, maybe we do? But if we do, where does that leave our friendship with each other?

And then, of course, there is the whole ‘80s vibe, which no other show apart from maybe “The Americans” captures as well.

Vintage video arcade games? Check.

Gas-guzzling cars built like Abrams tanks? Check.

Sound track of music we grew up with? Check.

My wife could only shake her head at some of the reckless and bizarre situations the boys in the show get themselves into and ponder how realistic some of those moments were.

Um…let me just suggest that by my real-life standards, they were spot-on.

I mean, let me offer these true examples of acts of stupidity I engaged in with my friends:

* Building squirrel traps by digging holes in the ground, lining them with thorns from bushes and covering the holes with grass.

* Taking an air gun, squishing the muzzle into the ground to fill it with dirt and then firing the dirt balls at cars as they entered a parking garage. This was not the original intent of the rifle, which when you cocked it and pulled the trigger, made a popping noise but somehow we figured out an “adaptive use.”

* Posing my friends to appear as drug dealers or a suicidal addict prepared to jump out a third-floor window so I could create a photo essay.

Yeah, I would say that by comparison to some of my childhood adventures, the cast of the hit Netflix series might have to try harder to top some of my stranger things.

“The Americans”: A Great 80s Throwback

If you think watching “Mad Men” is a time warp, you’ve got to watch the FX TV series “The Americans.”

The show, which just wrapped up its third season, is a delight for those of us who came of age in the 1980s.

For the uninitiated, the series’ plot centers on a husband and wife who were recruited as teens in Mother Russia by the KGB and implanted in the U.S. as deep, deep covert spies.

They blend in with the tapestry of American life in a way that no one would suspect they are masters of espionage.

And don’t be fooled.

The lead characters, husband and wife Philip and Elizabeth, are not some Russian spy knock-offs like Boris Badenov and his sidekick, Natasha Fatale, from the “Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” of my youth.

No, they are truly bad ass.

As a couple, they engage in all kinds of counter-intelligence, blackmail and violence. And did I mention – plot twist! – that they have an FBI agent as a neighbor?

But apart from all of the mind-bending turns, suspense and intrigue, the thing I so absolutely love about the show is the way it nails the look and feel of the 80s.

“The Americans” is set during the height of tensions between the U.S. and USSR when Ronald Reagan was president, an anti-missile defense shield positioned in outer space was considered a real possibility and the threat of nuclear holocaust hardly seemed far-fetched.

The show captures that universal unease and brilliantly reflects the styles in clothing, cars and culture of the 80s.

The women are depicted in oversized glasses, multi-colored sweaters and big hair.

The TVs in the series play news segments and commercials of the era.

And the cars! Oh! The cars! These huge tanks are glorious to behold.

But the thing that might have won me over more than anything is when this third season featured snippets from a duo known as Yaz and music from their debut album “Upstairs at Eric’s.”

Yaz and those songs hold a special place in my heart because I saw those performers live at a club called The Ritz in the Village way back when I was in college.

Bottom line: If you want to enjoy great television AND want to be transported back in time, catch “The Americans.”