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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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( Courtesy photo) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings in FX's "The Americans."
Wednesday on Utah TV: KGB agents are the good guys in "The Americans"

The new series The Americans (10 p.m., FX) revolves around a couple in an arranged marriage, parenting two children and trying to blend in while living in and spying on a foreign country.

Viewers will identify with them, will root for them, and will line up behind them.

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And Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are KGB spies posing as Americans and living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s.

It's tough enough to be Russian spies raising a 13-year-old daughter (Holly Taylor) and a 10-year-old son (Keidrich Sellati). It's even tougher when an FBI agent (Noah Emmerich) moves in next door.

"They're going to try and undermine the U.S. government," said executive producer/creator Joe Weisberg, who spent four years working for the CIA. "They're going to try to have the Soviet Union win in the Cold War. We know that's not going to work out too well for them, but that's the side to be on."

"The Americans" is not anti-American. It's not pro-Soviet. It's an engrossing character drama about a couple with the most complicated of lives.

The show is a period piece that begins just after Ronald Reagan has been elected president. And that three-plus decade time frame lends some distance to this story. It's easier to root for spies who are working for the country that lost the Cold War, a country that no longer exists.

Weisberg said it would be "completely impossible" to tell this kind of story about al-Qaida today. And it would have been impossible to do a show about KGB spies "even 10 years after the Cold War." "But I think enough time has passed now that people are willing to look into their hearts and see them as people we can understand."

As unlikely as it sounds, he's absolutely right. "The Americans" is a very promising series.

Elsewhere on TV ...

Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials (7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2): Boomer Esiason and Aisha Tyler host.

Whitney (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): An ex wants to make amends to Whitney.

American Idol (7 p.m. Fox/Ch. 13): Auditions continue.

Arrow (7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30): Thea gets caught using a drug called vertigo.

NBA (7 p.m., ROOT): New Orleans Hornets at Utah Jazz

The Neighbors (7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): The Weavers and Bird-Kersees compete for membership in a country club.

Guys with Kids (7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): Gary's wife lies to him.

Law & Order: SVU (8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): The detectives go under cover to arrest a man who brutally attacks other men.

Nova (8 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7): Investigators use forensic and behavioral science to determine what happened to Charles Lindbergh's baby.

Supernatural (8 p.m., CW/Ch. 30): Dean and Sam learn more about their father and their family history.

Suburgatory (8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): The Shays want Tessa to set Lisa up on a date.

Chicago Fire (9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): A fire set by a teenager kills a man.

Hot In Cleveland (11 p.m., TV Land): Melanie sets Joy up on a date.

Necessary Roughness (11 p.m., USA): Dani treats some famous rockers.

Happily Divorced (11:30 p.m., TV Land): Fran thinks being a parent is easy - until she babysits a couple of kids.



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