No show does wigs as well as The Americans—no show gets 80s tech as well, either.
You may not immediately look at The Americans—FX's Cold War sleeper-cell agent drama—and think "tech," but this critically-beloved series' IT bonafides have been hiding in plain sight beneath wigs and a rockin' '80s soundtrack just like its main characters. Episode titles reference software like Lotus Notes or touchstones like ARPANET, and the show's writers' room doubles as a veritable who's who of both US and Soviet intelligence agency technology experts. (Perhaps no one should be surprised that one of the show's co-creators is a dedicated Ars reader.)
"We love that shit," Joe Weisberg, co-showrunner and former CIA agent, told Ars last summer when discussing his beloved era tech. "You wouldn't confuse us with full-borne technophiles, but we grew up in the '80s. We grew up with this technology, have a great fondness for it, and have fantastic technical advisors [on the show]."
Through its five seasons, The Americans has nimbly woven everything from early console gaming to office mail robots into its vivid version of Washington, DC. And though the show realistically centers on its international and intra-marriage conflicts, the attention to detail for '80s innovations gets just as much scrutiny and care from the series' staff. That means some of the most memorable '80s tech touchstones for viewers get left on the writers' room wall.
"We talked about that big Super Bowl ad, but we usually avoid the big things like that," Weisberg said. "It feels like you're trying too hard. Would they have really seen that ad, or do you feel the writers trying to put that in to show to say, 'Hey, we know how big that became?'"
Plenty makes it on screen, of course. The show's sixth and final season begins this week (Wednesday, 3/28, at 10p ET), meaning it's the perfect time to silently surveil just how tech-savvy the series is in our latest Tech on TV episode. While there's no telling how things will play out for the Jennings family just yet, we have gotten one hint out of the showrunners thus far. As Joel Fields recently revealed on Twitter, the mail robot will definitely make an appearance—and it's gotten a moderately modern behind-the-scenes upgrade to boot.
Listing image by FX