What's the most critically acclaimed show on television this year? According to Metascore.com (an aggregator, similar to Rotten Tomatoes but a bit more selective in its reviewers), it's season 2 of Donald Glover's show, Atlanta, holding a 97/100 with reviews. Second is Planet Earth II with a 96/100. Third is season 6 of The Americans with a 92/100.
That's right, The Americans is rated better than the majority of your favorite TV shows and it has been since its inception. The Walking Dead? It's not as highly acclaimed as The Americans. Game of Thrones? It's not as consistently acclaimed as The Americans. You get the point.
Critical Ratings of "The Americans" By Season (Out of 100)
Viewership of "The Americans" Per Episode, by Season (Millions)
So is this just a show that the critics love? Surprisingly, no -- audiences who watch it love it too! It has a 8.3/10 on IMDB and an 8.4/10 user score on Metacritic.
You may be asking yourself: "What's The Americans?" You are not alone if you are. That's because The Americans , despite holding near-universal acclaim during its entire six-season run, is watched by less than a million people in the US (according to the Nielsen ratings).
So what is going on here? Why does one season of this universally acclaimed show have fewer viewers than a Logan Paul video?
Well, there are a few reasons.
Firstly, The Americans is on FX. While FX is a great network (let's be honest, it's incredible this show is still on the air with ratings like that) it also has a huge number of shows. Unless it's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or one of their other flagship shows, it doesn't get much in terms of promotion. Plus, when it does get some promotional material it's marketed as a sexy spy thriller full of gunfights, espionage, and action.
The Americans is not an action packed show. It does have gunfights, and sex, and spy elements, but those are not the focus of the show. Instead, the central themes of The Americans center around loyalty, marriage, trust, and patriotism. It asks hard questions, like would you choose your country over your spouse in a life or death situation? How do you maintain your heritage and your identity when those things can get you killed?
Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are Russians in the 1980s. They actively complete missions that hurt, and kill, Americans. And they have a double life, with USA-born children, as a normal American family.
As you can imagine from this description, this show is focused on its characters more than anything else. That is one of the reasons it's one of the best shows on TV (and one of the best shows ever made). Its characters feel real, intense, and layered. In an age where we are begging for good character writing (especially when it comes to women) The Americans consistently delivers thought-provoking conversations on what it means to be a family, a spy, and an American.
The Americans is airing its final season right now, but all of its previous seasons are available on Amazon Prime. If you are looking for an incredible show to watch -- one that has a lot of time, care, and detail put into it -- then this one will not disappoint you. Just don't go into it expecting Casino Royale. That's now what this show is about.