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The Americans
20 and 21 August 2014

'The Americans' is a TV show about Russian Illegals (i.e. spies) working in the US under false identities and living seemingly normal lives as an American couple. The show is set in the early 1980s and is packed with suspense, espionage, counter-espionage and tradecraft gadgets.
 
Following the succes of the TV series both in the United States and in Canada, where the show was aired by FX, the production company - Fox Television - has now released a DVD box with all thirteen episodes of the first season (2013).

On 20 August 2014, the DVD box was presented to the press in The Netherlands and a day later in Belgium. At both events, Crypto Museum was present with a selection of gadgets and artifacts that appear in the show, such as radio bugs, espionage cameras, Russian spy radio sets with Burst Encoders and bug-tracing equipment.
  
Crypto Museum curators Paul Reuvers and Marc Simons demonstrating the various gadgets to the Belgian Press

The series is created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg and is set during the Cold War of the 1980s. In The Americans we are following the lives of Elizabeth and Philips Jennings who seem to be an ordinary American couple with two children - a boy and a girl - living in the Northern Virgina suburbs of Washington, D.C. where they run their own travel agency.


In reality however, they are highly trained and skilled Soviet KGB officers, specialised in gathering information, infiltration, observation and espionage. To give the series an extra edge, they live opposite Stan Beeman, an FBI counter-intelligence agent who's job it is to expose such illegals.
 
Compared to popular espionage films, such as The Bourne Identity and the James Bond series, The Americans presents a much more realistic image of the espionage trade during the Cold War and the lives spies with fake identities. Many of the story lines are based on real events from the archives of the various intelligence agencies around the world, such as the CIA, the KGB and the Stasi, that have only recently become known.

Furthermore, many of the gadgets shown in The Americans are real and are used in the same way as during the Cold War of the early 1980s.
  
Screenshot from one of the episodes of the first season. Copyright FX Networks.

Most of them have been supplied by US collector Keith Melton, who also was Technical Advisor for the show. Much of his collection is featured in his book 'Ultimate Spy' [1]. Some examples are a Minox camera, the Russian Tochka camera, a Minifon wire recorder and a range of radio bugs. As far as we are concerned, The Americans is a must see. We can barely wait for the next season.
 
References
  1. H. Keith Melton, Ultimate Spy
    ISBN: 0-7513-4791-4. 1996-2002.

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Crypto Museum. Last changed: Saturday, 23 August 2014 - 16:57 CET.
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