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A history lesson from 'The Americans'

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The Americans 01
Michael Parmelee/FX

With the FX spy drama heading further into the 1980s for season 3, The Americans executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg tease the historical reference points superspy couple Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) will encounter as they face the very real possibility of their daughter joining the cause.

A NEW SOVIET LEADER

The drama picks up in November 1982 with a very important historical incident. “Leonid Brezhnev drops dead and he is replaced by Yuri Andropov, who had been a former head of the KGB,” Weisberg says. “Philip and Elizabeth see a former leader of their organization as the leader of the nation.”

M*A*S*H

The hit show, which drew a record 106 million viewers for its ’83 finale, will make a brief appearance, as will Fantasy Island and The Jeffersons. Fields says the show will also feature a commercial for Jell-O and likely Chrysler cars.

THE SELF-HELP MOVEMENT

It sounds like the mysterious suitor whom Stan’s (Noah Emmerich) wife, Sandra (Susan Misner), met in EST may play a larger role this season, as the premiere is titled “EST Men.” Erhard Seminars Training “was a big movement at that time,” Fields says. “We’ll see how it impacts some of the lives of our characters and also how it impacts society.”

CELL PHONES

“We are going to see a real live, early first-edition mobile phone,” Weisberg says. “It’s almost as big as a briefcase.”

JAZZERCISE!

“We certainly hope to have one of our characters do Jazzercise,” Fields says. Can we make a plea for Philip?

NEWS HEADLINES

The Boland amendment restricting U.S. assistance to the contras will pass “due, in small part, to the secret work that Philip and Elizabeth did last season with Lucia,” Fields says, referencing the Sandinista agent. The war in Afghanistan will also ramp up. “Philip and Elizabeth have their own priorities and mission behind enemy lines to help support their troops in Afghanistan,” he says. And South African apartheid will become a hot-button issue. “There was a real division in the world about whether the apartheid regime should be constructively engaged and supported or whether they should be isolated and overthrown,” Fields says. It’s safe to say that Philip and Elizabeth will be fighting wars on all fronts.

The Americans premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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