In case you didn’t know, the CIA is keeping a close eye on what happens on FX’s The Americans. It isn’t because they’re big fans of Keri Russell or desperately trying to take notes on what those pesky Soviets were up to, but more because creator Joe Weisberg is a former CIA officer and he knows things.
Weisberg talked about as much in an interview with Studio 360 from last year, one they graciously reposted just in time for the show’s third season premiere. It’s one of those cool little facts that adds a new interesting layer to the show and also provides a little insight into what goes into making media with government influences. From Studio 360:
Joe Weisberg worked for the CIA in the early ‘90s, just as the Cold War was ending. He came from a very liberal family, so joining the CIA was a bit of a rebellion. But after some time inside the organization, he started to doubt it. “It was all kind of BS,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “The intelligence they were providing wasn’t worth anything to the U.S. government. But what you did to collect that intelligence was ask people to really risk their lives — for a lot of nothing…
One advantage of making a spy show in the 1980s: no cell phones. “Philip can’t pick up a phone and call Elizabeth and say, get out of there!” Weisberg says. He’s also proud to show off what agents could do in the analog era, when they had to rely more on brains, guile, and sometimes their bodies. But the CIA keeps a close eye on Weisberg’s scripts to make sure that he doesn’t give away tradecraft he learned with the Agency.
Some of that “tradecraft” includes the details behind going undercover as an agent and a lot of the different spy techniques that are still in use today. As they point out over on Gizmodo, it isn’t uncommon for government agencies to lend assistance to productions in order to aid in the realism and facts involved. The FBI provides this nice little guide on how to go about seeking their help and the CIA has their own department to check out scripts (something you’ve probably heard about thanks to things like Zero Dark Thirty).
It’s a fun little bit of television trivia. The Americans is a great show that’s worth watching, which can’t be said enough. There’s so many shows that we don’t get to cover all the time like Banshee and Hannibal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a peek. Check out the interview below and give the new season a shot if you haven’t already.