FX has greenlighted its next pilot, The Americans, a period drama created/executive produced by Joe Weisberg (Falling Skies) and executive produced by Justified showrunner Graham Yost. The project centers on two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington, DC in the early 1980s. The arranged marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings grows more passionate and genuine by the day but is constantly tested by the escalation of the Cold War and the intimate, dangerous and darkly funny relationships they must maintain with a network of spies and informants under their control. Complicating their relationship further is Phillip’s growing sense of affinity for America’s values and way of life and the couple’s two children, who know nothing about their parents’ true identity. “Joe Weisberg has written one of the best pilot scripts we have ever read with two richly drawn and indelible characters embarking on an epically exciting, emotional, and morally complex journey,” FX’s EVP original programming Nick Grad said.
The Americans has been laid off at Fox TV Studios, which will produce the pilot with FX Prods. DreamWorks TV is executive producing alongside Weisberg and Yost. The project originated with an idea by DreamWorks TV toppers Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, who pitched it to Weisberg, a writer on the company’s TNT series Falling Skies, with whom DreamWorks TV had developed another drama project at FX. Weisberg, a former CIA officer-turned-novelist-turned-TV writer, developed the concept with Yost on board to supervise the script. Yost, who has a longstanding relationship with DreamWorks TV via his work on the HBO miniseries Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, had also supervised Weisberg’s previous FX/DWTV script. And Yost, of course, has close ties with FX through Justified. Weisberg and Yost are repped by CAA, which helped first get them together with DreamWorks TV, also repped there at the time. DreamWorks TV is now at WME, which handled The Americans, splitting the package with CAA.
American couple Ethel and Julius Rosenberg remain two of the strongest symbols of the Cold War. The duo, who lived in New York with their two kids, were arrested in 1950 and, after a quick trial, were convicted of passing secrets to the Soviets, sentenced to death and later executed. After seemingly headed to the vaults of Cold War lore, the concept of Russian spies came back to the forefront last year when the FBI arrested 10 alleged deep-cover Russian agents. At the time, one of the Cold War’s most famous defectors, Oleg Gordievsky, claimed that Russia may have as many as 50 deep-cover couples still spying inside the U.S.
In addition to The Americans, Weisberg has an untitled CIA drama set up at Fox with Paul Greengrass executive producing and Imagine TV and 20th TV producing. The pickup of The Americans comes on the heels of FX passing on one of its two existing drama pilots, Outlaw Country, and keeping the other, Powers, for redevelopment and reshoots.