The Americans (They're Back!)

They're back! 

"The Americans" - the excellent FX series about married K.G.B. agents living as Americans in suburban Washington, DC during the Reagan era - is back for its fifth season and better than ever.

As the New York Times pointed out in its review, in light of everything going on in the news these days, the series suddenly seems a little less retro.

But, since we don't do politics here, enough about that. If you have not seen it, start binge watching the first four seasons now on Amazon Prime - and join in with the current season when you get caught up.

What shows are you currently watching?


* Photos from FX.

Mary Tyler Moore

When I was traveling last Wednesday - and saw that friends were posting pics of Mary Tyler Moore - my heart sank a bit.  (Because people only post celebrity pictures when the news is not good.)

Not surprisingly, working in television, I meet a lot of women who were inspired by "Mary Richards."  Some watched her when the "Mary Tyler Moore" show ran in the 1970s - others much later on "Nick at Nite" or streaming video - but there is no she doubt influenced several generations of women.

A friend recently noted that while there may not have been a lot of imagination that went into naming TV shows in the 70s ("The Carol Burnett Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," etc.) - all of the brilliance went into the shows themselves.  I haven't seen all of the episodes, but here are a few of the things I loved about "Mary Tyler Moore":

  • TV news was always intriguing to me, and this was the first place I saw it portrayed on a sitcom.
  • She lived in a big city.  To a little girl in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Minneapolis certainly seemed like a big city.
  • That apartment!  Loved her apartment.  And I always wanted a wall hanging of my initial - just like Mary.
  • Sleeping on a sofabed looked very glamorous to my eight-year-old self - something I got to experience during a couple of years in a studio apartment after graduating from college.
  • That shag carpet!  My childhood bedroom had purple shag carpet, but not the two steps leading up the door that seemed oh-so-sophisticated. 
  • Looking out that apartment window, it always seemed to be snowing.  And I love snow.
  • Did I mention that I loved that apartment?

I never actually saw the full series.  So some evening soon, perhaps on a snowy night,  I can queue up a few episodes to watch - with the lights of the big city twinkling just outside my window.  Just like Mary.



Visiting NYC: TV Show Tickets

New York can be an expensive place to visit, but one of the coolest things you can put on your agenda - going to a TV show - doesn't cost a dime.

It's a fun experience, and if you luck into a show that has great guests on that day - all the better!

This month, Scott and I went to two late-night TV show tapings.  Thanks to a friend who had tickets he could not use for "Late Night with Seth Meyers," we caught his show at 30 Rock.  This week, we headed over to the Ed Sullivan Theater to see the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" - only a couple of weeks after I threw our name in the electronic hopper for tickets.


This is not an exhaustive list, but a quick look at some popular shows.  For those not listed, I recommend going directly to the network or show web site, and following the links for tickets.  General web searches can easily send you to non-official sites that promise you tickets that may or may not be legit - and they will charge you for what should be free.  A lot of shows handle ticketing through, so you can also check that out for other available options. 

"Saturday Night Live"

Ticket requests are only accepted in August and via email (get full details here).  You cannot request a specific date.  Tickets are distributed through a lottery system for 8 p.m. rehearsals and the live 11:30 p.m. show.  If you don't get advance tickets and are in NYC on a Saturday that has a live show, you can always try the standby line that morning at 7 a.m. at Rockefeller Center.  How long that line is depends on the weather and the popularity/newsworthiness of the hosts and musical guests.

"The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon"

This is probably the toughest ticket in late night right now, but you still have a better chance of this than getting "Hamilton" tickets.  Details here; just make sure you follow their official Twitter account for ticket notices; there are several copycats that look real but are not.

"Late Night with Seth Meyers"

Ticketing through  Of any late show taping I have ever attended, this wins the prize for poshest waiting area.  Instead of lining up and waiting on the sidewalk outside, there is a comfy lounge area in 30 Rock where you wait before being taken up to the studio.

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

In my opinion, Stephen Colbert is hilarious, so I had a great time at this week's taping.  In addition to the show itself, this is worth checking out just to get a look inside the Ed Sullivan Theater.  They do ticketing here, and if you're in NYC this September, it looks like you have a good chance of scoring tickets.

"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"

I have not been here lately, but went several times when Jon Stewart was still hosting.  Go directly to the show's web site for tickets, although they do not show current availability.

"Live with Kelly"

This 9 a.m. show broadcasts from the Live studio on the Upper West Side.  Tickets are through  The standby line starts forming before 7 a.m., depending on the popularity of that day's guests.

For all of these shows, same-day standby tickets are released to fill seats of ticket holders who do not show.  You'll have to stand on line awhile with no guarantee of a seat, but a lot of people often do get in.  For details, check the ticket section of each show's web site.

NBC Studio Tour

If you prefer a tour to a taping, get a look behind the scenes of "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," "Late Night with Seth Meyers" and more with the famous NBC Studio Tour.  Not surprisingly, you will end the tour in the well-merchandised NBC studio store.

With the exception of SNL, late shows generally tape between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.  Between waiting on line, the audience warm-up and the taping itself, you'll probably be at the studio for about three hours starting around 4 p.m.

If you're more early bird than night owl, you can easily catch a live broadcast of one of the national morning shows.  "Today" and "FOX & Friends" have outdoor plazas in midtown Manhattan that can accommodate crowds (Rockefeller Center for "Today," and 48th Street and Sixth Avenue for FOX).  Arrive early if it is a concert day.  You can request VIP passes here for the "Good Morning America" Times Square Studio, but tickets are not required to see the fun.  For these early shows, all you need to do is set the alarm and show up!

The Americans

I am a little late to the game, but we recently discovered the excellent FX series "The Americans."

Thanks to Amazon Prime, we started watching season one earlier this year, just as the show was starting its fourth season on cable. 

That, friends, pretty much sums up our TV viewing habits - usually a few steps behind.  Maybe since we both work from home, there is no "water cooler" chat to motivate us to keep current on these things - so we get around to them when we get around to them.

Photo from  Variety

Photo from Variety

From the pilot episode, I was hooked.  Not just for the compelling story - which has Soviet spies living as Americans in suburban Washington, DC - but for the totally awesome 80's soundtrack.  Oh, and the wardrobe of star Keri Russell and her on-screen daughter could have been lifted from my junior high school closet.

We are now caught up through season three.  With my extensive work travel for the next month, it will be tough to knock out season four - but we are up to the challenge.

Anyone else hooked on this show?  What are you binge watching these days?

Are You Watching?

Scott and I aren't always drawn to the the same TV shows.  I am deep into the final season of "Mr. Selfridge" (London!  Stylish clothes!) while he is more of a "Game of Thrones" kind of guy .

But two out of two Sewells agree:  "The Night Manager" -  the six-part BBC miniseries currently airing on AMC - is excellent.

Photo from  AMC

Photo from AMC

We both love spy thrillers and tales of international intrigue, such as "The Americans" (also outstanding.)  But we tend to pick them up on Netflix or Amazon after they air, which means we spend cold or rainy Saturday afternoons binge-watching several episodes at a time.

In a rare occurrence, we are actually watching "The Night Manager" as it airs.  This requires a bit of patience, making us wait a whole (long) week to find out what happens after each episode's inevitable cliffhanger.

Based on the John le Carré novel, which neither of us read, the excellent cast includes Hugh Laurie (you will never confuse this guy with Dr. House), and Tom Hiddleston as the title character.  Hiddleston fans will like the fact that lingering looks into his eyes seem to comprise about a quarter of the camera shots in any episode.

Much of the cast will be familiar to anyone who watches a lot of British TV - including Olivia Colman (aka Detective Ellie Miller from "Broadchurch") as a British intelligence officer.

If you are not watching yet, you can catch up with on-demand and the numerous repeats AMC airs each week.

What are you watching these days?