Ian O'Doherty on television
Thursday, RTE 2, 9.30pm
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
If there's one thing that Americans have always been proud of, it is the tranquil security of middle-class suburbia. Which is why it has made such a happy hunting ground for American fiction; a perfect metaphor for everything that is good – and potentially horrifying – about being an average Joe.
This type of latent disturbia, from David Lynch and Stephen King on one side to 24 and Homeland on the other, has proved a long and fruitful staple of American drama.
So The Americans – featuring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (right, below) as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, the attractive young Russians sent as deep-cover agents to Washington – is hardly breaking new ground.
The opening scenes, from a disgusted Russell fellating an American intelligence official to the tense kidnap of a Russian traitor in the streets of Washington, quickly dispel any pretence at subtlety or nuance – and are all the better for it.
Let's put it this way – any show that features a couple of married spies dumping a body and then having sex in their car to In The Air Tonight is either going to get your attention or have you lunging for the remote.
Throw in an FBI agent moving into the house across the road and the already rattled spooks begin to fray at the edges.
The only worry is that as the show progresses, it'll start to focus too much on the couple's unusual domestic situation – even defeating capitalism and ushering in a Worker's Paradise must wait when the children need to go to hockey practice, that sort of thing.
But on the evidence so far, Rhys and Russell are perfect as the all-American couple secretly dedicated to destroying the decadent West.
To be taken with a large dose of salt and enjoyed heartily . . .
Q History might say the protagonists in The Americans may have ultimately failed in their goal to destroy America.
But watching Gordon Ramsay (left, above) in Kitchen Nightmares, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
I know I had a pop at cookery shows in a previous column, but this programme was never about cooking and this episode, which created a storm when it was aired in the States recently, was a terrifying journey into madness, egomania and a stubborn, almost heroic, refusal to deal with reality.
Unusually, these traits weren't coming from Ramsay but from Amy and Samy, the utterly deranged couple behind Arizona's most unpopular restaurant.
We've all become so inured to nutters on the box that little shocks us.
But after seeing the owners physically assault the customers, steal tips and listen to stories of kitchen staff forced to clean Samy's car during a busy service, the viewer was simply left hoping that the next hurricane to hit America lands on their establishment.