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1961 was the much-promoted Centennial of the Civil War. There were all sorts of specials, and docu-series, and articles in LIFE magazine, etc. This TV drama was excellent with a brother against brother theme. The fact that it lasted one year says a lot about the audience rather than the show. This was quality TV - and cross-reference "Arrest and Trial" (the precursor of "Law and Order") to see how long some quality shows last. I even remember in grade school trying to get classmates to watch "The Americans" with no luck. Their loss. And in this age of gutter, juvenile, and vicious humor a thoughtful drama like this won't ever be rerun or even on video. Too bad. With the right marketing there are enough Civil War enthusiasts to make video sales feasible. It was a memorable series showing how the war tore America apart.
I still remember as a kid seeing this shortlived, but highly acclaimed
series that didn't find an audience.
The premise was the two Canfield Brothers, living in a border state, having an opposite political view of the issues that were shortly to divide America. When their father, John McIntire, is killed. Darryl Hickman responds to Father Abraham's call for men while Richard Davalos opts for the newly formed Confederacy.
It was like that in a whole lot of families back then. The famous Kentucky statesman John Crittenden saw two of his sons become generals in the opposing armies. Though Ben and Jeff Canfield never got to be higher than corporal in the series short run, the idea is the same. Each week the story alternated with a Union story involving Ben and a Confederate story involving Jeff. Kind of like the Maverick brothers.
This was obviously planned for a long term run, though not as long as MASH which lasted three times as long as the actual Korean War itself. It also treated the issues and incidents of the time with seriousness.
Those thirteen episodes dealt with some of the events and people of 1861. Dick Davalos got himself involved with the notorious Confederate spy, Rose Greenhow in an episode. Darryl Hickman did a stretch in Libby Prison when he was captured.
Besides the pilot the episode I remember best was the last where Ben Canfield testifies at a Congressional hearing. The Radical Republicans had a committee that oversaw Lincoln's conduct of the war and his critics in Congress used it as a vehicle for their own ambitions. It concerned the Battle of Ball's Bluff where a personal friend of Lincoln's, Edward Baker was killed leading his men in a charge. Robert Middleton played Senator Ben Wade of Ohio who has not come down in history with a sterling reputation. In fact Wade almost became president when Andrew Johnson fell one vote shy of impeachment. But that's another story.
Had this gone on for five years, The Americans would have been a remarkable educational tool and been frequently revived. Think of all the Civil War history that could have been made comprehensible and entertaining for the young. We had to wait 30 years for Ken Burns.
As with so many flop series, good and bad, The Americans if the tapes of the shows still exist is gathering dust somewhere. Pity.
I loved this show when I was a kid, and I remember being very disappointed when it was taken off the air. I remember that it was a gripping drama, and that it held my attention even though I was very young at the time and not too interested in anything other than comedies and cartoons. I also remember my mother complaining once that it was too violent, so maybe this had something to do with its appeal. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to have made much of an impression on anyone else, because I've never met anyone else who even remembers it, so I'm glad to see so many positive reviews of the show here. I would love to see this show again. It must have been a good show, because I haven't forgotten it in 44 years, and I was only 6 or 7 years old when it aired.
I have remembered this TV series for nearly 40 years. It was a heart
tugging series, about two brothers fighting the Civil War. One brother was
in the Union Army and the other in the Confederate Army.
You just knew one day they would meet face to face on the battlefield, and you just didn't want that to happen. You drew yourself to each of the brothers, in their individual stories of the war.
Good history of times past, warm family feelings torn apart by war.
There is room for a new TV series based upon this story line, today. I hope some producer picks it up and goes with it.
I really liked this show, The Americans. I can't believe it was only on for a year! Civil War action, what more did a kid want back then? (Except maybe the Alamo.) Thanks to IMDB for having some info about it. And thanks to Candace for steering me here because apparently nobody else has bothered to deal with this excellent show. At least I remember it as excellent. If I saw it today, it might not live up to my rosy memory, but I'd like to give it a try. Some old TV shows weren't preserved, and it would be a shame if this old show became 'history', literally. We can only hope for the best. I'd like to share it with my kids. It beats much of what is on TV today for youngsters. What will our kids be reminiscing about in their later years? Don't get me started. One more thing --- I've enjoyed reading all the comments by everybody and I have to say, I don't recall the 'Daisy May' episode. But I was only about 8 years old at the time and probably considered that one boring. Also, it would be great to find a web site with some photos from the show. Let's keep searching.
This show made such an impression on me that I dreamt about it and remember my mother having to wake me and ask me who Ben was. I was talking in my sleep and was worried about if Ben was going to be alright. Pretty strong stuff for an 8 year old. Nothing grotesque or scary. A great story line that left an impression on a kid just beginning to worry about the reports from Huntley and Brinkley and hoping he'd never have to fight against his own brother. For years I've remembered those dreams and couldn't remember the name of the show. I'd love to see it again. I sure hope A&E, TV Land, Nick@Nite or HistoryChannel see to it to run this series. Are you listening over there? Thanks to IMDb for helping solve the mystery of what the source of those dreams were.
I fondly recall watching this series. It really left a great impression on me. I was raised in a family of 14 children. We could not afford a TV set. so I would go to a neighbors house to view TV. I have asked many people about this series, how ever not any recall it. This movie should receive more attention than it evidently gets. Should be of interest to anyone that has an interest in the Civil War.Would be nice if some of the cable channels would start airing some of those great shows of yester year.
42 years ago I watched a TV show that had a lifetime effect on me. "
The Americans" was probably the first show that taught some of our
military history to this 8 year old. And now, as a 53 year old veteran
of Vietnam, a past Confederate Reenactor enlisted in the 5th Alabama
Batallion, Archers Brigade CSA, and a Career DOD Civilian, I'll never
forget the image where the two brothers met over Musket sights. In my
memory it was a fantastic show. I agree with all those who have written
about their memories and truly wish I could also again see this fine
Thankyou for reminding me of this wonderful show. I too, thought it was a figment of my imagination. What a treasure this could be as a Series DVD ! And I tip my hat to those, my age, that remember "The Americans"
It is great to see all the comments on The Americans. I was nine at the time it first aired in 1961. I had just moved to Virginia from Massachusetts and was thoroughly engrossed in learning about the war. This show really created a lasting passion for history. I got my first book on the war, Divided We Fought, shortly after the show came on. Also I started visiting battlefield sites all over Virginia. Later we went to Maryland and Pennsylvania to see Antietam and Gettysburg. I went on to earn MA and BA degrees in American History. I worked in museum programming and administration for 33 years. I now have nearly 300 volumes on the Civil War in my home library. Good TV can be a positive influence.
I teach history both in high school and at a university. I am
especially interested in the American Civil War, the War Between the
States, or, as a North Carolina teacher put it to me, "Down here, we
call it 'the War of Northern Aggression,'" But, to tell you the
truth, one of the reasons I was an avid fan of "The Americans" when it
played on television in 1961 was that it was "sexy." I was in 8th
grade at the time and therefore of a budding, going on boiling over
interest in exotic women. I particularly remember an episode when Dick
Davalos goes into a back hills village to recruit some of their
sharpshooting men into the Confederate army. Before he finds any men,
he encounters a bevy of very shapely Daisy Mays who are very interested
in him. What a test of his loyalty to the Southern cause! Should he
go back to the battlefield or stay here with the Dogpatch harem?
Am I the only one who remembers the show this way?
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