TV review: Spy drama ‘Allegiance’ pales next to its obvious inspiration

There’s action! But Allegiance doesn’t have enough substance to stand up to shows like The Americans.

Two and a half stars

Allegiance Thursdays, 10 p.m., NBC.

Does this premise sound familiar? A married couple lives a seemingly mundane existence in a major American city, raising their children, while hiding the secret that they are covert agents for the Russian government. That, of course, is the concept behind FX’s acclaimed drama The Americans, and it’s also the concept behind NBC’s new drama Allegiance, which sets itself a pretty high bar to cross.

Set in the present, Allegiance follows former Russian spy Katya (Hope Davis) and her American husband Mark (Scott Cohen), who are drawn back into the life they thought they left behind when the SVR (the modern-day KGB) insists they recruit their oblivious CIA-agent son Alex (Gavin Stenhouse) as a Russian asset.

Allegiance is flashier than The Americans, with far more questionable leaps of logic, and it burns through so much plot in the first three episodes that it seems to be exhausting its premise almost immediately. While the show mines some tension from the family with divided loyalties, Alex turns out to be an annoying only-on-TV investigator, who’s a ridiculous super-genius but doesn’t understand normal human behavior. Without the nuanced characters and slow-building suspense of The Americans, Allegiance is just a preposterous thriller. That puts it right at home on NBC, but still far behind its obvious inspiration.

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