Allegiance, an espionage show soon to premiere on NBC, might not be a rip-off of FX drama The Americans, but the premise of the show certainly sounds similar to a real-life event that first appeared in the news cycle almost five years ago.
Deadline Hollywood reported on Allegiance showrunner George Nolfi fending off questions about the similarity of his new show to The Americans. He said that that he believes “it’s very clear we are going in a very different direction.”
The Wall Street Journal offered a review of both espionage shows and essentially agreed the two are different.
“As was perhaps inevitable, it is, now, not the only series about Soviet sleeper spies in the U.S. There’s ‘Allegiance‘ (based on the Israeli series ‘The Gordin Cell‘) set in contemporary times, rather than the Cold War 1980s of ‘The Americans.’ A series both formulaic and limited in the writing department, ‘Allegiance‘ shows no signs of the immense ambitiousness of ‘The Americans‘—to which it bears precious little resemblance in other ways as well.”
But while Allegiance might be different from The Americans, the general premise of the show bears more than a few similarities to something that first became public in 2010–even if no one realizes it yet.
News broke on or around July 2010 of the U.S. government uncovering a Russian spy ring operating in America. At least 10 individuals were arrested and were rather quickly sent back to Russia in exchange for four individuals held by the Russian Federation.
The biggest name to emerge from that group of Russians was Anna Chapman, a woman who continues making news every now and then. The Inquisitr recently reported on her supposedly being ordered to seduce U.S. traitor Edward Snowden as part of a Russian ploy to get more information about U.S. intelligence from him.
Snowden, will you marry me?!
— Anna (@ChapmanAnna) July 3, 2013
The Telegraph was one of many news outlets in 2010 to report on the Russian spy ring and their subsequent return to Russia. Like other outlets, it noted that the Russian spies had developed extensive lives in the U.S. and even had children.
“Most of the children who were born to the three married couples among the spies were likely to travel with them. Questions however remained about the two children, aged 16 and 20, of the Russian couple who lived under the name of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley.”
That might have seemed like a minor detail at the time but, by 2012, it became a major detail, because reports emerged that Heathfield and Foley were trying to recruit their son to become a Russian spy — not unlike the plot for Allegiance.
The Wall Street Journal alleged in 2012 that U.S. officials say their son, Tim Foley, agreed to join them in spying for Russia. And while he didn’t work for the CIA (as does the son in Allegiance), he was a student at George Washington University and in prime position to join any part of the U.S. government bureaucracy if he wanted to choose such a path.
Tim Foley’s parents denied the alleged account of U.S. officials through their American lawyer.
People will undoubtedly continue comparing Allegiance to The Americans up to and past the debut of Allegiance on February 5 on NBC. But regardless of the similarities, as of right now, the storyline seemingly driving Allegiance has more than a little in common with real-life events.
Furthermore, the comparisons between Allegiance and The Americans doesn’t seem to be hurting the series. Variety reports the show “is building a dedicated fanbase three weeks ahead of its series premiere.”
Time will tell if Allegiance will be able to sustain and maintain the loyalties of that fanbase.
[Image via official Allegiance website. Photo by Will Hart/NBC]