Amerika – suggesting a Russian name for the United States – is an American television miniseries that was broadcast in 1987. It starred Kris Kristofferson, Mariel Hemingway, Sam Neill, Robert Urich, and a 17-year-old Lara Flynn Boyle in her first major role. Amerika was about life in the United States after a bloodless takeover by the Soviet Union. Not wanting to depict the actual coup, ABC Entertainment president Brandon Stoddard instead chose to set the action of the miniseries ten years after the event, focusing on the demoralized American people a decade after the Soviet conquest. The intent, he later explained, was to explore the American spirit under such conditions, not to portray the conflict of the Soviet takeover.
Described in promotional materials as “the most ambitious American miniseries ever created,” Amerika aired for 14½ hours (including commercials) over seven nights, and reportedly cost US$40 million to produce. The program was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, and at various locations in Nebraska – most notably the small town of Tecumseh, which stood in for Milford, the setting for most of the action of the series. Donald Wrye was the executive producer, director, and sole writer of Amerika, while composer Basil Poledouris was hired to score the miniseries, ultimately recording (with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra) eight hours of music – the equivalent of four feature films.
Amerika arrived amid much controversy. Many critics and viewers felt it was too long and unrealistic, a number of people argued that it would be damaging to Soviet-American relations, and a spokesperson for the United Nations objected to the U.N. being depicted as an occupying force under Soviet control. Some conservatives felt that Soviet brutality was greatly underplayed; conversely, a number of liberals dismissed the entire miniseries as right-wing paranoia. At various points, the program was scrapped, delayed, and rewritten.