Stars: Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Mike Vogel, Kelli Garner
Jack Orman
Thomas Schlamme
ABC, Sundays @ 10 PM
Original Telecast:
September 25, 2011

To say that ABC’s new series PAN AM is better than the network’s remake of CHARLIE’S ANGELS or NBC’s THE PLAYBOY CLUB is not necessarily high praise. However, PAN AM at least has a sense of real fun and genuine nostalgia for an era when flying was fun and a job that took somebody around the world for free seemed truly adventurous. Let us remember that back in 1960, the Internet didn’t exist and TV didn’t show nearly as many foreign climes as it does now – the best way to learn about other nations was to physically visit them.

PAN AM also makes the most of an historical fact that has hitherto not gotten much dramatic (or comedic) play – the State Department recognized stewardesses as excellent potential spies. After all, no one would think twice about these women going from one place to another, handling other people’s baggage while on board, etc. This makes the life of Kate (Kelli Garner) much more interesting, which is perhaps a good thing. After Kate rescues her previously subdued sister Laura (Margot Robbie) from an unwanted marriage, Laura decides she wants to follow in Kate’s professional footsteps, much to Kate’s consternation. Maggie (Christina Ricci) has a bohemian lifestyle off the job and French Cassie (Karine Vanasse) has an affair with a passenger blow up in her face when the man’s wife and child show up unexpectedly for the return trip.

It all feels a bit retro, but writer Jack Orman and director Thomas Schlamme add some contemporary sensibility and actual humor to the mix. There’s also something to be said for a show where even those characters who are somewhat depressed exhibit a sense of enthusiasm for their careers and the world around them. There’s also a slight but important difference in the way the series presents its female leads from the attitude on CHARLIE’S ANGELS or THE PLAYBOY CLUB. The former operates as though it’s still a novelty for women to be action heroes (and even then, they still have a parental-type male boss) and the latter goes through tortured rationalizations to try to explain how it is the Bunnies aren’t being exploited. In PAN AM, the stewardesses have so many aspects of their jobs that they genuinely love that we understand why someone would actively seek out this employment, rather than just grit teeth to get through it in the service of a paycheck.

The spy subplot with Kate shows potential. It’s unclear exactly how or if the series will make the weekly flights entertaining, but at least everyone on board seems game and capable of making diverting TV.


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Article: TV Review – PAN AM – Season 1 premiere


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