Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TV: Pan Am (series premiere)

This weekend, a new drama debuted Sunday night on the ABC network. Pan Am is a period drama that focuses on pilots and stewardesses working for the world-famous Pan American World Airways in 1963. The program is written by Jack Orman, who wrote for ER, and is directed by Thomas Schlamme, who directed the West Wing.

First off, I have to get it out of the way. Yes, I used the word "stewardesses" in the previous paragraph. Why? Because in 1963 that is what their job title was. Back then, we didn't have all this political correctness. We didn't call them "flight attendants". So, in the spirit of the show I will call them as they were called back in the day.

The premiere episode introduces us to the cast. Dean (Mike Vogel) has been promoted to Captain and pilots the Clipper Majestic on her first New York to London flight. All the while he is desperate to locate his girlfriend Bridget who works as a stewardess for the company. Maggie (Christina Ricci) is suddenly called back from probation to take over for the missing Bridget. Kate (Kelli Garner) is secretly in training as a U.S. Intelligence agent, using the airline job as a perfect cover. Her sister Laura (Margot Robbie) is trying to find herself but instead has found unwanted fame by getting her picture on the cover of LIFE magazine. Colette (Karine Vanasse) discovers that her previous lover has not been completely honest with her.

The first episode packed a lot of story into the forty three minutes. We get current time mixed with flashbacks, enough to give us an idea of who these people are and where they are coming from. There are secrets, there are subplots, there are things that can built off of in future episodes. A good pilot does that. The show also delivers on the "s" adjectives: sexy and stylish.

But the bigger thing this pilot did was set the stage properly. The costumers and set directors are to be commended. This show really had the look, the feel, the sounds - everything that fit the time period of 1963. The little details are what really made this work for me.

Though I was born a couple of years after the setting, Pan Am really had the feel of the times down pat. Not just things like cars or the dress of the flight crew and passengers. No, things like rotary phones, cameras, people being able to smoke on planes, the magazines, that people actually dressed up when they travelled - it all looked and felt right. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the music, in particular the popular music of the times.

All of these elements make the show pop. It really had me longing for the times when the world was much different and when airplane seats were a lot more roomy and comfortable.

Does Pan Am have enough to keep it in flight for a season or more? I think if the stories are good and believable that it will do quite well. I know I'll be pulling it up on my iPad next week to see the second episode.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed the heck out of it, and I have already watched it twice. But then, anyone who sees my twitter feed would know that!

I think judging by one episode each, that it's more appealing than THE PLAYBOY CLUB. But I hope they both succeed. And all of it makes me more hungry for more MAD MEN.

ApacheDug said...

I don't want to get into too many new tv shows, so I decided to choose between the Playboy Bunnies & Pam Am, I went with the latter. I have to admit I wasn't too impressed with the pilot's storyline, but like you said Martin, they did a terrific job of capturing the times. I plan to watch again, but only because I've fallen in love with that French stewardess (the one who didn't know she was involved with a married man). She's awesome!

Unknown said...

Dug is right. It took me about two seconds to fall hard for Collette!