ABC's 'Pan Am' lifts off
September 26th, 2011
02:33 PM ET

ABC's 'Pan Am' lifts off

Of the two ‘60s-set new dramas this fall, so far “Pan Am” seems to be the favorite frontrunner. (Sorry, "Playboy Club.")

It’s arguable that ABC’s new show is “Mad Men” inspired, but “Pan Am” doesn’t even pretend to carry the complexity of AMC’s Emmy winner, and that’s OK. Following a soap (“Desperate Housewives,” now in its last season) this series was a fitting bit of glossy escapism when it premiered Sunday night.

“Pan Am” makes the bygone days of plane travel look glamorous and breezy, bouncing around between New York, London and Rome. In this version of the '60s, everything is so shiny and new – I know it was about the past, but the interior of that Pan Am Clipper Jet looked like the dream of the future.

The stewardesses were novel enough at the time to make the cover of Life magazine – well, one of them did, at least: The newbie, Laura. Played by Margot Robbie, she's the sister of the more experienced Pan Am stewardess, Kate (Kelli Garner).

The overarching story hits lightly upon the sexism of the era as the stewardesses are subjected to slaps on the bum to check for girdles and weigh-ins, but to these women, that blue uniform represents a freedom that’s worth it.

Laura, after all, runs away from her wedding because she realizes - after finally making a decision on her own - “I want to see the world.” This doesn’t sit well with her sister Kate, who clearly feels as though she’s lived in Laura’s shadow – and seemingly part of the reason why she skipped out of the suburbs and into a stewardess uniform. But by the end of the premiere, that subplot of tension between the two was essentially resolved.

Each stewardess has some sort of back story, with Maggie's (Christina Ricci) being the most vague at this point, but I was partial to Colette’s. The Cold War espionage scenario was intended to give the story some urgency, but for me it could've been tossed aside for more storylines like hers.

I adored Karine Vanasse's portrayal of the French stewardess, who realized at the worst possible time that her paramour was married, and handled the news with way more grace than many of us would. (I’d also love it if the writers would stop adding in lines to remind us that she’s French – we can hear the accent, thanks.)

Personally, that kind of interaction was far more entertaining than any missing secret spy-stewardess plotline I’m guessing is supposed to carry us through the season. No, I didn’t forget about Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), the aforementioned missing in action stewardess whom Dean the pilot (played by Mike Vogel) was hoping to wed.

Dean's proposal was absurdly mashed up with a Bay of Pigs scenario, done in such a rushed way that it's made me hope they'll either treat historical events with more attention to detail, or just leave them in the background altogether and keep the focus on drama.

And while I prefer my retro dramas with flaws instead of the nostalgic sense of awe "Pan Am" brings, that final shot of the four stewardesses moving in sync as a little girl watches closely was a beautiful one. As the relentlessly flirtatious co-pilot tells us in the end (intending it to be a compliment, he says), “They're not like normal women....They're a new breed."

If “Pan Am” focuses its energy on developing these women, I think ABC has something to build on. If you caught "Pan Am," what did you think?

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Filed under: Fall TV • television • TV recaps

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    Even though I didn’t care for it when I watched the pilot, I’m starting to really like this show. I’ve been catching up with it recently by watching it on dishonline(dot)com. I’m kind of a sucker for any shows that inspire a sense of nostalgia, like: this, Mad Men, and Boardwalk Empire. This kind of thing is one of the reasons I’m really glad my employer, DISH Network, set up this streaming site. Since, if I hadn’t been browsing through the massive selection of content I probably would have never given Pan Am an honest try and I would have missed out. I definitely recommend checking dishonline out, especially since there’s a good deal of content available to subscribers and non subscribers alike. It’s also great for catching a missed episode or two, movies, and great for when you’re travelling and only have a laptop, or other mobile device with you.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tanya Sydney

    I liked it, but maybe that's because I used to be a Pan Am stewardess, so the show brought back many wonderful memories for me. I loved the company and I loved air travel in those days. Now it's absolutely horrid. I do hope that the story lines get a bit more interesting though. The one thing that is really annoying is that the pilots in the series are all young. Pan Am hired only very experienced senior pilots with many miles of flight experience in the military, not some young just out of college hunks.

    Also, the crew never stayed together after a flight, but instead flew one assignment and then parted ways and got assigned to a totally new crew for the next flight. But I suppose it would be challenging to keep a storyline together if new actors were constantly needed for each show.

    What I love the most about the show is the wonderful "look" of it.... the planes, the uniforms, the airports. And I just love that the passengers standing in line to board the planes are all dressed up as if they're going to the theater or out to a fancy restaurant. That's exactly how I remembered most of the passengers dress. Air travel was a very special occasion for people in those days. Off course, the tickets cost a lot more too, especially overseas which is the only place Pan Am flew, so only those with some financial means were able to fly.

    The last episode was just a little bit more interesting than the previous two, so I hope this is an indication that the show will bring us some intelligent scrips in the future, and not just cotton candy fluff.

    October 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    Dull. Airline travel is commonplace to everyone. Just taking us back to the time when it was smaller and slower is not exciting. Other than that, its just a show about women problems... Dull.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joan

    Show was ok, but the background music was really loud compared to the talking. I'd like to know what they are saying; instead of hearing Frank Sinatra. If that doesn't change soon, I'm flying off that show!

    September 30, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    It was miserable. Ridiculous story. Bay of Pigs? Where did that come from? Everytime I watch a network I am dumbstruck by the lousy writing.

    September 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Helen

    I loved it. The early sixties had it, & I'm old enough to remember them 1st hand!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mel B

    I was excited for the debut and was happy with what I saw. I can see where the Bridgette story line could be annoying, but at least they set it up in the first episode and didn't drag it out. Looking forward to next week!

    September 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vibecat

    Boring. Sorry to those who didn't like it but I miss Brothers and Sisters, was way better than this.

    September 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KT

    Hope they spotlight more of the airline and the travel aspect. It truly was a glamorous time (I'm an airline brat). Wish they would also drop the computer generated planes. Just paint a beater in the desert Pan Am colors and film it or do a special Pan Am livery with another airline and offer it as a promotional flight. Then film a bunch of takeoffs and landings! Make it a bit more realistic!

    September 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Observer

    Show us more cans, and it will be worth watching!

    September 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. THE BOSS

    JR don't you mean landing?

    September 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JR

    put your seats in the upright position and prepair for Pan Am crash lading.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tina

    i loved it. i love the clothes and hair from that time period even if it was way before the time i was born...

    September 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Carla

    I thought it was boring also, but I think it has good storyline potential, with Kate taking Brigette's place in the...'mystery' aspect of the show. I'll definitely keep watching to see how it plays out.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. charles bogner

    Give it chance guys! I came from Pan Am in 1978-1992 and I must say those were some fun times.I think for non airline people it looks boring but for us travelers it s a fun show to watch.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  16. nancine

    It is only sophisticated if you think wearing ugly 60s stewardess uniforms and melba toast is sophisticated. Maybe it is targeted at 55 plus year old ladies whos soaps were just taken off the air. Needless to say, it is terrible.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  17. chantal

    It was not good. I watched it and it was boring. Nothing like the comments made on the ads. NOT secksie. NOT interesting. Just dumb.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  18. PattyB

    I watched Pan Am, thinking (and hoping) it would be more in line with Mad Men (my favorite show). I was disappointed but will watch it again to see if the story line improves. I know Mad Men is much more complex and sophisticated, but I'm still hoping Pan Am will move in a similar direction. We'll see.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  19. portalpunk

    FIRSTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY MONDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • trix are for kids

      You're slacking off... 14 minutes late. What if someone beat you to it???

      September 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |

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