ABC were once like Pan American World Airways – the gold standard, comfortably ahead of CBS and NBC as America’s highest-rated broadcaster. And now look at them: panhandling for change, sucking cock for coins. And now look at Pan Am –you can’t, they don’t even exist anymore. Maybe ABC is unconsciously hankering for its own heyday. Either way it’s period drama, it’s 1963 and it’s NOT MAD MEN as the producers are at pains to point out.
So who do we got? Laura Cameron (Margot Robbie) is the smoking hot face of Pan Am having just appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in her stewardess uniform. She didn’t ask to be photographed thus and being asked every 30 seconds if she’s “that girl” is making her feel icky. She’s pretty new to the job and already feels that just by becoming a Pan Am stewardess she’s stolen her sister’s identity. Sister Kate (Kelli Garner) is inclined to agree – she was living the life long before her and with her foxy sibling swanning in and becoming the walking embodiment of every promise Pan Am makes and breaks you can understand the resentment.
That’s not something Kate can dwell on for now as, in what is a pretty unexpected twist, she is some kind of sky-high spy pie. Espieonage? Apparently so. She takes instruction from an American spymaster and for this particular assignment in the pilot, she has to place a visa in the briefcase of some KGB looking Russian son of a bitch sick commie fuck travelling on her plane. I had no idea that this kind of thing went on (mainly, I suspect, because it didn’t).
She has to place a visa in the briefcase of some KGB looking Russian son of a bitch sick commie fuck travelling on her plane. I had no idea that this kind of thing went on (mainly, I suspect, because it didn’t).
Not that strict adherence to reality should worry us in a show like this. Pan Am is clearly more pro-60s than Mad Men. Yes the girls have to wear girdles, yes casual misogyny is a daily fact of life but you know what? They get to travel, they get to fuck and they don’t have to marry some douchebag at 21 who will cheat on them with his secretary (a douchebag like Don Draper perhaps but need I remind you once again that this isn’t Mad Men?)
Yes the girls have to wear girdles, yes casual misogyny is a daily fact of life but you know what? They get to travel, they get to fuck and they don’t have to marry some douchebag at 21 who will cheat on them with his secretary
There’s more to Pan Am than just the dames though. The pilots get a look-in too and, as anyone who has viewed Wham’s Club Tropicana video will tell you, being a pilot gives you the key to the pie factory. You are the pie pilot. But discontent can linger even in a lifestyle as magical as that – I cite the case of our hero Dean (Mike Vogel) who searches in vain for his honey Bridget, a lovely English piece of ass stewardess (also a spy it will transpire). Feel pity for him? Me neither.
The real question of course is: is it enough to get ABC out of the doldrums? Well, it’s a start. It’s glossy, nostalgic and hasn’t pissed me off yet. I’m not completely convinced the mixture of female empowerment and espionage is going to fly long-term but successful shows have had stranger premises. People can rag on the 60s all they like but things did change and a bunch of chicks flying the world, living and loving as they please seems an appropriate metaphor for the experience of millions who discovered that the confines of class, race and gender weren’t quite as solid as they once were.
Surely, that counts for something?
The verdict: Pan Am, Histor? I have never bird of wing.
Marks out of 10: 7