Sunday, September 25, 2011
Review - Pan Am
My mother was a flight attendant for TWA in the 60s (they were called stewardesses back then) so I have been looking forward to seeing this new series hoping to get a little insight into her world before I came along. Of course I know, being a television drama, it will be more about telling stories of romance, scandal, trysts - think Grey's Anatomy in the sky - but within the first five minutes of tonight's premiere, I do have an appreciation of certain rules and standards my mother definitely had to follow - maintaining weight and perfection of appearance, quality of on-board service, a respectable reputation.
The 60s was the Golden Age of Travel. Flying was an event: exciting, elegant and glamorous and without the restrictions and precautions we have today in the post-9/11 world. As for Pan Am, it was the premiere airline of the time, the flagship carrier for the U.S. that flew only international flights. On board you were personally escorted to your seat. Food, cocktails, pillows and magazines were complimentary and every passenger was treated as first class. Pan Am stewardesses in particular were deemed feminine icons of the time, turning heads as they walked throughout the terminals to the planes in their pristine, bright blue uniforms and white gloves (this image was also featured in the film Catch Me if You Can, the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose many false identities included impersonating a Pan Am pilot). Back then, being a stewardess was one of the few career opportunities for women that allowed them to see the world. As said in the pilot episode (pun appropriate?), they were "a new breed of woman."
Pan Am is stylish, looks great and has an ease of storytelling about it. Solid introductions are made of the recurring in-flight crew, which includes Maggie (Christina Ricci, Saving Grace, Ally McBeal), an independent lady who believes she needs to see the world in order to change it; Kate (Kelli Garner, My Generation), a veteran stewardess with a new secret agenda; Laura (Margot Robbie, Neighbours), Kate's younger sister who ran out on her wedding, followed her sister into the friendly skies and now has sudden fame as the face of the Jet Age thanks to a Life magazine cover; Collette (Karine Vanasse, October 1970), who took the term "layover" literally, having had a relationship with a passenger she now has learned is married; Dean (Mike Vogel, Miami Medical, Grounded for Life), newly promoted captain involved with stewardess Bridget (Annabelle Wallis, The Tudors), who has a secret of her own; and fellow pilot Ted (Michael Mosley, Justified, Scrubs), who definitely has an eye for the ladies in blue.
Backstories for each character are told through flashbacks, giving just enough information to relate to what is happening before, during and after the flight featured in the episode, which I'm guessing is how each will play out during the season. It's early to tell if the series will get any darker as it goes on or if it will stay in the moderate drama zone like its time-slot predecessor Brothers & Sisters, which would justify Pan Am's pairing with lead-in Desperate Housewives. A natural match, too, being that both series focus mainly on the female lead characters.
With beautiful sets, an attractive cast, a terrific soundtrack and nostalgia for an intriguing era, Pan Am is easy to watch and has made a promising debut.
Bottom line: Book your ticket for more flights of fancy on board this series.
Catch Pan Am Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC