Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pan Am 1.1 - "Pilot"

ABC's new show Pan Am took flight this past Sunday night (airline-related pun completely intentional), and I finally got around to watching the debut today. It's clearly yet another attempt to capitalize on the wild success of cable's Mad Men. I've never been a regular Mad Men viewer -- the few times I've seen it, I've been turned off by the show's penchant for pushing the envelope, if you will (well-written and thought-provoking it may be, but it's not for me). Whereas Mad Men is a gritty exploration of 1960s mores and attitudes, if the pilot episode is any indication, Pan Am is a glossy, soapy, and above all FUN glimpse into one of the most glamorous and adventurous careers a woman could have in 1963 -- that of a Pan Am stewardess.

This show has a look like nothing I've seen on network television, not in recent memory at any rate -- slick and glossy, the colors positively pop off the screen. Every frame of film is packed with fabulous detail, from the sets, clothing, and props to the fantastic hairstyles (the perfectly-coiffed children seen staring in reverential awe at the handsome captains and gorgeous stewardesses are adorable!). Is this an idealized presentation of 1960s air travel? Sure, probably -- but the fact remains that air travel used to be a lot more glamorous than it is now. *wink* What I wouldn't give to travel back in time for a day to fly on a Pan Am Clipper Jet in the airline's heyday. And I had no idea that a requirement for stewardesses was that they be college-educated, unmarried, and under the age of thirty-two -- and the four stewardesses at the center of this show are all bi- or tri-lingual. Color me impressed.

The series begins with the recently promoted (and quintessentially all-American, perfectly gelled hair to boot) Dean (Mike Vogel) eager to take on his first assignment -- flying the brand-new Clipper Majestic on its inaugural New York to London flight. His co-pilot is the devilishly cocky Ted (Michael Mosley). The flight crew is made up of three stewardesses and a lead purser. The stewardesses are the warm-hearted French Collette (Karine Vanasse) and the eager to prove herself Kate (Kelli Garner), who is followed by her younger sister Laura (Margot Robbie), the latter fleeing a broken engagement and testing her wings in the wide world for the first time. Maggie (Christina Ricci) is a last-minute replacement for the MIA purser Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), Dean's on-again, off-again (and uber-mysterious) love interest who stands to break his heart (READ THE SIGNALS DEAN!).

We quickly get a series of flashbacks that introduce us to the pasts of several of the main players. Colette thought she'd found love with a regular passenger she had a romantic rendezvous with in Rome, until he shows up with his friggin' family. Colette is crushed (good for her!), and has to endure a humiliating smackdown by the man's wife when the plane arrives in London. Laura, the gorgeous Cameron sister, fled her wedding with the aide of the more adventurous Kate (the latter the bane of her mother's existence for her willingness to flout convention. With her sister following her career footsteps, Kate has the pressure of living in Laura's shadow at the workplace, as well as some Cold War drama as a recently recruited spy by a U.S. intelligence agent (Jeremy Davidson). Her first assignment is swapping passports for a Russian passenger (David Harbour), a task that isn't as straightforward as it first appears.

Ted and Maggie receive the short shrift in this episode, but I'm hopeful that will be rectifed quickly in subsequent episodes. Ted strikes me as the kind of guy whose bravado masks a world of hurt and uncertainty. And Maggie -- she's the very definition of sassy. In her off-time she's as bohemian and unconventional as they come, the complete opposite of the straight-laced regulations that define her work. But she's driven to see the world and so she makes it work -- and I look forward to more insight into what drives her character.

Pan Am's pilot episode is a glorious hour of fast-paced, glossy, escapist entertainment. I loved every second of it. The entire look of the production, right down to the lushly cinematic score (courtesy of Blake Neely) gave the show's maiden voyage the feel of an event. And the songs -- the songs used in this episode were brilliant choices -- I especially approve of the two or three Bobby Darin selections (and if that WASN'T Darin, I'll be shocked!). Could this show be characterized as melodramatic? Yes, sure -- but the moments of soapiness and melodrama are balanced by genuine emotion and eager, nicely nuanced performances. Pan Am looks to be a glossy, nostalgic, escapist fantasy -- I look forward to the show's next flight! :) If you caught the premiere I'd love to hear your thoughts!

21 comments:

Heather said...

we made a point to watch this and I'll have to watch another episode or two to see what I think. I'm pretty much a 100% Mad Men snob, and I think this show was probably conjured up to take advantage of American's new love affair with the sleek look and culture of the early 60s that Mad Men has inspired. I do love big hair though :) and the fashions of the era. Sorta intrigued by the espionage aspect of the story, but felt like they were frantically shoving as much *stuff* into the pilot as possible. But then again...Mad Men snob here ;)

Rissi said...

Unfortunately, the fact that I wait for TV shows to release to DVD meant I didn't watch this, but I am curious about it. And, really glad you liked it. Can't wait for summer 2012 and all the fall 2011 DVD sets. =)

Ella said...

I haven't done this one, but I could like something "inspired" from Mad Men....haven't seen the AMC show, but I know there are issues ;-)....maybe I will have to do an episode on Hulu and give it a shot

I did love that on the promo, they used a Frank Sinatra song!!

Bookworm1858 said...

Not a Mad Man fan either (I found the pilot sooooo boring) but I really enjoyed this (and The Playboy Club too for a different take on the 1960s). Really hoping for more Christina Ricci in the next episodes; also is it just me or were her eyes ginormous for her face? My family thought she kind of looked like a Disney princess.

Ruth said...

@Heather - Mad Men "snobs" welcome here! LET'S BE FRIENDS!!!!!!!! ;) This was definitely a packed pilot episode -- but can you imagine if they'd delved into Maggie's backstory too? Craziness! I think there's a lot of potential here once the show settles in and hits its stride...at least I hope so!

@Rissi - This one's fun -- keep it on your radar! :)

@Ella - Definitely worth giving the pilot episode a try - I called my mom last night and insisted she watch it RIGHT THEN (and she loved it). We're both very hopeful it continues to be entertaining!

@Bookworm1858 - I did think Ricci's eyes were quite...um, striking is the word? :P I wonder if she's lost some weight? Maybe that and 1960s-style eye makeup really worked together to make her eyes POP. Surely future episodes are going to give us more insight into her character (at least I'm hoping for that too).

Kristin said...

There were two TV shows this fall that I thought looked interesting- this one and Once Upon a Time. :)

But my family has done away with our TV service, so I'll only be able to watch them online...are Pan Am episodes going to be available online?

~Kristin

Ruth said...

@Kristin - Oh noes to no cable! Check out the ABC website - http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/pan-am - the first episode is online, not sure what the availability plan is for subsequent installments. Hope you can find a way to check out both shows!

wordlily.com said...

We were definitely intrigued by the ads. Watched the first season of Mad Men (so pretty to look at, but so bad in other ways) before giving up. We haven't watched the pilot yet, though, so I was glad for this post.

Charity said...

Not sure what I think of it. I unfortunately missed the first five minutes or so. It wasn't a bad way to spend an hour and I liked the cast (particularly love Annabelle Wallis). It has potential -- I'll give it another go.

Ruth said...

@wordlily - Thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll let me know what you think of this one! :)

@Charity - The main characters are SO LIKABLE!!! :) For me, it was just "what the doctor ordered" last night - escapist fun. Hopefully the storytelling will even out and continue to be enjoyable without a lot of unnecessary pushing the envelope content-wise...

Kate {The Parchment Girl} said...

I'm not much of a TV viewer, but I would like to check this show out. I saw the promo for it and instantly fell in love with the costumes. Love that era!

Ruth said...

@Kate - I do so dearly hope this show maintains the feel of the pilot episode. Please let me know what you think of Pan Am if you get to watch it!

Lori Benton said...

I just watched it over lunch, on Hulu, after reading your review. It was much better than I expected. I was expecting silly campy comedy, else tawdry soap. It was neither. Interesting characters, intriguing plot possibilities. It was the spy angle that made the show for me, I think, as well as the characters all being quite likeable. I'm with you, Ruth, hoping the quality of both can be maintain, or even bettered.

heidenkind said...

I LOVE Mad Men, such a great show with great characters, wonderful writing, and hard core research into the time period. I was actually a little skeptical of PanAm, but I love Christina Ricci so thought I'd give it a shot.

It was okay. You're right, it's very stylish, which is awesome. But I'd like to see some more character development and all the male characters are soooo bland. But I'm willing to keep watching for now.

The next time I fly I'm definitely asking my stewardess for a bottle of champagne. :)

Ruth said...

@Lori - I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I think I was expecting camp or straightforward, completely over-the-top soap opera - and while the first episode had its melodramatic moments, I think the show has great possibility!

@heidenkind - Oh, Mad Men is all fo the things you mentioned - for me it is just too...dark, I guess? I'm with you, though, really hoping the character development is amped up in future episodes - I think (read: hope) given the promising pilot that is what they're going for. And seriously -- champagne, magazines, such service -- my how times have changed! LOL!

Kristin said...

I watched the pilot online last night and loved it! :) The whole thing was pretty much gorgeous.

~Kristin

Ruth said...

@Kristin - YAY! I'm so glad you got to watch episode #1! :)

Sunny Smith said...

I watched the first episode,and although my sister loved it, I felt like it fell a little flat for me. Maybe it was just because there was so much going on? I don't know, but I will keep watching for a bit before I make my final decision:P

Nice post!

Ruth said...

@Sunny - Thanks for stopping by! I hope you & your sister got a chance to watch episode two -- I think the story flow improved a bit. Would love to hear your thoughts! :)

Sunny Smith said...

Hey Ruth,
It did improve! It's on its way to being a good one:)

Ruth said...

@Sunny - Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed episode 2. And I couldn't agree with you more! :)