Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pan Am takes off

     ABC's Pan Am begins with "Pilot," a more appropriate use of that title than in other series, though the pilot is merely one of the characters featured. The Clipper Majestic makes its first flight from New York to London. New captain Dean (Mike Vogel, Miami Medical) wonders why his special gal, Bridget (Annabelle Wallis, The Tudors), suddenly isn't working for the airline. Maggie (Christina Ricci, Sleepy Hollow, Casper) is called upon to fill in at the last minute. Kate (Kelli Garner, My Generation, The Aviator) has a secret mission to complete, and isn't crazy that her sister Laura (Margot Robbie, Neighbours), a recent hire, is the new face of Pan Am on Life magazine. Colette (Karine Vanasse, Set Me Free, October 1970) learns her lover is married.

     Apparently Pan Am flights are busy places! Which is good, given that the show seeks to be a series that will hopefully run for years to come. Some of correct ingredients are present, including pretty good actors and decent characters. The flashbacks are a nice touch, informing viewers who these people are that are suddenly on this airplane together. The Bridget mystery is an interesting one, and Kate, in particular, has several nice stories fleshed out already. As such, there is a lot of room for growth, and enough to hold viewer interest.

     Other elements don't work so well. The music, swelling obnoxiously loud, tries to force viewers to feel emotions. In any decent show, that is the actors' jobs. And they are doing that job, if the music would just back off a little and let them. Also, there is a cheesiness whenever the story tries to stress that Pan Am stewardesses are blazing a new trail for women. The ending of the "Pilot," where a little girl gazes admiringly at these beautiful, confident, independent women, is just plain hokey. These could be done without.

     Over all though, provided the score is toned down, Pan Am has the makings of something worth watching. It's certainly no Mad Men, as the drama isn't nearly as intense or original, but it's miles ahead of the other new network show set in the 1960's this year, The Playboy Club. The best thing to do, going forward, is to let the performers breathe life in the characters, and give them the room to do so. This is Pan Am's strongest element, and the smartest way to make the series work.

     Some reviews have complained about the fact that Kate is recruited to spy for the government, calling it unrealistic. Yet, there are interviews plenty of women in her position who were asked to do just that. Sometimes real life can be stranger than fiction, and this just might be one of those times. It's a fantastic addition, as it allows some high stakes story, while also keeping things authentic to the time period.

     Pan Am airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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