Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Pilot #9: Pan Am

POSSIBLE SELLING POINT FOR ME:  Wednesday Addams is in this show.

Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a plane full of promiscuous stewardesses!  ABC’s Pan Am took flight last night, making it the second hour long network melodrama to be built around an iconic 1960’s uniform this fall.   Where NBC’s bunnies are mixed up with murder and the mob, ABC’s flight attendants get the glossy candy colors of camp espionage; the hair is all perfectly coiffed and capped, the girdles are on, and we’re ready for some in-flight entertainment.  We learn early on that our Pan Am wonder women were an elite group of “evolved” ladies with all the right qualifications to symbolize the luxury, the picture-postcard romance of air travel.  Namely that they were three things: pretty, unmarried, and under thirty-two.   Ah yes, Pan Am: the Logan’s Run of the sky. 

Still, for its frothier components, Pan Am has its charms.  Christina Ricci, who we can assume has a significant role here,  has a surprisingly slight screen presence in this initial episode.  We’re left wondering where her character will factor in, as the first episode frantically opens the boxes on too many subplots.  Thus, it’s a tough pilot to judge as we can’t be sure we know what Pan Am is all about.  Unlike Playboy Club, there’s a more convincing conflict between image and substance here (not too deep, mind you, but there’s a chance it may get there if given the opportunity).  Is it a front for women’s lib?  Will it break down into Cold War paranoia?  How many of these girls will be involved in the espionage antics we see Kelli Garner enter into here?  Where Playboy Club posited its women were empowered because they earned a pretty penny in their skivvies, Pan Am hints at cocktail waitress opportunities for its girls to become worldly, liberated, free agents until 32.  The show wants us to believe that they’re not just handing you peanuts, they’re spies, beatniks, and the actors doing all the work.  For those old enough to remember Pan Am airlines in its heyday, the show is likely all nostalgia.  For the rest of us, it seems to play off of a retro aesthetic fetishized and cultivated in Catch Me If You Can and Down with Love.  The result is something poppy and a little tongue-in-cheek, but not actually humorous enough to thrust it into a cult canon.  While the pilot is a bit of a jumble, it seems likely that the pieces will all land safely, and that there’s potential here for something addictively fun.  At the very least?  It’s watchable and doesn’t have a shoddy narration.      

SECOND EPISODE?:  I will consider giving it a second chance as it seems to need time to settle…
WILL IT MAKE IT TO A SECOND SEASON?:  If they can even out the pacing. 

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