I have to be careful criticising Pan Am because the last time I watched something ironically it was Spartacus, and that grew into something very special; what appeared at first to be a po-faced, poor-man’s 300 ended up with drama, pathos and Lucy Lawless having sex with other ladies.
So, I’ve been giving Pan Am the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not sure how long I can keep going for because fundamentally the show is just terrible, and if I’m being honest with myself the only reason I’m still watching is because I fancy the ginger one.
Purportedly a series about a gaggle of stewardesses working during the ’60s for contemporary hipster icon Pan Am, what we probably wanted was a Mad Men-style mixture of panache and grit coupled with a deeper social commentary. What we get is a weirdly saccharine, smokeless view of that time. What social commentary there is is insultingly asinine at times, delivered with a lumpen “Racism is WRONG. Sexism is WRONG.” tone, and nobody’s character ever seems to develop much when exposed to any of this.
The four female leads tick all the important demographic boxes: brunette, blonde, ginger and Christina Ricci. Ricci is very distracting because she’s CHRISTINA RICCI and every time she’s on screen I think “Hey, what the hell? What’s Christina Ricci doing there?”, as, I imagine, does she.
The female characters range from weak and ditzy to hot-tempered and ditzy, and even Ricci’s character — supposedly the feisty, political one — seems to appear only to moon hopelessly over male politicians. There are male characters as well, but they’re as empty and bland as the women. I don’t remember anybody’s name.
Stories are routinely absurd. My favourite so far has been one of the stewardesses insisting they take an illegal immigrant back to the US while at the same time leaving the corpse of a US citizen on the runway to make the space for her (it works out ok; mysteriously nobody is fired or jailed and one call to a friend results in a green card for the immigrant, no questions asked), but the long-running side story with a stewardess improbably doubling as a CIA operative, seducing diplomats and obtaining wine glasses from KGB agents for the fingerprints comes a close second.
This, then, is what you get from Pan Am: a bright and cheery bit of froth that, if you’re not in the mood for anything with any depth or intelligence, might fill a gap in your schedule but isn’t likely to change your world.