September 26, 2011
I was really looking forward to the debut of ABC’s Pan Am. Female-dominated cast, storyline about the 1960’s era, unique subject matter....seems like they couldn’t miss. But sadly, ten minutes into Pan Am’s premiere, I was bored. Directed by Thomas Schlamme, Pan Am uses fairy tale-like visuals and vivid 60’s styling to lure the eye and perhaps distract the ear. The acting felt stale and off-beat. The writing was cheesy at times, which is evident in this humdinger, "They don't know that they're a new breed of women. They had an impulse to take flight”… wow. Despite the fact that the script threw everything in the book at you in the first episode—cheating husbands, Bay of Pigs, CIA espionage, runaway brides—the characters didn’t intrigue me. You want to care…but you don’t.
The pilot follows four stewardesses on their maiden voyage aboard Pan Am’s jet liner. It relies on flashbacks to provide some background info on the characters. They all have their own elaborate storylines, which somehow still manage to be shallow. Possibly because the writers try to cram so much into the first episode. While the dramatics did keep me guessing, at the end of it all I wished they had left something for episode two.
The show felt like a soap opera masquerading as a sitcom. It bogged itself down with its melodrama instead of focusing on natural dialogue and developing its characters. Pan Am all but screams out from the television “We wish we were Mad Men”. But unlike that award winning period series, Pan Am does not allow for a slow build to greatness. I’m hoping that the show will slow down its pacing and take the time to bring some depth to the characters. If not, they run the risk of burning out too soon.