'Pan Am' Recap: Welcome to the Fake '60s

pan am castLast night's premiere of Pan Am confirmed at least one thing: The newest drama to idealize the early 1960s isn't sharp enough to be Mad Men, but it's certainly not vapid enough to be The Playboy Club. And thank goodness for the latter, because I know I'm not alone in looking forward to another time machine-style escape back into the era of pastel pillbox hats and glossy LIFE magazines. Pan Am is sure to fill that void (at least until Mad Men returns next year -- hurry up, already, Weiner!) -- on a superficial level.

What I mean is ... if you're so nostalgic that you're craving or simply don't mind spending an hour in a fantasy, alternate universe in 1963, Pan Am could be your fix. Sure, there's a lot of truth to this whimsical "Jet Age" ABC's selling us. But there's something slightly off-putting about the packaging.


In this first episode, we're supposed to believe these women are fully content identifying themselves as a "new breed of woman" (aka attractive, well-educated, well under 32 years old) -- the kind who just LOVE stepping on a scale to keep their glamorous job and having the distinct privilege of serving their male passengers and pilots 24/7/365. They're the cover models of the day.

I'm sure to some extent all of this was the case back then, but not sure Pan Am plans to handle some of the underlying, serious issues of the time like Mad Men does oh-so-well. But maybe we'll be okay with that -- as long as the froth is fun enough.

I did enjoy being introduced last night to the women of Pan Am and their various tales of intrigue. We've got Laura, played by Margot Robbie, who runs out on her wedding day with her Pan Am stewardess sister, Kate, played by Kelli Garner. She's trading in her would-be life as a Connecticut housewife, because "adventure calls." There's Maggie (Christina Ricci), who seems like something of a sophisticated vet who calls the West Village of NYC her home base, and Colette (Karine Vanasse), who has been having an affair with a frequent flier she only just realized is married.

With their plot points and others woven into the story last night, it was almost too much to keep up with. One more storyline would have been the tipping point. But thankfully, last night, the show managed to hover in the realm between too lightheaded and trying too hard while remaining engaging. I admit I'm wondering and waiting 'til next Sunday for what happens next -- why did MIA purser (head flight attendant) Bridget (Annabelle Wallis) run off? Was she working for the CIA, and is Kate her replacement? Will ABC be able to make this as sexy as Mad Men, given that they're in the 10 p.m. time slot? Who knows! But I'm sure all of these questions will be answered, as long as we're willing to suspend our disbelief, buckle up, and lift-off.

Did you watch Pan Am last night -- what did you think?


Image via ABC

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