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Fall TV: 'Pan Am' Pilot Review

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Sep 25, 2011 | 8:15pm EDT

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Christina Ricci Pan AmNew York 1963 – flying is still considered a luxury and pilots seem like superstars and stewardesses (they're not called flight attendants yet) are luxurious, goo-looking models. One of them, a girl named Laura, even graced the cover of a Life Magazine featuring an article entitled, “The Jet Age.” Six months earlier, Laura was a runaway bride, ditching her haughty–taughty Connecticut lifestyle to join her sister, Kate, and see the world as a Pan Am stewardess. Come fly on the “World’s most experienced airline.”

Kate is a part of the maiden voyage of the Clipper Majestic from New York to London. Joining her is Dean, who was recently promoted to pilot and one of the first of a new breed of pilots not trained in war. Maggie (Christina Ricci) is also along for the ride and she was grounded (airline-speak for suspended) prior to the flight. She ends up replacing Bridget, who did not report for duty. Before the flight, the girls are weighed and checked to make sure they look absolutely perfect according to Pan Am’s standards.

Considering this series takes place during the Cold War, it makes sense that it features some cloak and dagger secret agent action. Because of their profession, which enables stewardesses to fly back and forth undetected, they are the perfect informants. In fact, aboard the Majestic, Kate is the informant for an MI–6 agent.

While the pilot episode gives the flashback treatment to each of its characters, noticeably absent from the back–story treatment is Christina Ricci’s Maggie, although we do learn she is dating a free-spirited bohemian. I might be reading too much into this, but I feel they’re waiting on Maggie, because Ricci is, oddly enough, the biggest name on the series, and viewers might want to tune in again to learn more about her character.

Even without Ricci, there’s already plenty of intrigue surrounding the series and its characters, who thanks to all of the flashbacks, we all know have a ton of baggage (no pun intended). Each of them is, as one character put it, the new woman for the Jet Age.

Created by Jack Orman (ER) and Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing), Pan Am focuses on the pilots and flight attendants who work for the company in 1963 and just like NBC’s The Playboy Club, is trying to hone in on the success of AMC’s period piece drama, Mad Men. Unlike The Playboy Club, Pan Am is actually good and worth a look.  One thing that will set it apart from its other 60’s era set counterparts is that Pan Am showcases a different side of the decade. While Mad Men and The Playboy Club get down and dirty, Pan Am revels in pomp, circumstance, glitz, and glamor of globe–trotting. The optimism of this show is infectious and worth taking a ride.

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