show review: pan am


"It's true! Americans love the 1960s - as seen from all the outpouring on Mad Men - Quick! Let's pump out several 1960s shows too!"

I'm sure that's what the producers of Pan Am and The Playboy Club were thinking. It's also a possibility that if you copy someone's idea, you might not get as far as they do. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Pan Am, it takes place in the early 60s with four Pan Am flight attendants. This is when flight attendants were practically models and flying in on plane got you more than just free peanuts. The idea of this show is not bad, I have to admit. I was genuinely excited to watch the pilot and hoped that it could fill the huge Mad Men hole in my heart.

Any time period film or show has one essential - make the period authentic. If the settings are authentic and true to that period, you're half way there. Build a strong plot after that and you have the beginnings to a sustainable show/film. However, mess up that period, and you've already lost. Thus are my feelings towards Pan Am.


Over the last few weeks as I've been researching the set design for Mad Men, I came to understand the part of the reason it has such a huge fan base is because the costumes and furniture aren't set pieces. Almost every piece of furniture and costume has been found as an authentic vintage piece realistic to that time period. It would make sense that in the 1960s, not everything is contemporary and on the cusp of trendy, as there were still chairs and dresses floating around from the 50s and sometimes 40s. The designers behind Man Men incorporated this truth.

In regards to Pan Am, I think they spent more of their budget creating virtual buildings, planes, and airports than they did on having genuine 1960s settings. One of the characters, Bridget, is seen wearing her long wavy blonde hair down in an almost 2000's beach wave style. In another scene bottled water clearly from our era is sitting on a table in a diner. The virtual effects aren't even good. They look futuristic, almost dreamy, and reminiscent of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Everything is too clean, too manufactured. There was a short clip of Maggie's (Christina Ricci) apartment and it seemed to be the only believable setting. We nearly cheered when we saw it!

panam4Bridget shown with long waves
panam5Modern bottled water seen on the table

So even if the set and costume design was lackluster, but the writing and acting was superb, I'd still be watching the show. Here I am, disappointed again. Seemingly trying to nail a good plot, the story line is all over the place. The lives of four women interwoven together with men, 1960s expectations and wait, THE CIA?! That's right! Good ole' espionage to keep the interest up. Soap opera meets futuristic retro meets spies.

I'm not usually so passionate about matters such as these, but I can't help it. My hopes were very high for Pan Am and I was really disappointed. Have you watched Pan Am yet? What are your thoughts towards it?

photos found here and here.


  1. i was pretty sure this show wasn't going to be great, but now i really know not to waste my time ;) thanks, good review