Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impressions of Pan Am.
Pan Am - ABC (Sundays, 10:00pm EST)
I have been looking forward to this show since it was announced. Stop, I know what you’re thinking. Really, that other Mad Men knock off not about the Playboy Bunnies? Yes, really. The talent involved is good. Thomas Schlamme, director and executive producer, is a long-time Aaron Sorkin collaborator and has proven to pick good projects in the past and creator Jack Orman has worked on Men of a Certain Age and ER. Plus, we get Christina Ricci’s return to relevance, so there’s that. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the pilot. In fact, I will say that Pan Am is my favorite new drama so far this fall. And the Mad Men comparisons need to stop. Outside of the fact that the show takes place in the 196o’s, there are few other parallels to draw, and this is a good thing. The show is fun in a way that Mad Men simply cannot be. It’s not mindless, per se, it’s more a great escapist show. Toss away the stress of the week and enjoy a great-looking show on Sunday nights that will take you back to a time when flying was still exciting, still a reason to get dressed up nice, and even romantic. The use of flashback was effective and didn’t draw too much attention to itself (except for maybe when it flashed back to the Bay of Pigs…) and I already find myself rooting for most of the characters. The women of Pan Am for sure, though the two pilot-buddies need some work. The one other thing this show needs to do is find a way to mesh the elements that each of the women we will be following brings to the table. One can bring the soapiness, one the intrigue of being a spy, another the trials of just starting at the job, and the last a look into the social change that will grab hold of the decade before long. Finding a way to really weave these story elements together is no small feat, but if it can be done, plus throw in the really sharp look to the series, Pan Am could be a show to continue looking forward to. The verdict: B+. A strong pilot with good characters and a great look. I’m in until it gets taken away from me.