Heads Up: 'Pan Am'

Sex and Sixties glamour served with a cocktail

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

The American ABC TV drama lands in the UK; a 13-part series, it recreates the glamour of the US airline in its Sixties heyday.

Elevator Pitch

Get set for the jet set: Pan Am takes off on the wings of nostalgia.

Prime Movers

It's created by Jack Orman, producer for ER, and Thomas Schlamme, the man behind The West Wing.

The Stars

Playing the Pan Am stewardesses are Christina Ricci; former Neighbours actress Margot Robbie; Kelli Garner – who also starred in The Aviator – and Canadian actress Karine Vanasse.

The Early Buzz

Thanks to a hefty dose of period detail and vintage gloss, there have already been many, many comparisons to Mad Men: it's been called the "Mile-high Mad Men" or "Mad Men with Wings". Critics, however, have been a little ambivalent about its prevailing air of nostalgia. The New York Times suggested that: "Pan Am romanticizes the past, whereas Mad Men takes pleasure in slyly mocking antiquated mores." In The Independent, John Walsh called it "a fantastically silly series, glossy and superficial and not a patch on Mad Men, but it rams home the message that, in the early 1960s, women were empowered by being allowed to serve martinis and reassure nervous passengers in huge planes." While Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker suggested that the show was "more concerned with hitting their marks and getting the sociology right than with character" she added appreciatively that it also has "a bit of style to it, and a note of darkness".

Insider Knowledge

One of the executive producers, Nancy Hult Ganis, did actually work as a Pan Am flight attendant in the sixties.

It's great that...

With high production values, period charm and unashamedly sexy plotlines, it should provide an enjoyable bit of glossy, gleaming escapism as the nights draw in.

It's a shame that...

It can be a fine line between sexy and sexist; some viewers may find its rose-tinted view of female emancipation via the medium of tight blue uniforms and serving hard-to-swallow cocktails.

Hit Potential

There's been a fair amount of hype already, and with no sign of Mad Men returning yet, it's being promoted as a potential substitute. Seems unlikely to be as drooled over by the critics, but may find more of a general audience.

The Details

Pan Am airs on BBC2 next month.