Like NBC with "The Playboy Club," ABC is trying its hand at a '60s-era drama, this one focusing on the glamour of the Jet Age and the allure of the Pan Am stewardess. But while "The Playboy Club" got bogged down trying to be sleek and sexy, "Pan Am" has the potential to take flight.
Sunday night's series premiere has a little of everything - romance, comedy and even a little espionage. But mostly, we see a quartet of stewardesses - rebellious, downtown-dwelling Maggie (Christina Ricci); sisters Kate (Kelli Garner) and Laura (Margot Robbie), a runaway bride who is new to the friendly skies; and elegant Frenchwoman Colette (Karine Vanasse) - who have to get weighed in before flights and get in trouble for not wearing their girdles.
There's also another stewardess, the British Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), who mysteriously resigned from Pan Am and is nowhere to be found, to the distress of her pilot boyfriend. It turns out she was a Cold War spy, as is Kate, because as stewardesses they can travel around the world without suspicion. The espionage element could be an intriguing subplot, but it's something the series needs to delve into more.
"Pan Am" glamorizes the '60s and airline travel - no one is taking off their shoes or removing their laptops here - and will surely continue to show off exotic places and pilot-stewardess relations as the show continues. But right now the series is trying out so many different things - comedy, romance, spying - that it's hard to tell what sort of show it will turn out to be.
Depending on what the balance of those elements "Pan Am" settles on, this could be a promising new venture for ABC. Otherwise, it risks being grounded permanently.
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