The Mill Creek Entertainment August 2019 DVD release of the 2011-12 ABC period piece dramedy "Pan Am" provides another bite at the apple regarding this show that reminds us that flying was not always the horrendous nightmare that it is today. This series also is notable for launching the career of Margot Robbie.
"Pan Am" must be put in context that is apt for its "Love Boat" style format of each episode centering around a flight that has passengers whom guest stars of varying calibers play. It is fluffy fun with a relatively strong prime-time soap vibe.
The following YouTube clip of an ABC promo. for "Pan Am" provides a good sense of the strong production values and the related style of this series set in the mid-60s. The network further reminds us that the cred. of the series includes "West Wing" and "ER" veterans.
On the broadest level, "Pan Am" follows the "Marshall Plan" that reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall notes that setting a '70s sitcom in the '50s prevents it from looking dated.
The opening scenes of the pilot (no pun intended) demonstrate the good balance between exposition and getting down to action that indicates that a show has good potential; fanboys think of this as "The Firefly Lesson."
We see our four central "stews" in their morning routines ahead of their inaugural flight on the maiden voyage of the brand-new Clipper jet of their titular employer. This montage helps establish the personalities of this '60s version of the "Sex and the City" quartet.
The Robbie character Laura "Charlotte" Cameron represents the mix of plausible and absurd that makes the 14-episode "Pan Am" the best of shows and the average of shows. It simply seems that the producers want to provide a little something for everyone in a show, with a strong girl-power vibe.
The closest to sublime element of Laura is that she is a bright, intelligent, and charming recent college graduate. The spring of her discontent relates (no pun intended) to seeing that rebellious black-sheep Pam Am flight attendant sister Kate "Miranda" Cameron (Kelli Garner) is enjoying the freedom and adventure that increasingly is available to their generation,
The gradual descent toward ridiculous begins with Kate showing up at the last-minute for the wedding of Laura to a nice clean-cut young man and facilitating the "Thelma and Louise" style prison break of the runaway bride.
This lead to the more improbable developments of rookie flight attendant Laura being at the right place at the right time in that a Life magazine photographer snaps an impromptu photo that ends up on the cover of that publication, This ultimately leads to an increasingly liberated Laura posing for "art photos" that end up getting very public exposure (pun intended) that catches the eye of a "pop" idol of the era.
The pilot adventure of Kate revolves around the CIA recruiting her to be a Cold War courier. This leads to increasingly dangerous adventures that ultimately involve aiding assets from behind the Iron Curtain, engaging in gun play, and helping expose a double agent all while maintaining the on-the-job poise, grace, and femininity that her day job requires.
French-born Collette "Carrie" Valois (Karine Vanasse) largely provides the perspective of someone who spent a childhood under Nazi occupation; this is especially prominent in which the flight crew attend the Kennedy "Ich nin ein Berliner" speech in Germany.
The entertaining absurdity of the Collettte story arc relates to a romance that becomes a royal disaster. A background check regarding her suitability for the relationship reveals both a surprise regarding her heritage and the existence of a relative about whom she lacks prior knowledge.
Last but not least is Maggie "Samanatha" Ryan, who is portrayed by Christina Ricci of "The Addams Family" movies. Maggie represents the liberated Bohemian woman of the era. She is a very feisty problem child who seems even more sexually liberated than European Collette.
The absurdity of Maggie relates to her radical (as in subversive, rather than awesome) boyfriend Max essentially throwing her in the arms of a Congressman, who essentially is a poster-child for the Republican party. We also see Maggie not hesitating very much as to throwing a co-worker under the jet when her wanton ways seriously jeopardize her job.
As is the case in every series that centers around a fantastic four group of women, the men are all deeply flawed and mostly are window dressing. Largely hairless WASPy pale farm boy Dean Lowrey lacks much personality and emotes so much about runaway fiancee/flight attendant Bridget that even men who eat quiche everyday likely want him to man up at least a little.
Co-pilot who considers himself a god Ted Vanderway resents his privileged background not providing enough pull to have him sit in the "right seat" has more of a personality. He has the same Daddy issues as many sons of a wealthy "master of the universe" type father. Ted also is a former "Top Gun" Navy test pilot who has a past "incident" that is why he no longer in the service.
All of this occurs in the context of the times that are a changin' in the mid-60s. We see prejudice against a black sailor who enters a friendship with potential benefits with one of the stews, get a lesbian woman who is looking to enter an open marriage of convenience, and even get a side trip to Haiti during great unrest on that island.
The broadest appeal of all this is showing they folks who think of the mid-60s as the beginning of the end regarding true style in America and others who consider that period as one in which the oppressed begin overthrowing the oppressors and the general population begins to get woke that the truth lies in the middle.