Since "Mad Men" began in 2007, Don Draper has brought a serious dose of nostalgia to our televisions every Sunday night and will again starting in March 2012. "Mad Men" has been such a huge hit that it has directly impacted America from bringing back retro wardrobe pieces to drinking our beverages in high ball glasses and it no doubt has been the impetus for at least one of the million Kennedy projects that we have been exposed to over the last few years. The writing and acting is so solid that it sometimes feels like a documentary instead of the fictional drama that it really is.
So, it's no surprise that copy cat shows have come out of the woodwork to capitalize on our new found love of all things 60's. This season, NBC premiered "The Playboy Club" which was cancelled after only a few episodes, and ABC put all of their 60's eggs in the "Pan Am" basket. "Pan Am" is still hanging on, despite ratings falling, it premiered to around 11 million and recent episodes are down to about 5 million. Probably because, well, the show just isn't that good.
"Pan Am" should be better because "Mad Men" has given networks a perfect blue print for what a period show should be. Plus, any show set in the 60's is already at an advantage based solely on the style and allure of that time. You could watch Pan Am on mute and the show would be beautiful, from the costumes, to the set decoration, to the airplanes that put our current ones to shame, this show is extremely aesthetically pleasing, but it's just not enough.
I really wanted to like this show. It's seventh episode will air tonight and I kept putting off writing this post because so far "Pan Am" has been like that friend that you really want to like, so you stick it out for awhile and hope that those nagging annoyances in the back of your head will go away and everything about them won't drive you crazy if you just wait one more week to stop hanging out with them. I think it's time for "Pan Am" and I to stop hanging out. I can't really understand what this show is trying to be. In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to focus on female co-workers, their friendships and their struggles, primary revolving around being a woman in an era when they were still seen as primarily sex objects. However, as time goes on, the show seems to following tired story lines and I'm having a hard time following, caring about, or believing the story line that a Pan Am stewardess is also a CIA covert operative.
The worst part about "Pan Am" though, is that despite pretty solid performances by the female cast, especially Christina Ricci, I just don't feel any attachment to these characters at all. I'm not sure where they lost me, but I think it's fair to blame the writing which has caused a serious lack of character development and ultimately if one of the "Pan Am" flights went down with half of the primary cast on it, I wouldn't really care. The men especially lack the spark that Jon Hamm brings to "Mad Men" as Don Draper, a spark that allows us to forgive all of the things he does including but not limited to cheating and lying. Hamm has created a character that we love through all of his up's and down's and one that we make excuses for because he has made us believe that underneath it all, his troubled past has clouded his judgement and that ultimately he is a good guy...it doesn't hurt that he is also unbelievable attractive. Hamm isn't the only strong male character on "Mad Men" and the pilots and politicians on "Pam Am" really just look weak in comparison...and why are none of them ever smoking!? It's the 60's, every room should have a cloud of smoke in it. My guess is censoring by ABC's parent company...call me crazy but I appreciate accuracy in my television.
While I know it is unfair to compare any show to the genius that is "Mad Men", the "Pan Am" creative team should have known that ultimately, that is what they are up against. I'm not going to produce a show about a group of people crash landing and trying to survive on a deserted island unless I know I can compete with JJ Abrams, it might not be fair, but it's reality.
I wish "Pan Am" was better. I love period shows and I think this one really had potential but ultimately, I'm going to blame poor casting of the male leads and writing that didn't connect me to any of the characters. I guess I'm just going to have to wait until March to get my 60's fix. If any of you haven't had a chance to catch up on "Mad Men" yet, I highly recommend giving it a chance. Use this link to purchase season one of "Mad Men" on Amazon for less than 12 dollars!
Let me know what you are thinking about "Pan Am" in the comments section below, I'm sure some of you disagree with my opinion and I'm interested to hear what people are thinking about this show!