Pan Am (television review)

After 2 episodes of Pan Am, my overall impression can be described as the happier, more innocent version of Mad Men.

You need to be in a certain frame of mind to be able to watch Mad Men, but there’s no such need for Pan Am. The cinematography looks like the cover of a magazine (which I think underlies the importance of the Life number that starts it all) and the characters are easy to get to know, bubbly and charming.

I also appreciate any American production that features Québec actresses (in this case Karine Vanasse) and find great pride in seeing people from home successful in a market outside Québec.

There are good things about the show: it embodies the hopeful side of the 60s, with better and faster communication around the world and the space race. There’s a somewhat “hit-you-over-the-head” female empowerment message (“this is a new breed of women”) and the men are slightly less misogynistic than in Mad Men.

However, the female empowerment thing sometimes feels a bit vapid and artificial, a little like the stewardesses; despite the show’s best efforts to put interesting and relevant stories forward, I still need a bit more depth from the characterization. Everyone, especially the ladies, sometimes do feel like magazine covers.

I haven’t given up on it yet, but I expect to see some more interesting stories and bit more challenge to the women empowerment theme–this week has provided some of it (with the always frank Christina Ricci), but really fails to grapple with the real issues behind gender inequality.

For your entertainment, here’s a 1958 video featuring the iconic waitresses and selling the new clipper jet (which is the clipper jet our four fictional stewardesses work on):

What are your thoughts about Pan Am?

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