Pan Am Premiere Review: Buckle Up, Adventure Calls!

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Pan Am took us back to the golden age of air travel, when every little girl had "stewardess" on her list of prospective careers and people wore their church clothes for a trip to the airport.

Pilots and stewardesses were role models, and if we didn't know it then, we learned in the premiere that these weren't just any guys and girls. They were college graduates. Smart men and women with adventure sparkling in their eyes, held to strict standards of dress and etiquette. They were exemplary.

Pan Am Pilots

Without a doubt (and with good reason), you can expect comparisons between Pan Am and that other 60s show, The Playboy Club. I'm in the enviable position of reviewing both, but Pan Am reaches farther and aims higher, and that's a good thing. It's smart, sexy, just a bit irreverent. It's filled with beautiful men and women who are instantly identifiable. Our ability to connect with these characters will be what makes this show so compelling, and what may hinder the other from finding its footing.

The story follows the travels of an engaging crew of a newly launched clipper fleet. Newest stewardess Laura unwittingly becomes the face of Pan Am simply because she walked out into the street in uniform, while sister Kate is approached by the CIA because her job, education and linguistic skills are the perfect cover for operatives.

Colette learns the hard way that meeting a man on a flight might be mysterious and flirty, but her dreams are quickly dashed when he takes flight with his wife and son. Beatnik Maggie wants not only to see the world, but change it as well. Dean, just promoted to Captain, is head over heels in love with Bridget, but loses her to the world of espionage. Yes, a career with Pan Am really can take you places.

Where the Playboy bunnies were admired for their lack of clothing and oozing sex, the Pan Am stewardesses were alluring, crisply dressed, intelligent and witty. They were an important part of the Pan Am operation. Helicopters would pick them up to ensure they made their flights. To help launch the seductiveness of the era, Pan Am showcased sweeping, movie-appropriate music of the period to highlight the magnetism of the jet age.

The show does an incredible job of sweeping you into the era. There wasn't a doubt I was no longer in 2011. The same could not be said for The Playboy Club. Pan Am has gone to extreme measures to make every detail just perfect. There were some rather melodramatic moments, however, such as the crew getting involved with the Bay of Pigs.

The catch? While it might not have been the same crew, Pan Am did supply the planes to fly those prisoners to freedom, proving the enormity of Pan Am's own history can provide the show with plenty of story should the writers' need some help. I'm really looking forward to living through the tumultuous sixties with these delightful characters.

I thought the closing scene summed it up perfectly; the four stewardesses walking, Pan Am bags on the crook of their arms, smiles on their faces, Mack the Knife blaring in the foreground, and little girl with pigtails in her hair, imagining her own life turning out just like theirs. This is a show for, and about, dreamers.


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (103 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


I'm wondering who's in charge of continuity because they need to pay more attention. In the second episode, Laura and her sister are in skirt and blouse discussing who should be the one to talk to their mother. They run a "rock paper scissors" routine. The next scene flashes back 6 months. When reality return to the present, both girls have donned their caps and jackets. Just an observation.


@Jane, after reading your review. I agree. The main difference it seems is that Pan Am might be a character driven show, where the Playboy Club is a plot driven show. Both are good though.


I liked this show. I also like the Playboy Club. Pan Am does feature a bunch of smart women and men. I liked the idea of the older sister having her extra activities of spying. I liked that all these women had secrets and things that made each one a little different, a little more mysterious. All the small subplots made for a much different show than the Playboy Club. In that show there was a murder in the first episode, and I sense that that will be a continuing storyline for that show. I am not sure if Pan Am will give us a main plot, but it was enjoyable.


Why so many haters? Haven't you ever dreamed of travelling the world, letting go and taking a chance on life? Pan Am's pilot episode lived up to what I expected. Like the critic said, it's a show for dreamers and the characters are relatable. I bet many of us have a sibling we love and are slightly jealous of. I bet some people are like Maggie, who wants to see the world and make a difference in it. The espionage story worried me when I first saw promos for the show, because I was immediately thinking "Oh no that's the one plotline that will just kill it." But actually, I thought the show did a good job with it. The mystery with Bridgette and Kate's involvement made me want to tune for the next episode. The flashbacks weren't that bad either. Viewers got to the know the characters more and give a glimpse of what's ahead without putting too much out there. And one of the most important thing I liked about the show is that it's not Mad Men. I felt the pilot proved its point that it's not a carbon copy of Mad Men, and that it's an entirely different show on its own. Overall, I thought it was a solid episode with a perfect blend of characters and possible storylines viewers will grow to love. Along with Pan Am, I'm watching The Playboy Club as well. Comparing between the two, they each have their own element that certain viewers like. Although I will still watch The Playboy Club just to see what they will do with the series, I prefer Pan Am. The thing with The Playboy Club I don't like, in my opinion, is that from its first episode the characters are a bit average excluding the mob, homosexuals, and murder storylines (Nick Dalton is okay, but Don Draper is better. Carol-Lynn is just alright. Maureen, she's fine) Maybe it'll take more episodes to give these characters substance before I get really into it. And along with what most people said, it didn't feel very 60's. I sometimes kept forgetting that it was set in the 60's. I'll still keep watching, but my Sunday nights will be devoted to Pan Am. As for the one continuity error about Maggie people have mentioned here is an explanation. When we are first introduced to Maggie her hair is a bit long. If you have seen the promo for the show, there is a scene in that promo that shows that while Maggie is changing into her Pan Am uniform there is a wig in her bag. That wig is the long hair she had on when she was in her apartment. For those who have not seen the promos, in the scene when Maggie enters the Pan Am building we get a high angle shot of her running in. If you look closely at her bag you will see the wig. Why does she have a wig in the first place? I don't know, maybe it's part of her bohemian Greenwich village lifestyle. Also, as for Colette and John's wife, she probably knew before the flight that her husband was having an affair with someone because re-watching it again, she was too friendly with Colette in a "I know about you and my husband" kind of way.


To Anon:
i am not saying that playboy cub is flawless or super hot stuff right now. i just like it way more than Pan Am and i think it has more potential. of course there are more people who prefer soap opera(i am sorry - drama) to a darker more socially problematic show, so i am sure that Pan Am is going to do great in rating but i hope playboy will start focusing on each subject individually, one ep at a time from now on and get everybody sucked into that glamorous yet dark and sinful world.
and i do agree that Mad Men are doing a better job now, but i girl can hope, can she not?


pan am will be accepting statues at the emmy's and playboy club will already have been forgotten! i actually called friens on the coast to have them watch after viewing pan am...could'nt watch all of the "other one" playboy could have been good but the vision was not there.


@fortyseven, ABC loves CGI. check out General Hospital. Half the time it looks like a video game.

Leigh r

Great review. Captured the episode and tone of the show perfectly.


To farsia2010: LOL. The playboy club's plot sucked. I like darker shows too, but the playboy club just handled everything horribly. It touched on too many 60s subjects at a time, and even then, some of them(such as the black, and gay parts) felt too PC. The gangsters are horrible actors who wouldn't get a scare from me if I walked past them in the street. Plus, it handled too many topics too quickly. Mad Men does a great job of exploring world events at the time without over stuffing it in the show. Playboy Club is network TV, so they presented way too many topics way too fast, and it just didn't have a 60s feel to it like Mad Men does. I thought the Pan Am pilot was okay. Oh yeah, and do we really need a crime plot in this show to make it good? It's as if the writers had no other way to hook the viewers because the writing, and dialog is so subpar, that putting in a crime plot would be the only way to keep people interested. Playboy Club, and Pan Am shouldn't, and DO NOT need some crime plo to keep viewers...but it IS network TV so...yeah.


Interesting show. Best part is their choice of music...Bobby Darin. Gotta love a show that plays his music. Thanks for remembering a GREAT talent and good luck to the show. Will Bobby be singing every week. If so, you have a weekly fan.

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Pan Am Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Tower: Clipper 22, Tower. Your special delivery just arrived, Sir.
Dean: Thanks Tower. That's our girl!

Thanks, Ted, but Pan Am wants actual pilots in the left seat.