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+.


enjoyed it,but how did the wife know colette slept with her husband, did I miss something?


I agree with the 'surfer dude' comment. The main pilot's hair was way too long for that time period. When Christina Ricci's character gets called back to work, she has fairly long hair. By the time she arrives at the airport (in a matter of an hour or so) it's much shorter. Did she get a haircut along the way? Continuity errors are signs of sloppy production. Mad Men's attention to detail is far superior.


@Carissa Pavlica
btw, i thought your review was excellent, it was your review that convinced me that i should give this show a chance so i downloaded it to watch today.


I liked that the episode had a lot of small details, like for example it began and ended on the same note. In the opening scene, a little boy is in awe of the Pilots and, the closing scene, a little girl is in awe of the stewardess.


@Carissa Pavlica
i am glad you liked it, it's just my opinion. see for me it's the other way around, i get attached to characters through story lines and if the plot doesn't suck me in then i get bored. and i hope that i will see more than just glamor and girls as the show goes on, that's why i said that i will give it a couple more eps before quitting.


thought it was awful!! they took brothers and sisters off for this, ugh! I'll watch CSI Miami from now on.


@farsia2010 What you disliked about the premiere was exactly what I did like. It took more time to establish framework than to jump into the foray of the political nature of the time. There will be plenty of time to work that in. However, if I don't care about the characters, I won't care about their aspirations in life, either. I think you will see a lot more than girls on a plane going forward. With everyone else, yes, there were height and weight limits. My local news had an interview with an actual Pan Am stewardess last night. They also had to retire by the age of 28. They cooked the meals on the flight themselves, sometimes 8 courses for passengers in first class. However, there was no requirement to hold a nursing degree.


Loved the show, as a young girl I wanted to travel and see the world. I think they had a height and weight requirement back then.


once slight problem with this show. back then flight attendents had to also be nurses. i know because my one cousin wanted to be a flight attendent back in the early sixties and she was reject because she was not a nurse.


I was sooooo wanting to like this show. What a dissapointment.

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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.