Pilot: Pan Am (drama)
Writers: Jack Orman (ER)
Logline: A sexy soap set against the jet age, focusing on the stewardesses and pilots and their glamorous world full of adventures.
Cast: Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie (Neighbours)
Director: Thomas Schlamme (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Parenthood, The West Wing)
Bridget, 27, selected to be the purser on the Clipper Majestic; also works with Richard Parks
Dean, mid-30s, pilot, dating Bridget
Paul Gibson, Pan Am executive
Laura, 23, a newbie stewardess who just left her fiancé at the altar
Colette, 23, French stewardess who was having an affair with a married man
Kate, early 20s, Laura’s younger sister with lofty goals
Maggie, 24, beatnik and stewardess (Ricci)
Richard Parks, works intelligence for the U.S. government
Just as Glee inspired a rebirth in the musical, the success of Mad Men has prompted the networks to further explore the 1960s, with not only Playboy but also Pan Am, which like NBC’s Bunny-filled club drama takes place in 1963, this time trading Chicago for New York.
The action here revolves around famed airline Pan Am and a group of pilots, airline officials and stewardesses — as they were known at the time — as well as the personal lives, political affiliations and romantic entangling that exists among them.
What makes Pan Am successful is the great potential to explore everything about the ’60s: local and international politics during the Cold War, fashion, travel, women’s liberation, as well as the evolving dynamics of the family. All the stewardesses are smart — they’re required to be college trained and can work until married or they age out at 32 — illustrating the airline’s shortsighted view of women as only out to land a husband.
While the character of Colette in the pilot is a cliché — she had an affair with a married man and didn’t know — most of the other women in the script are extremely dynamic and each stewardess brings something to the table.
Mystery surrounds Bridget — initially named the purser of The Clipper Majestic — but she fails to make the flight, prompting concern from her love interest, Dean (the newly named pilot of the Majestic), who speculates that their rescue mission in Cuba might have gotten her grounded.
Kate is the most compelling of the group. She’s close with Bridget and newbie stewardess Laura’s younger sister who isn’t afraid to upset her family in favor of seeing the world and living her life on her terms. She’s also following in Bridget’s footsteps in working intelligence for the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, Ricci’s Maggie — the actress closed the deal earlier this week — is an activist navigating a double life: the beatnik world in which she lives and materialistic life that includes her career as a stewardess at Pan Am — a job she notes will allow her to see the world in order to change it.
While Pan Am may be described as a nighttime soap, its appeal is far more than the romance, which there’s little of in the pilot. The real draw here are certainly the politics and the way in which women of the era are portrayed. While the stewardesses all may have to go through inspection — the girdle jokes bound to stretch beyond those in the pilot — the characters are well drawn and have limitless potential.
Pilot Pirate outlook: ABC should immediately upgrade this pilot to series.