TV Captivity Day 4: “Pan Am”

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Just one week in, Pan Am is already trouncing The Playboy Club in the race to be named the season’s best retro ensemble drama. To be fair, all it needed to win that competition was to earn the plaudit “does not appear to have been assembled by primates.”

"Please return your face to its upright and locked position."
  • "Please return your face to its upright and locked position."

To be fairer, last night’s debut episode was more than a default victory. Yes, the show is better shot, costumed, scored, and art directed (and probably catered) than Playboy. But it’s engagingly plotted by the standards of major-network TV in general. The pilot (pardon the term) made effective use of flashbacks to explain how and why our stewardess heroines rose to their high-flying, highball-dispensing station -- whether it was simple suburban ennui or an official conscription to do some clandestine spying for the CIA (which is apparently something our government actually did, yet which came off as plausible nonetheless).

Interestingly, the show’s biggest star, Christina Ricci, is also its most awkward presence right now. Perhaps she’s just getting acquainted with the modus operandi of the small screen. Or maybe, as evidenced by her recent appearance on Project Runway, she’s still getting the hang of her new lips. She certainly seems to have some trouble wrapping them around some of the show’s more earnest-sounding dialogue, which she can’t seem to decide is meant to be delivered with or without irony.

Time will tell if Pan Am reveals itself as a biting satire of jet-age optimism or a gee-whiz style exercise. In the meantime, this show has it all: youthful romance, international intrigue, human baggage compartments

(You know, it’s that thing where two jacked midgets

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