Oh the Things We Have Seen: First Impressions of ABC's Pan Am

By Tim Surette

Aug 03, 2011

Pan Am preview

Just after fall schedules are determined at networks' upfront presentations in late May, major networks send the pilots of their new programs to the media. These previews are not for in-depth review, because many pilots are retooled, recast, and reshot before they officially debut, and the final product might be much different. But that doesn't mean we can't share some basic ideas of what to expect!

The Show: Pan Am on ABC which will air Sundays at 10pm beginning September 25. The series has been picked up by BBC2 for broadcast in the UK.

The Cast: Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Mike Vogel (who replaces Jonah Lotan), Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Margo Robbie, Annabelle Wallis

ABC's official logline: "Passion, jealousy and espionage... They do it all—and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series."

Early Intel: It would be foolish to think the genesis of Pan Am wasn't influenced by the critical success and buzz of AMC's Mad Men. But will a '60s period piece fly on network television? Not if it puts up the same ratings as Mad Men. It's a risky move for ABC to latch on to a trend that only barely works on cable, but at least Pan Am looks better than NBC's The Playboy Club.

First Thoughts: Wow, that was a pretty show. I have no idea what it's about, but at least it looked good.

What the series has going for it: For whatever reason, we're all intrigued with the Jet Age: The stewardesses in their pressedm conservative-yet-sexy uniforms, handsome pilots flying iron birds around the globe, and commercial jets opening up the skies during the height of the Cold War. Pan Am has all this, and it looks great doing it. Michael Mosley is entertaining as an amorous, jocular co-pilot. And no matter what your sexual appetite, there are plenty of hotties to put your tray in the upright position, if you know what I'm sayin'. But then again, everyone looks good in a '60s-era uniform.

Room for Improvement: Pan Am's pilot suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It's a show about romance in an age of wonder, right? Sort of. Amidst the MANY—seriously, there are tons—stories about spurned love and unwanted marriage, there's a major plotline involving espionage, and it makes the rest of the characters seem relatively unimportant. Who is going to care that one cute stewardess can't find love when there's another cute stewardess who's working to stop Fidel Castro? One more thing: Why would the show go out of its way to get a star like Christina Ricci and then give her nothing to work with in the pilot?

The Coolest Part of the Early Version: The male lead in the pilot, Jonah Lotan, was certainly dashing as Captain Dean. But he's since been replaced by Mike Vogel, for whatever reason. It's a shame, as Lotan filled the uniform out well.

Last Word: Both the cast and the show itself are pretty, pretty, pretty. But Pan Am needs to decide whether it's a spy show with major consequences or a fluffy Grey's on a plane.

Here's ABC's official trailer for the series:

+ First Impressions of The CW's Ringer, Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar
+ First impressions of J.J. Abrams' Alcatraz
+ First impressions of ABC's Apartment 23

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • mattgus Aug 19, 2011

    add...i just watched the preview clip/sorry...having done that...if this does'nt become a mega hit-with a long list of emmys for next yr then something is mighty wrong and it is not in the look, actors or idea,because what i just saw is PURE GOLD!

  • mattgus Aug 19, 2011

    now we have 60's noir,how nice...i like it. if it can rival mad men in any way then i am in. there is something about the look that is appealing and the stories can be just as sophisticated and gritty... go for it...i would watch just because christina ricci is in it anyway!

  • lizculver Aug 07, 2011

    I would have watched this with Lotan in it - without - forget it, no longer on my radar

  • juan137946 Aug 05, 2011

    I will definately watch it, it looks pretty good and I know i'll like it

  • IzalcuteClu Aug 04, 2011

    I like it

  • provencrt Aug 04, 2011

    sounds great, i can hardly wait

  • robertmitchum76 Aug 04, 2011

    I'm surprised Mr. Tim Surette is still allowed to write for tv.com after he insulted Summer glau and her fans in a previous article.

  • ArjunaJenning Aug 04, 2011

    If you hadn't noticed Tim is writing most of the articles now, hes pretty much the tv.com show-runner. Although he was using IGN flame tactics with the Summer Glau comment, on which I had to call him out, I think we should also give him a little slack. And credit when its due, he's got a lot on his plate, and for the most part hes doing a fine job.

  • KingofIPirates Aug 04, 2011

    Looks different, I'll check it out if I get the chance.

  • SokkaAppa Aug 04, 2011

    A good show never seals its fate in a pilot so if it still has to decide which genre to classify itself in then that's a good thing.

  • aliSuz Aug 04, 2011

    I think I'll check it out. It doesn't look all that great though. Probably won't last.

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