Hard as it is to judge the potential success of a sitcom based on the pilot episode alone, it’s an even harder trick to pull off with a drama series because the show’s long-term prospects really hang on how well the over-arching plot arcs are handled, and how the central characters evolve or diminish over time. Nevertheless, a new period drama called Pan Am premiered in the States last Sunday, and if the subsequent episodes are as much fun as this week’s instalment was, then I think ABC might well have a hit on its hands.
For those who don’t know, Pan Am focuses on a small crew of pilots and flight attendants working for the iconic, eponymous airline back in the old-timey days (1963, to be precise)… which might not sound particularly thrilling in itself, but one of those flight attendants happens to be moonlighting as a spy for the US government, so clearly there’s a lot more going on under those silly hats than just cocktail recipes and wedding plans! Apparently some critics haven’t really warmed to the random political asides and proto-feminist speechifying, but I’m an easy mark for that sort of thing, so I was (metaphorically) cheering “You go, girl!” throughout the episode. Granted, some of the story beats were a bit predictable, and I kept getting two of the attendants mixed up (they’re meant to be sisters, so it’s not totally my fault), but overall I thought it was a bright, smart, peppy slice of nostalgic escapism… and the period soundtrack is incredible… so I’ll definitely be “tuning in” again next week!
Obviously the main draw here cast-wise is Christina Ricci, even though her character, ‘Maggie Ryan’, didn’t get very much to do in this opening episode. She won my heart as soon as she appeared though, by virtue of the fact she was dressed as a Beatnik chick (complete with black sweater and slacks), and hanging out in a messy apartment with a bunch of bohemian writer-types. When she’s called into work at the last minute, to cover for a mysteriously absent colleague, she changes her clothes in the back of a cab, and is ready to purser her ass off as soon as she sets foot on that plane. She’s a real cool cat! And those eyes… lord, those eyes! All in all, Maggie seems to be a pretty sparky and endearing character, despite her limited screen time here, so I’m looking forward to learning more about her as the series unfurls. Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope that the show becomes so popular that they run a competition for members of the public to appear as extras, so I can play one of her poetry-appreciatin’ pals! I have my own bongos, y’know.
Oh, and a shout-out to Karine Vanasse, who plays Maggie’s romantically-challenged colleague ‘Colette Valois’… French (Canadian) accent FTW!
Update (3/10/11): One of the sisters suddenly got a lot blonder between the first and second episodes, which makes identification much easier… but it also makes the flashbacks oddly inconsistent. I demand that they digitally bleach her hair in the first episode, for the DVD release! No?