[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Pan Am" (ABC)
The Pitch:"It's 'Fly Girls' 1963."
Quick Response:Two seasons ago -- my, how time flies -- The CW aired a show about glamorous air hostesses on a glamorous airline with a cult following. The takeaway from the show was that the flight attendants on Virgin viewed themselves as the progressive, mobile, liberated women of the 21st Century, that serving drinks and being patted on the backside by drunk passengers were really just the price of having a job that opened up a world of possibilities which might otherwise have been barred. Due to the period setting and less overall suckage -- "Fly Girls" wasn't a good show -- a similar message gets delivered with more class and a richer subtext in ABC's "Pan Am," which probably ranks as my favorite drama pilot premiering this fall. "Pan Am" takes the sturdy period details that made "The Playboy Club" a not-unpleasant viewing experience for me and raises the ante with superior costume and production design, plus a quantity of special effects that I can only assume was daunting. Everything is highly stylized, almost making "Mad Men" look like a piece of documentary realism, but I dug the hyper-stylized approach, even if I compared "Pan Am" to "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" in my notes a couple times. While I was watching "Pan Am," I was impressed with the time-jumping dexterity of Jack Orman's script, which weaves in dozens of characters, countless historical details, and also works in an espionage undercurrent which, at least for one episode, didn't feel forced. Do I completely buy the empowerment message espoused throughout? Not exactly, but it also didn't make me cringe in the way "Playboy Club" occasionally did. Probably director Tommy Schlamme deserves a lot of credit for holding together the whole package. Schlamme's passionate involvement is a key element of my desire to keep watching "Pan Am" going forward. The cast doesn't hurt. Christina Ricci's being positioned as the big "Pan Am" star, but she's closer to a sturdy supporting player. I'm assuming she's been told things about where this character is going and that's why she took the role. For the pilot, Margot Robbie and Kelli Garner have bigger parts. I've always liked Kelli Garner and this is a much better vehicle for her than "My Generation" was last fall. And while I've never seen Robbie before, I'm prepared to like her quite a bit. The leading man swap between exiting Jonah Lotan and entering Mike Vogel won't make much difference either way.
Desire To Watch Again: It's odd, because I was surprised by how much I was enjoying the pilot as I watched it, but very little stuck with me hours or days later, much less several weeks later. I definitely want to watch more episodes, but I have no trouble imagining directions "Pan Am" might take that would have me dropping out after another week or two. But still, in response to the "Desire to Watch Again," the basic answer is "High."
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.