September 26, 2011

TV: Pan Am (ABC, Sun 10)

It's 1963, and the newest jet in the Pan Am fleet is making its maiden voyage from New York to London. Over the course of that flight, we meet the four stewardesses who are our main characters and peek into their backstories, as well as set up the mystery that seems likely to be the main season-long story arc.

Colette (Karine Vanasse) is the French stewardess, who is surprised to see on the flight a man she had a fling with in Rome a few months ago, and even more surprised to see him traveling with the wife and son she didn't know he had. Kate (Kelli Garner) is a veteran stewardess, recently recruited by US intelligence to do occasional bits of spying and courier work for them. Kate's younger sister, Laura (Margot Robbie), recently left her fiance at the altar before deciding to follow in Kate's stewardess shoes. And Maggie (Christina Ricci) is an intellectual, correcting her boyfriend on the distinction between Hegel and Marx, and a rebel, recently suspended from work for failing to wear her girdle.

We also meet pilots Dean and Ted (Mike Vogel and Michael Mosley), and get a quick look at Dean's romance with stewardess Bridget, who has abruptly quit her job and vanished.

This is the second of the year's Mad Men knockoffs, and it's vastly better than The Playboy Club. The show is a very different take on the 60s than that of Mad Men, less cynical and gray-tinted, more glamorous and colorful. The ensemble cast is uniformly fine, and they all do a solid job of quickly sketching out their characters in the relatively limited time each is given.

By far the best drama pilot of the year, and it should be great fun to see where it goes.

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