Have You Been Watching….Pan Am?

Pan Am is the latest glossy American show to wing its gloriously expensive way onto our puny British screens.

If you hadn’t already guessed from the title (and the ‘wing’ pun above) it’s set in the early sixties and focuses on the trials and tribulations of four air stewardesses on the aforementioned airline.

This, apparently, was the golden age of air travel, and boy does it looking spiffing. Everyone is beautiful: glossier than a magazine ad and twice as colourful. The planes gleam in the sunlight like diamonds on the neck of a stunning young débutante: we’re generally supposed to be swept up in how glamorous and exciting it all is.

Now despite my grizzled appearance I wasn’t actually around in the sixties but I’m fairly sure they looked nothing like they’re portrayed here. For one thing, I’m certain they weren’t nearly as clean. I remember the eighties as being pretty grubby and if you follow the advances in plumbing and cleaning technology backwards, we can safely assume the sixties were filthy.

And not in a good way.

The obvious inspiration for this show, Mad Men, also puts forward a very glamorous version of the sixties but the key theme of that show is how appearances are deceptive.  What is advertising, after all, if not distorting appearances to make you desire things? So while the ‘Mad Men lifestyle’ may look very alluring, there’s a solid thematic underpinning for that  ultimately undercuts it. Not so with Pan Am.

But it’s not entirely fair to compare two programmes just because they’re both set in the same decade. It’s like comparing Blackadder Goes Forth to Downton Abbey.

It’s probably better to focus on what Pan Am does have: bright, escapist visuals and four rather likable female leads. The fact that it is quite female-centric certainly makes a refreshing change from most television drama: though it’s a shame that’s the case. The show also does a decent job of developing these women as individuals while acknowledging they live in a very sexist environment.

It’s hard not to root for Christina Ricci’s character when she stabs a drunk passenger who’s trying to grope her or gives some sass to the women who checks the stewardesses to make sure they haven’t gained any weight- someone who, in the modern world, would be given their own hectoring ‘lifestyle’ show on Channel 4 rather than being limited to squeezing cabin crew’s flabby bits.

Unfortunately the show doesn’t really have the courage to see it’s premise through: or at the very least doesn’t quite have enough faith in it.  Four young woman getting to fly around the world at a time when that was incredibly rare, leaving behind their families and homes to become someone different with every flight, while trying to get one over their sexist employers: that seems like it should be more than enough to be getting on with.

However the producers clearly doesn’t think so: choosing to wrangle in a rather convoluted espionage plot where one of the stewardesses is a spy and another one has disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

Now let me be clear, I’m all about your high-drama Cold War spy films: The Warsaw Pact,  Hunt for Red October, Spy Hard with Leslie Nielsen, Cars 2…Bring it on baby, I love it. But it’s really not necessary here- it’s just tacked on: you can almost hear a cigar-chomping executive going “but this is just ‘Broads on a Plane’! Make it exciting. Put guns in it. Guns and spies.”

The problem is that the spy distraction stops the show from fully developing the characters: it does two things badly instead of one thing well. What you’re left with is a frothy, insubstantial little thing that looks great but doesn’t have a lot going on upstairs.

Which, co-incidentally sounds a bit like something a 60s pilot would say while slapping a stewardess on the bum.


PAN AM is on BBC 2 on Saturdays at 9pm. You can watch it on iPlayer here.


About Ian Dunn
I love avocados, WH Auden and dinosaurs but I don't like effort.

61 Responses to Have You Been Watching….Pan Am?

  1. ‘…just because they’re both set in the same decade. It’s a bit like comparing Blackadder Goes Forth to a harrowing television adaptation of the Diary of Anne Frank’. That’s a very long decade (1914-1942).

    • Hilary Wardle says:

      Argh *facepalm*- my fault. I’ve cheated and changed it- it was my addition: don’t want Dunny to get the blame for my idiocy.

    • Harry Mulligan says:

      I pay my TV license, I don’t watch much BBC, ever; You can’t start a series and then just curtail it halfway in! Thats just Bull BBC. That suck, its bad programming and you should get your S*** together NOW and finish the series.

  2. Dom says:

    I LOVE this show, everything about it is brilliant! I only have one criticism, where has it gone?? Why wasn’t it on on Saturday and when is it back? 😡

    • melanie says:

      I know 😦 its the New Year now and it still isn’t back!!? I’m gutted was well into it!

      • Terry Seal says:

        I remember the announcer saying “Pan Am will return next year” . Well its the new year and nothing. Apparately the ABC or CBC in the states have shelved the series, stating that it is not getting the viewers. Well by the amount of comments on the web. I’d say there is a Fan base there.
        Will someone in TV just come out of the closet and state what the truth is. Its out there.

      • Terry Seal says:

        This site will not let you watch the episodes although there are sites offering downloads. This could be illegal. But the schedules are on the site above. I am getting confused which was the last one on BBC called.

  3. jd says:

    yes please,,,, when is it back?

  4. Angie says:

    Where’s Pan Am gone? Please show it again!

  5. Maria says:

    Where is Pan Am. Its terrible to get us hooked and then stop half way through.

  6. squiggle says:

    yes – why has it disapeared from bbc iplayer????? please bring it back……

  7. Ian Dunn says:

    The BBC say Pan Am will return in the new year.

  8. mariam says:

    by the new year i wont be hooked on it so much

  9. i love it but can u tell me y dos the USA get 14 eps and we get 22 eps

  10. Ian Dunn says:

    ABC, the American network that makes the show, originally committed to making 14 episodes with an option to pick that up to 22 in the first season. I assume that’s why the BBC site says there will be 22 episodes. However because the show hasn’t been as popular as ABC would have liked, they haven’t extended the order and at present there are only plans for 14 episodes.
    ABC have also taken the show off the air over Christmas, and as the BBC aren’t allowed to broadcast the show before it’s shown in America, that’s why they’ve stopped showing it here unexpectedly.

  11. Helen says:

    Yes it’s frothy, no it isn’t the greatest show ever made BUT I love it. It’s worth watching for the girl’s outfits alone. It’s just escapism and if viewed as such, is a feel-good show which doesn’t challenge and is good fun. Very much look forward to its return.

  12. Nicola says:

    Why is the last episode not on Iplayer? I missed it but cant now catch up?

  13. Maple52 says:

    Please bring back Pan Am as soon as possible. The critics have had their say but an awful lot of people absolute I have spoken to really love it. Give us a chance to make our own minds up and enjoy it as an entertainment. The characters have barely been introduced and now we have to wait. No need to overdo the analysis and make constant comparisons surely? It’s glamorous and fun and takes all our minds off the bleak economic news we are bombarded with daily.

  14. Ian Dunn says:

    As I explained above, the fact Pan Am is not airing is nothing to do with the BBC. It’s entirely to do with the American company ABC, who the BBC buy Pan-Am from. The BBC have zero control over what ABC chose to show or not.

  15. elie p says:

    i want pan am back, its fresh classy and has a good story line, i never watch tv but pan am has totally done it for me and million other viewers…. and anyway how the hell can bbc only buy 8 episode at least complete the first damn series… im still waiting so hurry the fuck up, im starting to age !!!

  16. Lauren Rees says:

    Brilliant series…where did it go?

  17. Jill says:

    i love Pan Am! i really hope they dont cancel the show

  18. Emma Wheat says:

    Recorded it as wasn’t sure, then me & the other half sat down to watch it one boring tv night and it was brill. We both enjoyed watching it. ABC are showing the rest of the episodes starting in January so hoping BBC will then put ours back on. A lovely programme.

  19. Terry Seal says:

    When the poison dwalf shut down Concorde, I thought there would never be another TV show which re-created the era of glamourise air travel before the cattle class was invented.
    Some critics have slated it, they were not even a itch in their Dads trousers when these Pan Am girls stirred mine. Viewing the planes at Heathrow the pan am girls certainly had the whoosh factor.
    The Branson airline ad certainly was near as. I hope it returns soon and Abc work out its a classic.

  20. P Rae says:

    Its a great programme. At least its not one of these reality shows that are all over our screens at the moment. Its a bit of lighthearted drama thats good to watch.

    Why do they always have to spoil a good thing. Personally I am sick of the reality TV crap.

    • Keith says:

      Hear! Hear! Total agreement. There’s to much reality, to much dance, to much quiz, to much antiques. That does’nt leave to much air time for anything else.

      • ddjjbb says:

        “That does’nt leave to much air time for anything else.”
        Apart from, that is, the endless round of cooking programmes!
        British TV once was thought of as the one of best in the world but now it’s just total fodder.
        People need to stop paying for their licenses. Might wake the Beeb up a bit.

  21. Mariam says:

    Just check the website and its back soon
    ‘We can now confirm that the series will return to BBC Two on Saturday 28 January 2012’ -BBC

  22. Jax says:

    I love this program, just cant understand why it’s on a saterday, I love the glamor & humer! Can’t wait till its back & don’t want it taken off again!!! What happened to it!…. Very bizzare can’t wait till next saterday even if I tape it & whatch it later!!!!

  23. Hapo says:

    What the f*** is that? First it stopped in the middle of the series and no new when it will resume. Then all of the sudden I missed one. Why annouce it at such short notice?!?

  24. Love the show! Wish the BBC would put it on at regular intervals as i have missed 2 episodes boo!

  25. DCC says:

    What a fabulous programme! Why the silly time slot and the lack of advertising (but atl least it’s back)? Like others I was distraught when they said it would return next year after only 9 episodes. Bring it on ……….

  26. Zoe says:

    Now this is weird but has anyone else noticed that the episodes run out of order??? Number 13 that has just aired tonight refers to plots and stories from way back in the series…In episode 12 Laura finds the nude photos that she has taken in a gallery and yet edpisode 13 shows her getting those shots taken…Mmmmmm who screwed up???

  27. Laura says:

    Yer i noticed too. It says on my sky planner that last nights episode was 13/22 & if next week is the last episode what has happened to the 8 others????
    Love the show so hope there are going to be more episodes 🙂

    • kirsteen says:

      It’s abc in America they showed it in the incorrect order last sunday night!!! They will show the last in the current series tonight in America and it will be back to where it should be!!! Very confusing!!!

  28. JJ26 says:

    The episode 13 Romance Languages should have been episode 7. All the story lines relate to earlier in the series. Shame it was not shown in sequence.

    It would be nice if that was acknowledged on the BBC webpage.

    Maybe staff cutbacks forced by the coalition is starting to have an impact on accuracy and quality.

    Don’t really agree with Pan Am criticisms based on comparisons with Mad Men. It is obviously a completely different kind of show. If you think that you are going to watch another Mad Men, you will be disappointed. Taken on its own, it is fun and enjoyable. Personally, I love Pan AM along with the Missus. I really liked Mad Men as well. They are different shows.

  29. JJ26 says:


    Seems like Episode 14 is the season one finale.

    Wiki says that ABC cancelled the show due to poor TV ratings.

    If that is the case, that is a shame as it is a great series and the characters are likeable.

    If anyone knows anything different, it would be good to hear that there are a few more episodes.

  30. H says:

    How can ABC not make the last 8 episodes! This show is so much fun – can we petition the producers?! Surely the episodes have been written. Guess the BBC doesn’t have funds to produce itself? Would be great if the BBC would stop messing around with UK Scheduling times and actually tell us what is going on!

  31. i am lost in the USA it say ep14 is the last one but for the uk it is going to air 22eps i am lost

    so there r ending it in the USA but r keeping it going in the UK

  32. ddjjbb says:

    What are the Beeb playing at? Playing episodes now in the wrong order???
    Get it together!

  33. Lizzieloo says:

    Is there anyone at the BBC monitoring all these comments? Can anyone from programming please explain wha’s going on? It would be nice to get some feedback as we do pay our license fee for a service…. I LOVE Pan Am and can’t believe it isn’t all being shown 😦 Most upsetting

    • Hilary Wardle says:

      No, there’s no-one from the BBC monitoring the comments, as this isn’t the BBC website- we’re an external television review site that the BBC linked to on the main Pan Am page. If you want to have your say about Pan Am, you can leave feedback here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

  34. Joanna says:

    Love it, love it, love it!!!! Pure escapism. It would be a shame not to see any remaining episodes.

  35. Andrew says:

    It’s not the Beebs fault! The out of order episode is exactly how ABC showed it in America – presumably the UK didn’t get the correct sequence as it would have meant an episode being shown here first.

    ABC’s fault – not the BBC’s!

  36. Susanne Coates says:

    Pan Am – I loved the show and disagree with almost all that Ian Dunn wrote about it. Apart from one or two mistakes it was accurate to the early 1960s, and it developed the characters: four similar ladies with very different motivations and aspirations. If the BBC had had the sense to promote the show and air it a prime viewing time there would a large proportion of the population protesting at its demise! I think the show has it all; escapism; adventure; romance; character identification as well as bringing to memory historical events. I believe the show could obtain ‘Dallas’ viewing figures – even with the hundreds of additional channels competing for viewers. Please BBC lobby Sony not to cancel the show.

  37. Vanessa says:

    May not be the Beebs fault but they are rude, I e mailed them to ask where it had gone and got a very short reply saying that I should check tv listings (why didnt I think of that???). It does seem a shame that something so pleasant to watch has been apparently axed, It was a real breath of fresh air- Oh well just Strictly come Ice Skating to watch now (not)

  38. maggie says:

    where has pan am gone? there is a BIG BIG FAN BASE OUT THERE IT HAS CREPT INTO WORK CONVERSATIONS! what is your problem tv companies – you have found a winning formula!

  39. Barbara says:

    I briefly heard Christina Ricci on the radio the other day and I think she mentioned that a second series would start filming in May. Let’s hope so! It’s been something to share with my two teenage daughters who also love it, and the links to historical events have been good conversation starters – so you see, it’s educational as well! My older daughter loves the fashion too.

    • Susanne Coates says:

      That is good news Barbara. Reading the U.S. Pan AM forums it seems as if it is Christina Ricci that is the most reluctant to do another series, so if Christina is saying that they are starting filming in May it is probably true.

    • ddjjbb says:

      As of February 2012, TV By The Numbers said nothing had changed: “the fact that ABC put out the PR smokescreen that the show ‘is being considered for a second season’ is only so they can continue to sell advertising for the show while it airs…. It’s not going to be canceled, it already has been canceled.”
      The 14th episode was an add on to the season to wrap things up.

      Karine Vanasse who plays Colette Valois on the show tweeted:
      “C’est confirme, un seul episode de plus en janvier pour #PanAm. J’espere que vous serez la jusqu’a la fin!”

      Sorry, but the 14th episode was definitely the finale.

  40. Terry Seal says:

    Well my digtal recorder stopped early at the last scene, so I presume the BBC had nothing to say on the continued programs. If it has gone then the TV execs were not on the right stuff. I found this a great series and felt the last episode had a less then commited cast, as rumours spread around a studio faster then they get to the typist pool. We hope they re-consider and make a new series. I think time will tell this is a great idea and a eye opener to the glamour days of flying. I remember the Enterprise series coming to a close and those with SKY (which I hate Sky that is) gave away the rumour of that ending and with it the Star Trek idea (apart from the film). Which also had worldwide support.

  41. Meg says:

    Bring Pan Am back on tv BBC you can’t terminate a series half way that’s wrong I love this series it is amazing me and my family could not stop watching the show it is addictive.

  42. Susanne says:

    Good news for Pan Am fans: It has been announced in the US that ABC will record another 10 episodes in the Autumn. They have decided to do this for three reasons:

    (i) The cast are enthusiastic about doing further episodes;
    (ii) Pressure from audience groups like this one;
    (iii) They have the sets which were quite expensive to produce.

    So keep up the pressure guys as we do not have the assurance that the BBC will buy the second series yet also after the 10 episodes ABC will assess if they will do a third series.

  43. Judith Shaw says:

    I also loved the series Pan Am, and only found it was back by marking the potential start date on my calendar, and then scouring BBC2 listings!, I thouroughly enjoy it, so how will I know if the series will be back in Autumn if BBC2 are not advertising it?, mark it on the calendar again I guess from September onwards, and keep looking!!!!!!

  44. ddjjbb says:

    What started with a 11.06 million viewing core fell to 3.77 million by the series finale. With an average of 5.39 million it’s hardly enough to get ABC excited about going for a new series. In stats this series is classed as “very unlikely to return”. May be a miracle could come our way????
    But whether it comes back or not, it is still undecided (regardless of any wishful thinking or disinformation).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: