Maybe What Pan Am Needs Are Dinosaurs

So, I was all set to talk about my new favorite TV show, Pan Am, and then read this headline on the TV by the Numbers website:

Mayday! Pan Am Descends Toward Cancellation

The show hasn’t been officially cancelled, but TV by the Numbers is usually right on with their predictions, so even if every episode is aired, the show probably won’t continue. Total bummer because it’s an awesome show.

It takes place in 1963 and follows the lives of a group of stewardesses (because flight attendants didn’t exist yet) and pilots of the airline.

Looking pretty is part of job. Before every flight the girls are weighed, measured and checked to make sure they’re wearing their girdles. Flight was not just transportation back then, it was an experience and the airline aimed to deliver it with pretty girls. Basically, part of the job description was daily objectification. No surprise, female empowerment is big on the show.

In one scene, a passenger gets grabby with Maggie (Christina Ricci) and she stabs him with a fork. Awesome as that was, what came next was even better. The co-pilot swoops in to smooth things over and Maggie is quick to tell him she doesn’t need his help. Unfortunately, he overrides her and apologizes to the passenger.

By siding with the passenger, the co-pilot made Maggie feel foolish for defending herself. She later confronts the co-pilot and tells him what that passenger did was wrong, but it was even worse that he made it okay for him to do it to another girl.

It’s a show about people and with the backdrop of an airline, the writers can send them all over the world which has so many possibilities.

In another storyline, French stewardess Collette (Karine Vanesse), has a breakdown in Berlin during a layover. She was three when the Nazis invaded France and lost her whole family to them. She thought she was ready to forgive and finds she still hates the Germans.

There’s so much more happening, but I’m not here to give you a blow by blow or to get you watching. (The Hulu link for full episodes if you do.)

I’m just confused.

Is a show just about people boring these days? I’d like to think not, but I feel like if the plane crashed on an island filled with dinosaurs and also haunted by the spirits of its original inhabitants, it might be doing better. “Coming this fall to ABC, Haunted Pan Am EXTREME!”

I’m not against anyone choosing other TV shows over Pan Am, but when I look at what’s getting the big ratings, I do wonder if it’s too boring a concept to interest people.

What’s your expectation for a new TV show? Would Pan Am be better suited for a cable network where huge, out of the gate ratings aren’t as big a deal?

12 comments on “Maybe What Pan Am Needs Are Dinosaurs

  1. I’ll have to admit I have no interest in watching this show. Everyone is different in what they like, and this just isn’t my thing. If I had loads of time to watch everything I wanted, I would probably give it a try, but i have Hawaii Five-O, Criminal Minds, Person of Interest, CSI….. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And, hey, are you ragging on one of my favorite new shows, Terra Nova? Cuz with this show, you get stories about people AND dinosaurs. LOL

    • I guess a lot of people have no interest or lost interest the way the ratings are dropping. I also wonder if the show isn’t interesting enough to watch over other shows. But I could on and on thinking about why the show’s not working. It’s just disappointing.

      Ha, no, not ragging on Terra Nova. I watch that too.

  2. Makes me think of one of my favorite shows, “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” which is just about people–it was cancelled after the first season even though it was awesome.
    Sometimes it takes time to love characters, the least a network can do is give people the time to love (or hate) a show!

    • My wife watched and loved that show too.

      I really think shows like Studio 60 or Pan Am are better off on cable because they don’t draw big crowds. Doesn’t mean they’re lesser quality shows, just not able to generate the money the network needs to keep it on.

  3. You have managed to list all the reasons why I’m loving this show. I also watch Mad Men. In that show, the imbalance between men and women is much more obvious. So I sort of love the whole female empowerment thing that’s going on with this one.

    I also love the strange story structure! Most episodes are told in flashbacks, and the character’s personal stories are slowly weaved together as we need to know their story. So awesome!

    But I have to wonder the same thing too. Are normal characters with regular lives boring? Are everyday struggles not of interest to the average viewers? Then again, it could be so many other factors like the time slot they have it in, the shows it’s running against, and the marketing. This seems like a hard show to explain. (I remember going, “Wait, what? It’s about stewardesses? Is every episode on a plane?”)

    It’s hard to get people to take a chance on a strange concept sometimes.

    • You’re right about trying to explain Pan Am. It’s the kind of show you just have to watch to get what it’s about. And honestly, I don’t know where it’s going overall, but still find it entertaining.

      I think that’s also one of the factors that did Firefly in. A space western was a weird combination for people to grasp.

  4. I sounds like a good show, smart, funny, with intelligent women being unappreciated which is something a lot of viewer can still relate to.

    What I’m missing in your description of it is why I should tune in for more than one episode or more than the occasional episode if I happen to remember? What makes this a must-see series week after week?

    I didn’t care that LOST started with a huge plane crash or that there was some kind of creature out in the jungle that might be eating the passengers. I cared that Sawyer and Kate had something in common that no one else was ever going to understand, and that just being drawn to her was changing him. And I definitely wanted to see where THAT was going. I love watching House be brilliant, but I could care less about his cases week after week. I just love his deep, complicated character and want him to be okay. Similar reason for following Smallville and Supernatural. I wanted to see if Ross was ever going to get the courage to let Rachel know how he felt about her, and then if they were ever going to work things out–and if Monica and Chandler were ever going to tell anyone and how Ross was going to react to his sister and his best friend. I didn’t care that Firefly was a space western, I cared about whether or not Jayne was ever going to be shown to be more than what was presented, the mystery of the Shepherd, and mostly whether Mal and Inara were ever going to get over themselves and then what was going to happen? I cared about whether Deanna and Will were ever going to stop trying to ignore what was between them, and double likewise for Picard and Dr. Crusher. I cared about Buffy/Angel. I was totally lost in Season 4 but obsession = reborn for Buffy/Spike. I cared about the mysteries running through each season of Veronica Mars, who killed Lily Kane, who caused the bus crash, but also about whether Logan was ever going to manage to hold on to Veronica. Remington Steele and Laura Holt, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, Starbuck and Cassiopeia, Sydney and Vaughn, Nikita and Michael, Castle and Beckett, Hunter and McCall. Freakin’ Thundaar and Ariel, Prince Adam/He-Man and Teela, Battle of the Planets’ Mark and Princess, Dungeons and Dragons’ Hank and Sheila, Voltron’s Keith and Princess Allura…

    And pacing matters. Some shows will build something that keeps me watching for a time, but if they just keep me hanging and won’t throw me a bone every once in a while, I’m going to give up. I’d like to get the answer to How I Met Your Mother, but as much as I think NPH is brilliant, I can’t tune in week after week for whatever zany antics don’t seem to be getting me any closer to the answer. I can’t seem to finish Heroes, and I should be totally into that show.

    If you told me that the thing the Ricci and the co-pilot happened in an early episode, he handled it in the way that was expected, but when she laid into him, it really seemed to get to him. Made him think, feel kind of guilty. Obviously sparks are flying between the two of them, but there’s something in the way. Meanwhile, the backstory of the French flight attendant is the beginning of a mystery, there seems to be some important person in her past whom she left behind, those would be running threads I’d probably respond to.

    • I couldn’t tell you why to watch week after week. It feels like the show is still in setup mode, but trying to balance that with interesting episodes to get to bigger ones.

      I also didn’t go into every storyline. For instance I left out one, where a stewardess (Kate) is recruited by the CIA to run little missions. She’s already butting heads with her handler.

      The previous stewardess/CIA operative (Bridgette) has quit Pan Am and had to stop her covert missions. The viewers have seen her on screen, but her former lover (a Pan Am pilot) is following leads to track her down. But at the same time, something appears to be developing between him and Collette. (French stewardess)

      Also Kate’s sister left her husband at the altar to work for Pan Am and in some ways is outshining her which mirrors what their family dynamic was.

      There’s definitely more to the co-pilots character and a possible love connection with Kate’s sister might bring out these qualities. Will that make Maggie jealous? Who knows?

  5. To be honest, I cringed when I saw that two time period tv programs were debuting this fall. I honestly feel that if Pan Am aired on cable (like A&E), it would have a better survival rate. I’ve seen the articles and reviews that it’s crashing, and I’m sorry seeing how much you enjoy it. I shame myself to admit, but I didn’t give it a chance because I really didn’t think it would make it. Maybe it’s my fault, Andrew. I mean, I watch practically everything else!

    • I also think Pan Am would have done better on a cable station. It’s not the type of show that gives instant results. Even though each episode has a beginning, middle and end, I think better episodes are coming. (And I really like the ones I’ve seen) They just need to establish the story world and characters a bit more. These days, not many viewers are willing to wait for that.

      I’m just going to enjoy whatever I can get and will be pleasantly surprised if more episodes are ordered.

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