Pan Am: Where Did It Go Wrong?

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Pan Am was one of the most buzzed about shows launching last Fall – it promised exotic locations, a likeable cabin crew and plenty of hijinks at 32000 feet. It started off strong in the ratings; over 11 million viewers and it retained all of its lead-in’s 18-49 audience share. But by early November the show was showing signs of trouble, losing half its audience and sinking below 2.0 in the demo. So what went wrong?

For starters, the show lacked a clear direction. Christina Ricci was marketed as being the star. She was the one who was most prominently featured in the advertising campaign, yet she was barely given any storylines, especially in the first half of the season. In fact, there was some episodes where she’d only have 3 or 4 minutes of screentime. Arguably, Maggie could have been the most interesting character in the show – the rare glimpses we had into her past certainly made her more interesting than the likes of Kate.

That brings me onto my next point – Kate. While Kelli Garner is a perfectly likeable actress, Kate’s arc was not interesting. For those who don’t know, Kate was recruited by the CIA in the pilot episode and the bulk of the series was given over to her trying to get various missions completed. Apparently this sort of thing actually happened to real Pan Am stewardesses, it didn’t seem realistic. I don’t think I’m in the minority about that either. Her shortlived romance with Goran Visnjic‘s character was a nice change but, oh wait, he’s a Yugoslavian diplomat and the CIA are pulling the strings. As the series progressed, I felt one of the best episodes was “Unscheduled Departure.” This was one of the rare occasions where Kate had a storyline outside of delivering packages to the US embassy or trying to flirt with a foreign spy. She was taking care of an elderly passenger on the flight who had a heart attack and it was nice to see another side to the character. It was also a help that the entire episode wasn’t given over to her storyline, as it usually was.

As the ratings continued to deteriorate, it’s obvious that producers were trying to figure out how to attract higher numbers. Having a popular cast member from the Twilight Saga would seem like a great idea, right? Wrong. Ashley Greene‘s character was a former girlfriend of Ted’s, and they rekindle their romance just as Laura begins to develop feelings for him. The “my ex-girlfriend is back in my life” storyline has been used countless times to defer a romance taking place between two major characters, this just didn’t work. This was namely down to the fact that Amanda just so happened to be a lesbian and she locked lips with Maggie before she swore her to secrecy. You could spot the fact that this was a cheap ratings ploy a mile away – they hoped having two females making out in the promo would have 18-49 year old males come running. Not the case.

“Romance Languages” was an episode that completely turned me off the series. It was intended to be episode 7 of the series but for some reason it didn’t air until February, making it episode 13. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that it was a continuation of episode 6 that wasn’t really needed. The character of Ginny, who had been a femme fatale type of character, suddenly became psychotic and smashed her head through a window so Dean wouldn’t break up with her. Really, Pan Am?

Although Pan Am had a lot of problems, it did have a strong cast.I’m especially grateful for the fact that it introduced me to Margot RobbieKarine Vanasse and Mike Vogel. Robbie was fantastic as the the naive but loveable Laura. She did a good job of portraying a character who was trying to find her feet and stop relying on her sister’s help. Meanwhile, Vogel and Vanasse had great chemistry together and I found the Colette-Dean arc to be really enjoyable (although I’m still mad at Dean for sleeping with Bridget), but they also shone separately. Vanasse did a particularly good job in episode 3, “Ich Bin Ein Berliner,” in which the crew travelled to Germany and Colette is unable to let go of her resentment of Germany for the role the Nazis played her parents’ disappearance. I was pleased to see that they’ve both landed roles in pilots, Vanasse in ABC’s Scruples while Vogel is set to star in Fox’s Living Loaded. Even if neither of these shows make the fall 2012 sked, I don’t doubt that we’ll be seeing much more of these two in the future.

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About davidsworldoftv

Television Afficionado

Posted on March 6, 2012, in Pan Am, Television Review, Where Did It Go Wrong? and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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