January 9, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Although nothing is likely to be official until May, the odds are that PAN AM is heading into its final landing.  The series received a short back order from ABC, and will be off the air after February, when Good Christian Bitches (or whatever they’re calling it this week) will take its Sunday 10PM slot.  Nevertheless, the studio and producers can still hope for the best, so let’s see how the series returned from its winter break.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF:  The team was very busy in London:  Colette (Karine Vanasse) had finally hooked up with pilot Dean (Mike Vogel); budding photographer Laura (Margot Robbie) would have become involved with First Officer Ted (Michael Mosley) if only he hadn’t reacquainted himself with a pretty old family friend (played by Ashley Greene, from the Twilight movies); lefty Maggie (Christina Ricci) found herself attracted to a Republican congressman and managed to burn down his hotel room, but in a cute way (don’t ask); and most dramatically, stewardess/part-time CIA and MI6 agent Kate (Kelli Garner) killed an opposing agent in the course of a mission.

WHERE WE ARE:  All the previous episode’s plotlines moved forward.  The Dean/Collette relationship was set asunder by the reemergence of the original stewardess/part-time CIA and MI6 agent Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), whom Dean at first resisted but then, after she confessed all, fell into the arms of.  Ted continued to fall for Greene, much to Laura’s heartbreak (although the promo for next week made pretty clear why Ted’s new relationship won’t be lasting very long).  Maggie couldn’t help herself from giving into her attraction for the Republican, who had such an inspiring back-story that he may turn up on the New Hampshire primary ballot on Tuesday.  And Kate successfully passed a polygraph even though she was lying about not having shot the other agent, and after insisting she wanted out of the spy business, she only needed a short MI6 pep talk before throwing herself back into it.
Pan Am is more likable than plenty of shows on network air, and it has an exceptionally charming cast and great production values.  But it’s never found a reason to exist, or a straightforward tone.  The mix of glossy romance and Cold War spy story has now had half a season to fit together without ever coming close, and the retro 60s setting (tonight featured sore-thumb references to the Beatles and the start of Robert Redford’s Broadway career) has had no point of view other than cutesy nostalgia.  Pan Am has had everything a show needs to work except a strong creative voice, and that was the one thing it needed most.
It’ll be a bit of a shame to see the series go–based on its pilot, Good Christian Bitches looks strident and buffoonish in comparison–but one can’t really say that a TV treasure is being lost.  Pan Am never mastered its own flight plan.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."