Glamour, form-fitting skirt suits, covert government operations--it all spells the 1960s on Pan Am's version of how the decade went down. Perhaps billed as Mad Men with flight attendants, Pan Am struggles to find what the focus of the show is. Naturally, you would think it would be an account of stewardesses (it was once okay to call them that) who work for Pan Am, but it is actually much broader than that, covering everything from clandestine exchanges with G-men, the Bay of Pigs, and the struggle of the "modern woman" to get married and have children as soon as possible.
The show, of course, is riding heavily on Christina Ricci's back. Although none of the characters have really separated themselves as being the "main one" (a.k.a. a Don Draper type has yet to emerge), the name recognition of Ricci (who plays the role of Maggie), makes her the fall woman for the show's shortcomings.
Created by Jack Orman, known for writing and producing numerous episodes of JAG and ER, the series could definitely benefit from a regular rotation of female writers. As of now, the fourth episode, entitled "Eastern Exposure" is the only script that has a female co-writer (Moira Walley-Beckett, who also writes for Breaking Bad).
The plots established in the pilot episode are a bit of a mixed bag. Kate (Kelli Garner, who has appeared in such notable films as The Aviator, Lars and the Real Girl, Bully, and Thumbsucker) becomes involved as a courier for the U.S. government; Laura, Kate's sister, makes the cover of Life Magazine even though she only became a flight attendant only recently after running out of her wedding in a frenzied panic; Colette (Karine Vanasse) is relegated to embodying the cliche about flight attendants who fuck their passengers; Bridget (Annabelle Wallis) takes on the role of a free-spirited woman who can't be held down by a Pan Am pilot named Dean (Mike Vogel).
The main issue with Pan Am is that it isn't particularly bad and it isn't particularly good. It needs to choose one extreme in the next few episodes before turning into a nondescript blob. While the show earned eleven million viewers on its initial air date, there could be some bumpy skies ahead for this shifty period drama.