"Betty Leopard": Yes I watch TV: Pan Am

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Yes I watch TV: Pan Am

It might just be me, but I find that a lot of people can be very snobbish about television; "Oh no I never watch the television, frightful invention, I'm far too sophisticated and intelligent to be amused by such unadulterated clap-trap" sort of thing. Maybe it's just coming from an academic work environment, where watching anything other than the news, serious documentaries, independent film and possibly the occasional episode of House would be severely frowned upon (unless it was ironic, of course). FYI, I have nothing against House, I bloddy love it.

I am unashamed to admit that I watch TV, I enjoy TV, sometimes I even have the TV on just for some comforting background noise. And I don't really care if you think that makes me unsophisticated or degenerate.
There is some undeniable dross on television sometimes, and sometimes I even watch that (Tool Academy) even though I know it's trash. However, I have recently discovered the most wonderful television programme; the joy that is Pan Am.

Laura, Maggie, Colette and Katie

To be totally honest, when I first saw the series advertised I wasn't convinced; Oh great another vintage styled drama that's more about the outfits than any actual entertainment. Mad Men caught me out with that, and as much as I loved the settings and the clothes and the hair, even the cultural observations, I just wasn't gripped enough to watch more than half of season 1.
So, while I initially avoided watching, last weekend I found myself at a loose end and decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did. While I can't totally put my finger on what it is I love about it, I do know I love it.
The four main characters, the stewardesses (pictured above), are all really likeable, interesting, strong women leading exciting lives and at the forefront of a cultural revolution (they also all have deep, dark back stories). I got caught up in the whirlwind glamorous excitement of their lives so quickly. But don't be fooled that it's all about girls having fun and changing their own world. The show also deals with the Cold War, international espionage, Communism, Nazis and the lasting impacts of World War 2 and the past and present lives of the male pilots (something for the boys, if the prospect of four gorgeous stewardesses isn't already enough).
There is also a fair amount of 1960's social/cultural observation; including the weigh-ins for the stewardesses, the necessity to wear (and be checked for) a girdle as part of uniform, and the fact that girls have to quit their job if they get married. Fortunately, all this is quite nicely offset by the sassy, fiesty, anti-authority Maggie (Christina Ricci),  not that the other girls are traditional 1950's/60's doormats. While Maggie may slightly have the edge on being my favourite character, it is a close call.
Having said all that, I can't pretend that I wasn't equally enthralled with the styling. Goddamn it, I even love the darn Pan Am uniforms! After watching three episodes back to back all I wanted to do was float about in beautiful sun dresses with nipped-in waists, fitted jackets, little hats, white gloves, pearls and give myself arm ache by carrying my bag in the crux of my elbow with my hand raised (a la Colette above). Well, it was either that or start saying everything in a French accent. (In fact, I have already searched eBay for a Pan Am flight bag, I do feel a little ashamed about that). Unfortunately, I don't even have enough hair for me to play around with the uber blow-dried and rollered hair styles the girls pull off so well.

If you haven't already, I do thoroughly recommend you try at least one episode and see if you aren't hooked.


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