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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The lavish “Pan Am” is nostalgic bonbons for the mind

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The lavish "Pan Am" is nostalgic bonbons for the mind

ABC’s period epic is as light as prime-time drama can get without becoming bubble-headed

By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

If production values equalled artistic quality, Pan Am (Sundays 10 PM/9 central) would win a Nobel prize.

This new series about Pan American airlines flight attendants — oh, wait a second, it’s set in 1963; I’ll use the word “stewardesses”! — is a triumph of retro atmosphere. Unlike NBC’s dreadful The Playboy Club, the series doesn’t feel like a good-enough-for-government-work re-creation of another era, with contemporary attitudes, hairstyles and music inadvertently creeping in. Almost every touch is just right: the orange Tourister suitcases displayed in the opening airport sequence; the green-shelled manual typewriter that a young man uses to type a paper on Karl Marx; the crinkly chiffon dresses and 8mm camera in a wedding flashback; the way the stewardesses’ blouses and skirts wrap their tummies and hips, thanks to the girdles that the company makes them wear. The opening section, which revolves around the inaugural flight of Pan Am’s Clipper Majestic, has a couple of images whose scale is breathtaking: a shot of a yellow Checker cab racing up Park Avenue toward the Pan Am building, the street lined with vintage automobiles and signage; and an aerial shot of a chopper approaching the same skyscraper, every building in the 1963 Manhattan skyline lovingly re-created.

You can read the rest of Matt’s review of Pan Am here at Salon.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for and the founder of Press Play.

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