Why you won't see stewardesses smoke on 'Pan Am'

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The producers of Pan Am have pulled out all the stops to tell a story about the glamorous jet age of the ’60s, but one thing you won’t see on the ABC drama are cigarettes between the fingers of those young and attractive stewardesses.

Producers admitted that ABC-Disney nixed the use of tobacco by key stars like Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie, despite the fact that smoking was de rigueur on flights – and throughout the terminal — in those days. In contrast, cigarettes are featured liberally on AMC’s Mad Men, which also takes place in the ’60s. Cigarettes even show up in the pilot of The Playboy Club, NBC’s drama set in the ’60s: Star Eddie Cibrian is seen holding one.

“It’s understandable,” Executive Producer Tommy Schlamme told EW. “It’s an enormous impressionable element. It’s the one revisionist cheat.” Some background actors will be seen holding cigarettes on and off the planes, Schlamme said, but not the stars when the drama debuts Sept. 25.

Schlamme noted that he faced the same restrictions when he produced Life on Mars for ABC in 2008. It was a cop show based in the ’70s when cigarettes were commonplace on the job but Schlamme couldn’t have his cops huffing and puffing because of limitations set forth by the network.

Ironically, the jet set drama from Nancy Hult Ganis, who was a former Pan Am stewardess, has already made plans to introduce an African American flight attendant sometime later this season even though the mile-high jobs were exclusively awarded to white women in the early days. The first black stewardess didn’t appear on a flight until the mid-60s, Schlamme admitted.

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Comments (130 total) Add your comment
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  • Tim

    weird… a network rip off of a successful cable concept that waters down whatever it is that made the original great. That’s never happened before.

    • riga

      If you really think it’s the smoking that makes Mad Men great, I’ve got a stack of DVDs you need to rewatch.

      • Riga Sucks

        Nothing makes mad men great. that show blows.

      • Matt

        Riga: So’s your mother.

      • MCS

        Matt, that doesn’t even make sense.
        Riga Sucks: That show blows.
        Matt: So is your mother.

        Well done.

      • Toots

        Bwaaaaaahahahahahahahaaaaa!

      • Matt’s mother

        I admit it—I dropped Matt on his head as a baby. (takes a long drag, holds and then exhales forcefully and with purpose)

    • Tee

      Er the presence of smoking was more important in MM since they exerted influence to keep people smoking in the midst of growing health concerns.

      • oakie

        @emmasmile

        your computer obviously has been infected with some type of worm. please stop posting because it’s impossible for you to say anything intelligent if you’re not even smart enough to avoid or rid your computer of a virus.

      • Chucklehead

        oakie, you do realize that emmasmile is a bot and that it’s not a real person.

      • Phelps’ Fluffer

        I love talking to robots

      • ilovedexter

        hahhahahhahha rise of the machines man

  • TH

    Historical accuracy is OK as long as it meets Disney’s view of how things should be.

    • lilian

      Great comment!

    • DC

      So true…they’ve been doing it since they first started making movies.

    • Mitch Logan

      It makes up for all the over-portrayed smoking in earlier years to get people to smoke more.

  • chris

    This is absurd. If your going to tell a story tell it accurately or not at all. Whats next are we going to tell a story about a hooker but leave out the fact that she actually had sex for the money?

    • Henri M.

      I get what your’e saying but it doesn’t apply here. Pan Am is not about smoking.

      • Malale

        You are rigth. But the cigarrette was a big part in america history and if you try to tell the history of ne of the american big symbol, you can’t cut that part. If not , we let the movie company, like Disney , to tell us the part of the history that seems to be “good” for us….

    • Reina

      You think cancer sticks should get a major showcase on a TV show? Crazy!

    • Jon

      They already did that: it was called Pretty Woman.

  • chris

    This is why I watch cable shows and not the crappy networks. I can think for myself and I do not need the network being my protector.

  • LMFAO

    Smoking is for losers. Good call.

    • SS

      I agree, I couldn’t care less. In fact I wish they would just outlaw them — they do nothing positive for humans whatsoever.

      • Ace

        Agree. Personally, I don’t appreciate being slowly poisoned by the people around me.

    • oakie

      you’re an even bigger loser if you’re so easily influenced by visual media.

  • kevin

    Who cares? This show will be cancelled after a few eps anyway.

    • James

      I’m not so sure that it will. It’s gotten some really great reviews.

      • Jenna Fawn

        Sadly, so did Pushing Dasies and it was canceled after 24 episodes.

      • Toots

        Yes James, because everyone knows that all critically acclaimed shows remain on tv for a long long time.

    • Martillo

      I wouldn’t watch, but Christina Ricci has me curious. I’ll give it a chance just because of her.

      • Bert

        Ricca in a stewardess outfit? hottie po-ta-tee

      • R U GAY?

        Hottie Po-ta-tee, huh? Do you even like women?

      • ilovedexter

        hahahhahha there are too many funny comments here I love it

  • Jake

    It’s just smoking i dont see the big deal in cutting it. its not like it will effect the storyline if they do have the main characters smoking or not.

    • e4ia

      Actually, I find the smoking in Mad Men distracting. All I can think about is how these actors have to smoke for the role and how tough it must be not to get hooked on it (and I’m sure some of them already are with as much smoking they have to do all day long).

      • fyi

        They don’t smoke real cigarettes. It’s an herbal type that has no risk of addiction. I’ve heard Jon Hamm talk about this on numerous talk shows. No professional set would have their actor’s smoke real cigarettes (especially if they are non-smokers). It’s also probably against union rules to have them do so.

      • erin

        They aren’t smoking actual tobacco. They’re herbal cigarettes.

      • jj

        yeah, most times you see smoking on tv/movies they are the herbal cigarettes. they supply them and don’t force anyone to use them. i’ve worked background on many sets and they ask for volunteers. a lot of actors smoke already and don’t mind. or smoke their real cigarettes even though they are not supposed to. i understand that they don’t want to make cigarette smoking glamorous. but if you’re that impressionable that watching someone do something unhealthy on tv makes you want to do it, then you have bigger problems.

      • e4ia

        Wow. I never knew that. Thanks for the info. I feel so much better now that I know the actors aren’t putting their health at risk for my entertainment.

    • jennrae

      It’s also important to note that on Mad Men, they show the consequences of smoking as well. For one thing, the heavy smokers, like Don Draper, cough like crazy. I would hardly call it glamorous.

      • TRC

        jj is absolutely right on all accounts. As an example, The Cigarette Smoking Man on The X Files didn’t smoke in real life. He used a clove substitute on the set.

  • ToMajorTom

    Silly revisionist history because nanny Mickey Mouse says so.

  • Donna Rose

    There were actually some people who chose not to smoke, even in the ’60s. Why shouldn’t the lead characters represent the non-smokers? Nothing revisionist about this at all. It’s not like smoking is completely eradicated from the show.

    • Dinjab

      No…most Pan-Am stewardesses would’ve been smoking. It was an integral part of the culture. Just because you’re ignorant of history doesn’t mean ABC should sanitize it for you.

      • Donna Rose

        You just said “most”, meaning not all. I maintain that there is nothing inaccurate about ABC’s choice.

  • Steve

    Smoking should be banned everywhere ! On TV, movies and in real life !

    • Bobs Yeruncle

      And in the past! Nobody should have smoked in the past! C’mon people, we can revise historical fact! /s

    • jj

      yes, and fatty and sugary foods. and alcohol. and cough medicine. and eggs. and milk. and cars shouldn’t be allowed to go over 25 mph. and noone should ever get in an airplane. or travel outside state lines. hell, let’s make the world like that movie Surrogates and we all will never leave our houses! you can’t protect yourself from every danger in the world, and some of us prefer it that way. if you want to live in some crazy dystopian bubble a la Brave New World, go do it somewhere else. I’d rather be in a “land of the free” (although the US is hardly that… every society has rules…)

    • Reina

      Agreed! Cancer sticks poison the people who smoke them (though they’re asking for it and I have no sympathy for them), but the worst thing is that they poison innocent people who choose not to smoke. Totally disgusting.

    • Woody

      In the U.S. we have a thing called freedom. Tthe 1st Amendment prohibits the freedom of speech. If we banned everything anyone doesn’t like everything would be banned. Let people kill themselves if they want to!

  • susela

    Frankly, even though Christina Ricci is only 31, she’s way too old to be playing a stewardness from back then. They were YOUNG; 18–to mid-twenties. You were considered old at 30; got suspended for gaining weight; and transferred to desk duty if you got married.

    • LMFAO

      As it should be. Now go make me a sandwich.

      • Bert

        Was she the head-stewardess?

    • jj

      right, bc actors never play younger than their age…. you know there are some people who look young for their age and some that look older. casting is based on your looks, not your birth certificate. that’s why you get high school kids played by people in their twenties all the time. it’s not real life, it’s acting!

      • Noelbelle

        Actually high school students are played by people in their mid-20s because of child labor laws. To cast people under 18 costs more money and places more restrictions on the production.

      • jj

        that is one reason. yes. but not the only one. another reason would be because of showing “mature” material. Skins is one of the few shows that used young people in racy settings. the point is that casting agents care less about age and more about LOOK. there are also people who are past college age playing college kids. and there are 18 year olds playing 30 year olds. i stand by my point.

    • Armando

      Have you ever seen this movie: Grease? All actors in their teens, right?

  • thewhat

    Who cares if the main characters aren’t shown smoking. While the producers of Mad Men find it necessary to show every character with a cigarette, it’s not what makes that show great. It’s the acting, writing and overall exceptional production. Same with The Sopranos, it wasn’t it’s R-Rated structure that made it so amazing… again the writing and acting. Pan Am and the Playboy Club can succeed with the limitations as long as the stories and performances are good and interesting. We didn’t see Jack Bauer eat or go to the bathroom for 24 hours straight, but doesn’t mean he didn’t…….

  • Dinjab

    The act of smoking on Mad Men communicates volumes about the characters moods. Pan Am might as well have a bunch of plus-sized women, too, and gay male flight attendants, and black pilots. What a load of junk. If you’ve seen Mad Men, you know how integral the smoking is, and it’s hard to imagine this true-to-life Pan Am without it.

    • John

      I know, right! It’s an outrage! The authorities should be notified!

    • jj

      it also is a bit more relevant for Mad Men, because Lucky Strike was a major client and the agency likes to show the clients that they use their project. So i think it definitely is more of an integral part to MM’s story than Pan Am. That being said, i have no problem with them not really showing smoking. It’s the fact that they actually have a policy on it and that they have to make an announcement that irks me. What does Disney want? A pat on the back? Why not leave it up to the showrunners if such a small thing is important to the storytelling or not? Easy answer- because it’s Disney and they are content nazis. And the PTC has way too much clout as a lobbying organization.

  • mike

    this is exactly why network tv is struggling for good content. cable tv has less money to produce but more freedom to express the story

  • PJ

    Thank goodness this question has been answered. Now you can focus on whether they’ll show people drinking water or soda.

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