'Pan Am': On the set of this fall's most ambitious drama

Remember when air travel was glamorous?

No? Then take a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to ABC’s Pan Am, a drama about the sexy stewardesses and pilots crisscrossing the globe on the once-luxurious airline. The biggest star of the series — in all senses — is the life-size re-creation of a Pan Am 707 jet, housed in a hangar near the Brooklyn waterfront.

On this muggy August day, a string of extras in skinny ties and horn-rimmed glasses are lining up, ready to portray journalists en route to President Kennedy’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in Germany. Serving them on today’s flight: star Christina Ricci, who plays Maggie, a Greenwich Village bohemian trying her damnedest to worm her way into JFK’s appearance by flirting with the passengers.

“Can I get you anything else to drink, Mr. Manchester?” she asks one, fluttering the lashes around her saucer-size eyes.

Welcome aboard Pan Am, a period drama set in 1963 that aims to take viewers around the world in retro style every week — all while filming in and around New York City.

“We love the ambition of this project,” says ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee. “We’re in a world where people have huge TV screens. Pan Am transports you to a world that is delicious.” Given the ’60s setting, critics have suggested that this show, and NBC’s period offering The Playboy Club, are broadcast networks’ answer to Mad Men. The Pan Am team says such comparisons are weak.

“Is The Good Wife comparable to House because they take place in this decade?” asks creator Jack Orman. “I don’t think so.” Adds Ricci, “The only thing similar is the time period, and the fact that both shows are shot in very cinematic ways.”

For more on Pan Am as well as this season’s other anticipated series, pick up Entertainment Weekly‘s Fall TV Preview, on stands today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack

Read more:
Why you won’t see stewardesses smoke on ‘Pam Am’

Comments (29 total) Add your comment
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  • tvocrats

    I’ve seen the pilot for Pan Am and it is neither ambitious or epic.
    More like formulaic and banal. An okay concept hinged on a super likable star (who is SUPER likable in the pilot)

  • Anthony

    His comparison with House and The Good Wife was just terrible.

    • Eric P

      That was the point.

    • Zach

      I think the point Anthony was trying to make is that the creator’s defense was weak. Are House and The Good Wife similar simply because they’re both set in modern times? No, but the creators of Pan Am (and the Playboy show?) have made a conscious choice to set their series in the 1960s just as Mad Men is. Look, there’s nothing wrong with the copycat effect – that’s how TV works. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was fantasy series; in the 1990s and 2000s, you had your Friends, Sex and the City, and Ally McBeal knockoffs; and now storytellers running out of stories are looking to the ambiance that makes Mad Men so popular. All power to them. It’s not the same as remaking Charlie’s Angels.

    • the_girl

      The point still stands even if you pick two medical shows or two legal shows. Even with the similarities between shows like Bones and Castle, you’ll find a bunch of differences also. The networks might have realized that there was untapped potential in the “period piece” for TV when seeing the success of Mad Men, but hopefully their pieces are uniquely developed with the specific show concept in mind, not simply building off the idea of what already exists.
      There are a ridiculous number of police procedurals on TV but each have their own specialty, which is why they all have enough viewers to stay on the air.

  • Catch Me if You Can on prime time

    are writers in Hollywood so inept, is talent so rare, that all we ever get is retreads of movies? this show is going to bomb, particularly because – really? Christina Ricci? I have seen nothing good in the fall lineup nothing that will last, what happened to quality writing, quality shows, quality actors …. cable is where it’s at

    • Mel B

      How is this a retread of Leo DiCaprio movie?! So the show takes places in the 60s. I wasn’t aware there was only one movie or show that could depict any one decade. Is the show a retread of “Down With Love” then too?

    • JD

      You really don’t make sense…this isn’t a retread of a movie, and there are several GREAT looking network shows coming out, like Awake, Person of Interest, Terra Nova etc.

  • Johnny

    How is this a movie retread?

  • Mel B

    This is one of the shows I’m most excited to see this fall. I hope it’s good!

  • Clete

    Instead of being transported to a world that is “delicious”, I would rather be transported to a world that is “interesting.” This doesn’t appear to be.

  • Stacie

    Not into it.

  • geraldine O’COnnor

    I was a PAN AM stewardess in the 60’s.This is my story. We were called princess

  • jrbear

    I don’t care what you say…Christina Ricci is super HOT! I’d watch anything she is in, and she has done many very edgie movies in past years. not the usual movie actress at all.

  • Rick G

    I’m sorry, but this is the “ambitious drama” that’s so ambitious it’s not going to have any of its leads smoke, even though smoking rates were sky-high in the sixties? That’s not ambitious drama, that’s being culture police with revisionist history. Smoking is deadly, everyone knows that. I don’t smoke and I don’t encourage anyone to do so. That doesn’t mean you can set a show in the sixties and pretend no one smoked. Creative license is one thing, but this makes “Pan Am” about as believable as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    • Zach

      Not everyone smokes all the time. I Love Lucy took place in the 1950s and was even sponsored by Phillip Morris, but you didn’t see the characters smoking more than occasionally throughout the entire series’ run. How about they just focus on compelling storytelling?

    • Florida

      I flew on Pan Am 707s in the 1960s from the US to Europe and back several times – and we smoked onboard the planes! Although I don’t smoke now, and certainly realize that smoking is dangerous, to have a show set in the ’60s without smoking is unrealistic.

      • Bruce

        While smoking on airplanes was allowed in the sixties, it is not essentail to show people smoking on planes to capture the spirit of the jet age. I am glad that smoking is being kept to a minimum in the show. Smoking should only be present if essentail to the story line. There is no need to glamorize smoking in the show. The glamor of Pan Am is the stewardesses. The star of the series is the Boeing 707, not a cigarette.

  • Arya Underfoot

    Christina Ricci on TV? Fantastic!

  • Jed

    Looking forward to seeing this show and Playboy Club as well.

  • ihatefanboys

    this show will be the first quick cancellation of the season…followed not far behind by the playboy club…there is no nostalgia for the 60s, except by those that lived them….

  • Jex

    It’s trying to win back the male demographic. No doubt it will be gayer than a Frisco party. It’s just sickening to see that stuff after while Every stupid comedy show does it and the ‘serious’ shows do it as well.

  • Lynne Beaman Strachan

    Will there be any Black stewardesses in the show?

    • Diva!

      Women of color will be introduced as the show progresses. They want to build an important storyline around them because it was something monumental when it occured during that time era. This is the first scripted show that I’m excited to see in a long time. I never realized it, but most of my TV viewing consists of talk shows, reality competition prgrams and MSNBC/HLN.

    • MR. Williams

      History Lesson 101: Black Woman were not allowed to be Stewardesses in the 60’s. And this series will not include any. African-Americans will not watch this show – they don’t watch tv shows with an all white cast. That’s just the way it is. How many African-American’s watch AMC’s “Mad Men”??? ZERO!!!!!!

      • Tina

        WRONG!! I am African-American and I watch Mad Men and several shows that are all white casts or even predominately white with a token minority thrown in. I watch if they are good shows. I am not going to make a blanket statement (like you did) but ever since the Cosby show went off the air. I find it true that most white people will not watch a show with a predominately black cast; especially if it is not a comedy.

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