Spies On A Plane: A Review Of The Pan Am TV Series

by Rachel Bellwoar

Today Margot Robbie is known for films like Wolf on Wall Street, I, Tonya, and the upcoming Birds of Prey … but for one season she was a Pan Am stewardess on the ABC period drama Pan Am. Starring Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, and Karine Vanasse, Robbie’s Laura is the newest member of their crew and already a favorite among the passengers for having been chosen to appear on the cover of Life Magazine.

Laura’s sister, Kate (Garner) secretly works for the CIA. David Harbour (Stranger Things) plays one of her contacts (there are accents). Maggie (Ricci) is the politically minded rabble-rouser of the group (she campaigned for JFK) and Colette (Vanasse) has one of the series’ more complicated love lives. On the pilot side there are Ted (Michael Mosley) and Dean (Mike Vogel). Dean is one of the youngest captains Pan Am’s ever had and nurses a broken hurt. Ted’s trying to convince any of the stewardesses to go out with him.

Every episode sees the cast being sent to a different location; but on a TV show budget (not unlike the TV show Alias), so you’ll get a few CGI shots of the city, then spend most of the episode in New York (where the characters live), inside of hotel rooms, or on the actual plane. The year is 1963 (the season finale takes place on New Year’s), so the series also touches on what was going on historically at the time (the Cold War with Kate’s spycraft; the conditions in Haiti during an episode where Dean has to make an emergency landing). Every flight brings new passengers and new challenges — personal and professional — but if it doesn’t have the prestige of a period drama like Mad Man, Pan Am has the schmaltz of a very enjoyable, if too quickly cancelled, hour.

Mill Creek’s two-disk set includes all fourteen episodes, arranged in the order in which they aired. Usually that wouldn’t bear mentioning, but ABC aired the episode “Romance Languages” out of order. It should’ve been the seventh episode instead of the thirteenth, and the storylines reflect that, with guest stars appearing at the end of the series that shouldn’t have been on the show at that point. In the moment it was conspicuous, too (with certain storylines ending without fanfare) but, as it turns out, that was for good reason. Mill Creek didn’t have to fix the order (that was on ABC), but they could’ve included some disclaimer letting you know this had occurred, because there’s no benefit in perpetuating the mistake.

Otherwise, while there are no additional bonus features (besides subtitles), Mill Creek deserves credit for keeping this series alive on physical media. Pan Am was released on DVD before but seeing it again gives hope that other one-season series like Terriers, Bunheads, Trust, or Once Upon A Time in Wonderland will follow. All of these series were wrongly cancelled, but have never been released on DVD. We’ve already seen Mill Creek make the final seasons of TV shows like Masters of Sex, The Mindy Project, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, available, which all started out on DVD but stopped after a few seasons. With streaming, you can’t depend on a show getting a DVD release anymore (take Lodge 49 or Pose, for example) and for fans who prefer not to rely on a faulty internet connection, distributors like Mill Creek are a second chance.

Pan Am is available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment.

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