Pan Am and The Playboy Club

Posted on May 19, 2011

We may have to wait until March (at the earliest) to get our Mad Men fix, but fortunately the entertainment industry has a tendency to incestuously rip off its own hits endlessly and there are two network shows on the fall schedule who are doing their best to recapture the early ’60s and bring it to your living room. We don’t know if we really want these shows to succeed, because if they do, you can expect to see even more ripping off down the line.

ABC? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your new show, Pan Am?

Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.

In this modern world, air travel represents the height of luxury and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are glamorous, the pilots are rock stars and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. Not only are these flyboys and girls young and good looking, but to represent Pan Am they also have to be educated, cultured and refined. They’re trained to handle everything from in-air emergencies to unw.anted advances – all without rumpling their pristine uniforms or mussing their hair. There’s Dean (Jonah Lotan) – a cocky, charismatic and ambitious new pilot – the first of a new breed not trained in the war. On the sly against company policy, he’s dating Bridget, a stunning beauty with a mysterious past. A rebellious bohemian, Maggie (Christina Ricci) turns into a buttoned up professional for work so she can see the world. Rounding out the crew are flirtatious Collette (Karine Vanasse), the adventurous Kate (Kelli Garner) and, finally, Laura (Margot Robbie) – Kate’s beauty queen younger sister, a runaway bride, who recently fled a life of domestic boredom to take to the skies.

“Pan Am” stars Christina Ricci (“Penelope”) as Maggie, Kelli Garner (“Going the Distance”) as Kate, Karine Vanasse (“Polytechnique”) as Colette, Margot Robbie (“Neighbours”) as Laura, Jonah Lotan (“24″) as Dean and Michael Mosley (“Justified”) as Ted.

We have opinions, but before we get to them, let’s listen in as NBC tells us about their new Mad Men ripoff, The Playboy Club:

It’s the early ’60s, and the legendary Playboy Club in Chicago is the door to all your fantasies… and the key is the most sought-after status symbol of its time.

Step inside the seductive world of the Bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, and rub shoulders with the decade’s biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers (like Tina Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr.) With all these larger than life ambitions, there are even greater secrets. Like when innocent new Bunny Maureen – who wants to take the world by storm – accidentally kills one of the Windy City’s most powerful mafia bosses… and the only person capable of covering it up and protecting her is Nick Dalton, a man who once worked for the mob but is about to run for district attorney. Bunny Alice is married but hiding an explosive personal life while Bunny Janie is running from a past that threatens to catch up with her. It seems everyone has a secret – none more so than Maureen, who may not even be the innocent orphan she appears to be. Thank goodness Hef’s Playboy Mansion is open after hours for a little R&R… and burying your past.

Enh. We’re gay, so were predisposed to be more excited about stewardesses than Playboy bunnies. We don’t have a lot of faith that either of these shows will make it to the end of the season, but we’re definitely inclined to root for Pan Am simply because it looks so fabulous. Eddie Cibriani in The Playboy Club seems to be doing a Jon Hamm impersonation and you, sir, are no Jon Hamm. We love Christina Ricci but let’s face it: a woman that skinny in the early ’60s would have been hospitalized rather than getting a job as a stewardess. These shows are chock full of gals, but none of them have thevoluptuous mid-century ideal body of a Joan Holloway.

It’s kind of interesting that both shows are about women presenting themselves to men. Mad Men is probably the most subversively feminist show in the history of television. We don’t have a lot of faith that either of these shows are going to handle the nuances of gender roles a half century ago.

Still, we’ll tune in for the pilot episodes. If for no other reason than to look at the art direction. What do y’all think? Poor imitations of a great show or potential great shows in their own right? Will you be checking them out?

[Photo Credit: abc.com, nbc.com – Video Credit: hulu.com, nbc.com]

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