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Flying first class: Pan Am takes off

New series overcomes cheesy moments with jet-setting drama, interesting characters

Four episodes in and still flying, ABC's Pan Am, a period drama about female stewardesses in the 1960s, is the hot new show of the season. Despite rapidly declining viewers - it went from 11.06 million to 5.84 during its four episode arc - the show remains buzz-worthy in the entertainment world and among my television-minded friends. As for me, I'm not ashamed to say that I watch it - and yes, I enjoy it. The fourth episode, which aired last Sunday, demonstrated promise after a disappointing first episode in which there were far too many subplots to keep the main storyline straight. An overwhelming number of characters and dramatic occurrences gave me, and I'm sure the other 11 million viewers, quite a lot of confusion. Despite my initial reluctance, it took only a couple more episodes for me to start to keep up with the storyline and even become emotionally invested in the characters.

Maggie (Christina Ricci) is a struggling stewardess on probation dealing with the day-to-day drama that comes with life in the air. Although Maggie sees her job as an escape from the mundane existence of the typical 1960s housewife, she must still confront sexism and discrimination even at 50,000 feet. While Maggie fights to keep her job, fellow stewardess Kate (Kelli Garner) is entangled in a Cold War subplot that finds her using her job to smuggle information for U.S. intelligence. This historical context not only lends the show authenticity, but also heightens tensions and draws in a wider audience - I'm sure this is much appreciated by male viewers (in addition to the gorgeous stewardesses who may have initially grabbed their attention.)

Surprisingly, it's not really the Cold War espionage story that most intrigues me. I'm in love with the budding, would-be romance between co-pilot Ted (Michael Mosley) and novice stewardess Laura (Margot Robbie). Also, I'm impressed by the quality of the costume and set design and how well these trappings capture the time period of the '60s, not just in the United States but internationally as well. Pan Am, like the airline itself, takes viewers to exotic locations across the globe, from Paris to Jakarta, Indonesia. The show also successfully ties in historical events, including President Kennedy's 1963 "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech and the Cuban prisoner exchange, among others.

Despite a penchant for over-dramatization and some corny moments, the show on the whole has managed to keep my attention by creating well-rounded characters who are easy to root for. Because I enjoy the show, I'm a bit perplexed by Pan Am's precipitous decline in viewership during the past four episodes - if you have some time to kill on a lazy Sunday, I definitely recommend it for some high-flying entertainment.


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