Pan Am: Week 6 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: When Maggie is telling her story to the angry Laura about how she rose from being just a bookworm waitress to being a Pan Am stewardess, she declares about her position that “This time there is nothing better, this is it.” I have officially reached the point in ABC’s “Pan Am” where I am beginning to feel the same way. It doesn’t seem that this show, that had the potential to be something really interesting, has even left the runway. The banal script and increasingly irritating characters are leaving me groaning at each commercial break. The worst thing that this show could have done at this point in the season was feature its most insipid character, Maggie, in telling her long, drawn-out, cliched sob-story of a past to the viewers. I see no diamond in the rough, but I see a whole hell of a lot of rough.

The only parts of “Pan Am” that I’m not finding disastrously painful to watch are Collette, whom I fear will be stuck in Economy for the remainder of the show’s travel, and Kate’s relationship with Niko. Other than a few sophisticated words here and there from the train of thought that should have been followed at the beginning of the season, Collette is falling through the cracks as the resident level-headed, complex cast member. Nothing about her and Ginny’s conversation in the bathroom when Dean and the VP of Pan Am are left at the table together? It might have given the script writers a chance to exercise their tired craft on some interesting material. Kate’s relationship with Niko is a fascinating history lesson, and I’m never rolling my eyes at their banter. I hope the best for them, though something tells me that “the best” is not in the cards.

Ok, I’ve held off long enough. Maggie. I’m sitting here trying my hardest to put into words the loathing I have for her character without sounding trite for the sake of being trite. So here goes. I appreciate the sentiment that the writers/producers/creators of the show want to convey in Maggie’s character. We are supposed to see a girl trapped in a bubble gum waitress uniform near a trailer park clutching for dear life to Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” as Sondheim says, “just to keep in touch.” We are supposed to root for her desire for education at the cost of losing her job as an admissions assistant at Berkley. We are supposed to encourage her pre-Second Wave feminist ideologies and see her escape to Pan Am as a golden opportunity for rebirth and self-definition. What we end up seeing, however, is a frantic flamboyance poised to pout at any roadblock. We can’t take Maggie seriously because of her cartoonish inflections and inarticulate rhetoric. Her high-heel clattering imposition in the hallways of Pan Am, hotel lobbies, and Brazilian police stations reverses her intended characterization and turns her into a parody of the politically conscious, forward thinking women of the early 1960s who had their own struggles to tackle in the quest for recognition. Maggie is not conveying the complexity of these women with the style and poise that a Pan Am stewardess is known to have, and hence Christina Ricci’s performance as Maggie comes off as borderline insulting.

It seems that “Pan Am” has used up its lifelines in my book. Crossing my fingers for as painless an end to the season as possible… with how many shows to go?

JESSICA BADER: I, too, find Maggie to be incredibly grating, so an episode focused on her was frequently unbearable. Whether it’s the way the character is written or Christina Ricci’s portrayal, something about Ms. Ryan just sets my teeth on edge. The scene of her first day assuming someone else’s identity to take a college course was a perfect example – her talking back to the professor came off as bratty rather than witty and it didn’t make sense for a person enrolled under false pretenses to make herself so conspicuous. The flashback to Maggie’s Pan Am interview was utterly ridiculous – how could she have been hired after that display? – and seemed to serve only to underscore what a big deal it was supposed to be that she lied about knowing Portuguese.

Laura gave Maggie a run for her money in the aggravating-this-viewer department when the duo were arrested after buying stolen goods. Whatever the merits of Laura’s belief that the cops arrested them in order to collect a bribe, loudly insisting that they should just pay it doesn’t seem like a good way of keeping the price down. Of course, Ted comes to save the day in the end, and I continue to dread the inevitable Laura/Ted hookup.

Given that Pan Am is one of ABC’s lowest-rated scripted shows, anything beyond the initial 13-episode order seems unlikely. It will be interesting to see how many plot lines get tied up within those 13 episodes and how many are left to dangle for a back nine that probably won’t happen.

About Sonia Brand-Fisher

My name is Sonia Brand-Fisher and I am a film studies major at Smith College. Interests include vintage film and fashion, fake-swing dancing to early Standards, cooking lavish meals that stem far outside of my culinary comfort zone, and musing over the implications behind all things aesthetically intriguing.
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