Monday, 12 December 2011

Pan Am: Melodrama hits a new high; gets taken off air. Ho dear

You know how it is. You nearly crash land your passenger plane onto a beaten-up runway in troubled 1960s Haiti because you've got a passenger having a heart attack, and then one of your crew wants to take home a real life souvenir. Happens all the time.

Play-by-the-rules Captain Dean tussles with the well-meaning French stewardess Colette over the orphaned teenager she wants to rescue from roaming rebel gunmen, having found her during a mercy dash in a jeep with co-pilot Ted while looking for a doctor in the jungle - but pilot Dean's more worried about the runway being long enough for take-off.

Later, having off-loaded as much weight as they can, including lots of nice luggage and the heart attack victim (he didn't make it), Captain Dean revs the engines to within an inch of their lives but keeps the brakes on - and in doing so just about manages to power a take-off as rebels with guns come to investigate. Phew.

And the whole thing happened on a stormy rainy night, too,which we all know is tv shorthand for BIG DRAMATIC DRAMA, don't we.

Stewardess and spy Kate nurses a sick passenger - and not very well as it turns out: he doesn't make it.
But it's this sort of plane-based melodrama - on board emergencies, angry or dying passengers, erm, crash landings on a hurricane-damaged runway at Port Au Prince - that many had originally expected of US period drama Pam Am, rather than the pseudo-historical travel show-cum-espionage hokum, but with nice period detail, that it turned out to be.

And that's not a criticism - there's room for this sort of glossy, lightweight drama, but maybe not on a Saturday night at the same time as The Killing or X Factor.

And, unlesss it's just a break for Christmas, perhaps the BBC agree, as it's been taken off after four weeks and eight episodes, but with a promise to show the remaining six episodes from January.

The situation echoes the show's status in the US: Pam Am's network ABC was thought to have axed the series due to poor ratings - it debuted to 10m but that dropped to around 4m over the weeks - and pulled it altogether after episode nine.

It's just said the final five are to be shown in January, too, but it hasn't committed to anymore episodes - althought the network has denied the show's been cancelled.

The on board drama that made episode eight feel a bit different from what had come before would likely become repetitive if it happened too often, like a Casualty in the air, but as a one-off, it made a change from the usual fare: namely, an historically-significant cocktail-party of some sort, in a capital city hotel and with a romantic or espionage subplot delivered by lightly-sketched characters in nice outfits.

Let's hope it gets picked up for more episodes (it won't).

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