Not one for the long haul


Last updated 09:29 01/12/2012

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There's nothing like a new series to whet the appetite.

Mrs Brown's Boys is an outstanding example, so you can never be sure what hidden gems are likely to be unveiled. Sadly, that's not the case with TV One's new series Pan Am (Saturday 9.35pm).

There was a clue, with TVNZ wheeling out the latest addition at the beginning of summer - a time when viewer numbers drop markedly. But I was intrigued by the setting, of having the Pan Am airline, and the hostesses in particular, as the focus of the series, circa 1960s.

My wife and I have many memories of Pan Am, having flown to the United States with them in the 1980s. Some of the memories were good ones, like the food, the service and the American hospitality, which, done well, results in amazing service.

But there were the down sides as well. Mrs B is a nervous passenger at the best of times, and those early flights were a bit of an ordeal for her. Mind you, a couple of double brandies, purely medicinal of course, did help - especially when taken hourly.

Our relationship with the airline, infrequent as it was, was tested by watching a strike at Los Angeles outside the Pan Am terminal, with a pilot or two holding up placards that read "Safety before Profits!"

That didn't help much, and in 1991 the airline closed forever. Still, it did have its glory days and for years was the biggest airline in the US. It also lasted longer than the television series Pan Am TVNZ bought and is now showing. That premiered in the States in September last year and ran until February, when it was cancelled.

You could see why. It starts, and ends, with four or five Pan Am hosties walking almost robotically through a busy terminal, before an admiring audience, who part like the Red Sea to allow them to stride majestically through. They are all beautiful, thin, beam a lot and have a lot of casual sex during layovers, which is presumably how that got its name.

In the first episode, we find out one of them, Kate, has been recruited by the CIA and MI6, to help fight the Cold War. She suffers from an inferiority complex because of her (more) beautiful sister Laura, who is so much better at everything. When Kate realises she is a natural spy, her self-esteem goes up dramatically. (And they still cancelled the show?)

Laura is the cover girl on Life magazine as one of the new breed of Pan Am hosties ushering in the glamorous new world of commercial jet travel. In one of her many flashbacks, we find Laura was to get married but, minutes before the ceremony is to start, she slumps to the floor sobbing.

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You'd never guess it, but she can't go through with it. Bridesmaid and sister Kate knows Mom won't listen, so the two plan a daring escape in a convertible car and race off looking very much like Thelma and Louise. Laura, as we already knew, decides to join Pan Am to see the world.

Then there's Collette, who falls in love with a passenger and, when their keys go into the locks of their conveniently adjoining rooms, it's love at first click. Minutes later they are madly at it, declaring their undying love for each other - she is French - until they meet on a later flight and he has his wife and son with him. Oops!

There's more of this rubbish, but my favourite scene is when pilot Dean declares his love for purser Bridget in the middle of an emergency evacuation from Cuba, surrounded by gun-toting Castro types who would rather shoot both of them.

She is running late for the plane, which should have taken off, but pilot Dean wouldn't allow it. She arrives in a jeep and Dean growls lovingly at her "You're always disappearing on me."

"I always come back," she breathlessly replies.

Dean decides that's enough foreplay. "Will you marry me?"

She won't, or rather can't, for unexplained reasons. That's despite Dean giving her his Pan Am wings insignia in lieu of an engagement ring. Remember, all this is happening on the tarmac or getting into the jet in the middle of an international crisis.

Later we find out that Bridget had to say no because she was a spy. Bit like being married to the CIA and MI6, I suppose. It was only when she resigned from Pan Am that the aforementioned spy agencies asked Kate to be her replacement. And they cancelled the show?

For the record, Mrs B lasted just 14 minutes and said "this is rubbish" before retiring for the night.

- Taranaki Daily News

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