was a television series which aired on ABC in the USA. It focuses on four Pan Am stewardesses (Maggie Ryan, Kate Cameron, Laura Cameron and Colette Valois) and their two regular pilots (Dean Lowery and Ted Vanderway) during the airline's height of popularity in the 1960s. Expect lots and lots of Tropes On A Plane
's The Playboy Club
and both attempting to capture the success of Mad Men
for primetime broadcast television. Neither attempt worked, though Pam Am
barely "won" the duel by lasting a whole season before being quietly canceled.
Tropes found in Pan Am:
- Affably Evil: Broyles is a smuggler who uses his personal relationship with Juan Trippe to get out of a lot of jams. That, and he is incredibly charming. He isn't an antagonist, but otherwise he fits this trope like a glove.
- All Men Are Perverts: Ted and Sanjeev both go back "to get coffee" (even though Colette just brought some) when she mentions that Kate is taking her clothes off for the entertainment of the sailors they're flying. But not to worry...
Colette: I said she was taking her clothes off, but I didn't say who was putting them on.
Dean: (Rolling his eyes) Sailors...
- The Beard: How Amanda sees Ted if they get married.
- The Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colors. Surprisingly inverted with the men on the show, for the first few episodes, at least. It seemed that whenever they talked to each other, it was always about the women. That changed in "Eastern Exposure" where a lot of their dialogue centered around how Dean was able to make flight captain despite nearly 50 first officers above him in seniority.
- Berserk Button: Colette really does not like Germany given that her entire family was killed by the Nazis. Of course, given that she's the most outwardly calm stewardess of the lot, she only shows this indirectly, such as by singing the Nazi national anthem at a party honoring US/West German partnership.
- Big Applesauce: Subverted. The crew's home base is in New York, but every episode features a flight to at least one location overseas.
- Billing Displacement: Christina Ricci, due to being the biggest star in the series, gets top billing, despite that her character, Maggie, is often sidelined or Out of Focus. The show mainly offers up an Ensemble Cast but if a main character had to be picked it would probably be Kate, whose actress, Kelli Garner, gets And Starring status.
- Black Sheep: Kate was considered to be this in her family.
- Blatant Lies: Maggie's life turns out to be pretty much built on this.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Laura (blonde), Maggie and Colette (brunettes), and Kate (redhead). Bridget initially filled the blonde role.
- Bottle Episode: Episode 8 takes place almost completely on the plane and tarmac in Haiti and the events seem to take place within roughly an hour or two, rather than several locations and a few days like most episodes.
- Break the Cutie: Colette. Just about every episode.
- City of Spies: Berlin.
- Cold War: Discussed by the various CIA and MI6 operatives Kate deals with; international flight crewmembers make great intelligence assets because their jobs provide them with built-in covers. Intercontinental flights during this era weren't exactly safe, though, and neither was spying. Bridget learns both lessons to her cost.
- Cool Big Sis: Kate to Laura.
- Cool Plane: Clipper Majestic, the Boeing 707-321 the crew routinely flies. Naming the plane is actually Truth in Television, as all Pan Am's aircraft were named Clipper—a nod to the days when the airline predominantly flew Boeing 314 "Clipper" flying boats, and the airline's "island-hopping" transoceanic routes were thus known as the Clipper Service.
- Creepy Child: Charlie has shades of this when he breaks into Colette's hotel room in the middle of the night while she's asleep and stands over her bed.
- Crew of One: Captain Lowrey and First Officer Vanderway have a heated argument on final approach to Hong Kong about the Captain's handling of the plane. While such an argument between pilots may seem like an dramatic exaggeration there is actually some truth to such a situation. In the days before such things as 'Crew Resource Management' came along in 1980s commercial Captains would often have a My Way or the Highway attitude to flying.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- Some pretty clear examples in the way the stewardesses are treated, but others include the strong taboo against interracial relationships (shown in the outcome of the public display between Laura and a black sailor) and the treatment of women's sexuality.
- A rather subtle example is how when one of the stewardesses gets married, it's presumed that she will quit (this is the reason why everyone thought Bridget quit), however no such assumption is made about the male pilots.
- Dirty Communists: The first Pan Am flight to Moscow goes pretty awry thanks to some less than hospitable KGB agents. Invoked strongly in-universe in conjunction with Red Scare, especially by the intelligence agents that Kate has contact with.
- Dirty Old Man: Captain Thornton
- Dueling Shows: With The Playboy Club. Both are considered to be knock-offs of Mad Men to boot. And this show is the big winner, as Playboy Club was cancelled after just three episodes before the show had even premiered
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Laura is set to screaming from on top of the bed in her hotel room when a lizard drops onto her from the bed canopy. Maggie picks it up and calmly puts it outside...only to join Laura on the bed when she finds a snake in the bathroom.
- Face-Heel Turn: In the series finale, Anderson betrays the CIA and MI6.
- Fake Nationality: French-Canadian Karine Vanasse as the French Colette. Also Australian Margot Robbie as Laura.
- Follow the Leader: The show was essentially Mad Men only on a plane!
- Foregone Conclusion: "New Frontiers" ends with the news that JFK has been shot, and people wondering whether he'll make it. This is arguably Truth in Television, as JFK did cling to life for a bit after the shooting.
- Four Girl Ensemble: Laura the sweet, naive one, Maggie the self-righteous one, Colette the romantic, and Kate the sensible Team Mom.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Colette (Sanguine), Maggie (Choleric), Kate (Melancholic), Laura (Phlegmatic).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
Dean Lowrey: Well, we'll try not to disappoint.
- Girl Next Door: Laura and Kate both start out as this but get plenty of Character Development over the course of the season.
- Guile Heroine: Maggie. So much.
- Almost all of Kate's schemes when her missions go awry demonstrate her ingenuity and ability to force others to do what she wants through manipulation (for instance, using a combination of eliciting sympathy and blackmail to get Anastasia and Broyles to help her when Laura and Bridget get taken by the KGB)
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Kate and Laura.
- Heel Face Door Slam: Collete does this to the entire nation of Germany: she went to Berlin to forgive the Germans for World War II, only to discover that she couldn't.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Alice Cullen plays Ted's childhood friend.
- Historical In-Joke:
- "It's Castro's country. He'll never keep it."
- "That Bob Dylan will be famous, mark my words."
- Rather more tragically: "He'll pull through. He has to."
- How We Got Here: Some episodes show the events of a single flight, mixed with flashbacks to explain how all the girls are acting.
- I Am Spartacus: The girls pull this when asked which one of them brought the Haitian girl aboard.
- Improvised Weapon: Maggie fends off a drunk and horny passenger with a carving fork when said passenger attempts to sexually assault her in the plane's galley. Complete with Bond One-Liner, "I am not included in the price of your ticket!"
- Indy Ploy: How Kate gets an East German courier whose cover has been blown to safety in "Ich Bin Ein Berliner."
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Amanda deploys an unusual variation of this trope when she asks Laura to be Ted's mistress.
- Jerk Ass: A lot of the passengers on the Caracas flight, but the guy who tries to steal his suitcase back after everyone's been ordered to lighten the plane is probably the most explicit
- The first scene we see Ted's dad in he is refusing to help his son get back into the Navy test pilot program because it would involve looking for the flaw in the plane's design Ted claims crashed the plane...which, since his company has a contract to make that plane, would cost him a lot of money.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ted and Broyles. They both become more likable the more you get to know them
- King Incognito: Prince Incognito actually.
- Landing Gear Shot: Frequently.
- Lie Detector: Kate has to pass a polygraph test to prove that she didn't shoot the man she shot in the previous episode. She passes.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Amanda, apparently.
- Local Hangout: The pilots and the stewardesses will often hang out in the empty jet.
- Love Triangle: Dean/Colette/Bridget once she returns.
- Also, Laura/Ted/Amanda.
- Both apparently resolved in the finale, at least enough to give some closure.
- Male Gaze: Inverted in 'Genuine Article'. The camera zooms in on Maggie's hip but it came from a woman's eye view.
- Military Maverick: Ted when he was in the Navy. It backfires horribly when he crashes the test plane. He claims the plan had a defect, the Navy ruled that he made an error.
- The Mole: Anderson is a Soviet double agent.
- My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Cameron (Kate and Laura's mother), along with a decent dose of Evil Matriarch. She does show a few sympathetic flashes in "We'll Always Have Paris," though.
- Overprotective Sister: Kate
- New Year Has Come: The first season finale ends with the gang watching the New York City ball drop from a nearby balcony.
- Out of Order:
- Episode four is actually episode two (it's production code is PA-102). Unfortunately the shuffle puts the launch of Mercury 9 (May 16th 1963), seen on the TV, after episode three's JFK's Berlin speech (June 26th 1963).
- Also "Romance Languages" is shown several weeks late and resolves several plot threads that were skipped over in running order (When did Laura take the nude photos? When did Ginny and Dean break up?).
- Psycho Ex: Ginny when Dean breaks up with her.
- Politically Correct History: In some ways. Although smoking was much more accepted in The Sixties (and even allowed on planes), nobody does so on screen. However when a black sailor has a budding romance with Laura in public, he gets assaulted.
- Also, no one freaks out when Maggie mentions that Amanda kissed her on the lips, in a time period where gay people were generally thought to be predatory perverts.
- Precocious Crush: Charlie on Colette in "Romance Languages".
- Product Placement: Inverted. The production company licensed the name and logo of a well-known defunct airline to promote the show. There is a 'Pan Am' surviving, though, a small railroad company in New England.
- Public Exposure: Laura admits during a game of Truth or Dare that she had the photographer that was following her around take nude photos of her.
- Ransacked Room: Kate finds her hotel room in shambles and thinks that someone was looking for the camera she's supposed to deliver. It was actually Laura and Maggie discovering that Reptiles Are Abhorrent (see above).
- Red Scare: Kate's handlers often invoke this trope.
- Refuge in Audacity:
- How Maggie gets the girls in to the reception for JFK in Berlin.
- How Kate gets the East German courier into the same party, and Collete singing the Nazi national anthem.
- Maggie's "interview" for the stewardess position.
- Romantic False Lead: Ginny for Dean, Amanda for Ted.
- Ruleof Drama: When they were trapped on the short runway in Haiti Dean could have technically turned the plane around instead of lightening the load.
- Runaway Bride: Laura, with Kate's assistance, pulls one of these, escaping what's heavily implied to be Stepford Suburbia to see the world as a stewardess.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Kate's reaction to the other courier's plight. Collete bringing the Haitian refugee aboard.
- Sexy Stewardess: Of course. Then again, for the time period it was actually an Enforced Trope - see below.
- The Sixties
- Ship Sinking: There probably won't be too many fans of Kate and Anderson since in the finale he betrayed the CIA and MI6 and threatened to kill her.
- Shotgun Wedding: Seems on the cards for Ted and Amanda.
- Shown Their Work: The stewardesses have to weigh in before each flight; girdles are mandatory, with Maggie receiving a suspension for not wearing hers.
- Spy Speak: Part of Kate's job.
- Played for Laughs in "Truth or Dare" when, while carrying a group of sailors home, one of them starts talking to her about a "traitor" and "defector." Kate, of course, assumes this is a contact and one of the others is about to defect to the Soviets, but it turns out the sailor in question is really "betraying" their noble bachelor ranks, and the "contact" wants Kate to provide the entertainment.
- State Sec: The Stasi in East Germany.
- Stepford Smiler: Collette strays into this territory when the crew is sent to Berlin, bringing back bad memories of the Nazi occupation for her.
- The Stool Pigeon: Maggie appears to rat out Dean and Ginny in order to leverage a good word to her superiors.
- Toplessness from the Back: Laura at the end of " Romance Languages."
- The Unfavorite: Kate feels like this in comparison to Laura.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Laura rejects Ted's advances in Berlin, but then starts regretting that after finding out he's not as much of a jerk as he seems and as he pursues romance with a childhood friend.
- Woman Scorned: Maggie decides to get back at Kate after she steals the guy she had her eye on.
- What Could Have Been: In-universe example. Had Ted not crashed his test plane, he could have been part of NASA instead of an airline co-pilot.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Maggie gets called out by her English professor, who has figured out that she is not who she says she is. She took the place, and name, of a student who was dropping out. She did brilliantly, but he couldn't give her the grade she earned because she wasn't even his student.
- Maggie gets called out again by Colette for ratting out Dean and Ginny's affair to his superior.
- Where Da White Women At?: Laura and Joe (played by Gaius Charles).
- Will They or Won't They?: Colette and Dean, Ted and Laura
- X Meets Y: This show can be described as Mad Men on a plane!
- Your Cheating Heart: Colette is horrified to learn that a man she hooked up with is married and he, his wife and son are aboard a flight she's working.
- Meanwhile, the pilot has no qualms about sleeping with his boss's "secretary" (read: mistress) on more than one occasion.
- Dean cheats on Colette by sleeping with Bridget when she returns.