Pan Am TV Poster Image

Pan Am

Nostalgic take on air travel plays like schmaltzy melodrama.
  • Network: ABC
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show's overall feel is nostalgic and rather sunny for a time when we traveled with service and style. But many scenes reflect the blatant sexism of the time, almost with fondness. Flight attendants (who are, of course, called "stewardesses" here) must weigh in for work, get slapped on the bottom, are told to move their "fanny," etc., which chips away at their perceived independence.

Positive role models

The female characters are called "a new breed of woman" for the era, as they travel the world independently and make their own money. They are worldly and multilingual, and, in general, don't want to be married. But the women must also conform to rigid physical beauty standards (weight, hairstyle, dress), and there's zero racial diversity to speak of. The Pan Am "cover girl" is blonde, blue-eyed, and slender.


Some tension and peril; one of the main characters stabs a male passenger with a cocktail pick when he comes on too strong.


Some kissing, making out, and simulated sex (shoulders, etc. shown while characters are in ed). Many liasions/affairs, including between characters who are involved with/married to others. Also lots of flirtatious talk.


Words like "damn" and "hell" pop up. Also body-part terms like "fanny."


Pan Am is no longer functional as an airline, but its logo is everywhere in the show.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The airplane itself is stocked with a full, visible bar, allowing passengers to drink martinis and the like in flight. After hours, the crew regularly meets for drinks, etc.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are some iffy messages here about sexism, thanks to the show's overly sunny and nostalgic tone. Female characters are portrayed as independent but must meet strict physical beauty standards (including regular weigh-ins); they also endure other sexist treatment from male (and a few female) colleagues that just wouldn't fly (pun intended) today. Social drinking is somewhat glamorized, too, and there's some light sexual content (mostly kissing) along with low-level language ("damn," "hell," etc.). The espionage subplot results in some tension and peril.

What's the story?

Set in the early 1960s, PAN AM chronicles the glamorous lives of stewardesses and pilots of "the jet age," a time when air travel was luxurious and exclusive. The Pan Am crew includes Maggie (Christina Ricci), a rule-skirting beatnik who loves seeing the world; Laura (Margot Robbie), a blonde beauty who's running away from others' expectations; and Laura's older sister, Kate (Kelli Garner), who pulls double duty as an international agent for the CIA.

Is it any good?


For a while, Mad Men was the only TV show capitalizing on the look and feel of the 1960s, and it did so with sleek sophistication and a devilish wink. But in light of its success (and multiple Emmy Awards), other lookalikes began to emerge, including The Playboy Club and Pan Am. The only thing the three series really have in common, however, is their time period. Because the truth is, each show's attitude and approach is entirely different.

With a sweeping soundtrack and dreamy shots of sun-streaked skies, Pan Am takes the clear position that the 1960s was a golden era -- a time when air travel was still stylish and glamorous, before passengers were cranky and cramped. It was also a time when women were still expected to look and act a certain way, and these characters are all too happy to conform -- in a near-Stepford Wives fashion -- in exchange for the freedom of seeing the world. But instead of acknowledging and exploring that intriguing slice of women's social history, the series simply glosses over it with broad, sappy strokes.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sexism and the way that women are portrayed on the show. What role does gender play in these characters' lives? Who generally seems to be in charge, and who's generally taking care of others -- or taking orders? How have society's views about women's roles changed since the 1960s?

  • Would you consider the show's female characters to be "empowered," in spite of the era's blatant sexism? How were these women more independent than other women of the same period? How are they less independent than working women today?

  • In terms of consumerism, how does this show help promote a brand that no longer flies? Does Pan Am stand to gain -- or lose -- from the show's success?



TV details

Premiere date:September 25, 2011
Cast:Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Mike Vogel
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:Streaming

This review of Pan Am was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Mad Men TV Poster Image
    Ads and anxiety in 1960s office drama for adults.
  • The Playboy Club TV Poster Image
    Branded retro drama connects sex, money, and "girl" power.
  • That '70s Show TV Poster Image
    Edgy sitcom keeps the '70s alive for older teens.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 16 years old Written byThat16yrold December 4, 2011

Too Much Sex in Recent Episodes - But Still Great Strong Women

I thought it was a wonderful time piece about strong women that stood up to make something of themselves before most women had the chance. But, it was only great until recently. Until the...5th (?) episode and beyond, it was great. Minimal cursing, next to no sex (only talk about Collette's affair with a passenger.) But Kate of course got promoted and had to sleep with a man for secrets. Then the characters starting bouncing off the walls doing it. The CIA courier plot is getting dull. Though, for any girl who does want to see the episodes without the sex (first 4 I believe are free of any) they will no doubt be empowered by seeing the flight attendants pursuing their independent lives as women in the early 60's. The best of the series so far is episode 4, "Ich Bin Ein Berliner." The women risk their lives to help someone keep theirs. Watch that one, but not the rest after.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bydiet dr. pepeer October 10, 2011

realy good

i am a man who cant understand why CMS gave this show a two star rating when i have been watching it for the past three weeks and i love it so far and like i said i am a man so i guess some like good tv and some dont
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written byCriminal_Minds September 26, 2011

It's worth watching!

I thought this show is very good. Sure, the passengers have some drinks here or there, and there are some sexual themes(like the women have to look their best, affairs, etc). It does show that for the 60's, woman could be strong and independent, unlike the show, The Playboy Club, which uses women as sex objects, which got a better rating than Pan Am. Really? I think it's iffy for 13 and under, but 14+ can handle it.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking