Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
The fact that ABC’s new drama Pan Am is set during the golden age of passenger air travel is set, like NBC’s Playboy Club, in the 1960s continues to bring charges that the networks are hellbent on capitalizing on the zeitgeist created by AMC’s Mad Men. But veteran producer-director Thomas Schlamme, a director and exec producer on Pan Am, told a roomful of critics this morning at TCA that Mad Men really has nothing to do with broadcast’s sudden fascination with ’60s culture and that it’s honestly coincidental. “I think television is just execution,” Schlamme said. “It’s not the time period it takes place in. … It really is just execution. So all I can say is (this show) really has nothing to do with Mad Men. It just has to do with the fact our show, we hope, will be executed in a wonderful way and have a sort of wish fulfillment that will bring us a large audience.”
Schlamme continued, “I think we’re all fans of Mad Men. But literally one has almost nothing to do with the other — as well as shows I’ve done in the past had nothing to do with other shows that may have been successful or not successful. It happens that it’s set in the ’60s. It’s a great time period. I hope there are shows that start to be set in the ’70s and ’80s and whenever else we can celebrate stories.” The Pan Am cast and producers also addressed several questions about the sexist and misogynistic aspects of the series as a mirror of the era, which manifest itself in the pilot with the stewardesses subjected to girdle checks and weigh-ins. “That’s a good reason to set a show in the ’60s,” Schlamme pointed out. “Was it misogynistic? Were women this, were women that? That’s great drama right there.”
The panel also covered the fact that new male lead Mike Vogel (the role was recast after the pilot) is in fact a real private pilot, which he called “one of the huge draws for me” in getting cast on the show. “In the cockpit, we have business we can do and it’s authentic business. Added Schlamme: “The good news is we hired a real pilot who knows what he’s doing. The bad news is we hired a real pilot who knows what he’s doing.”