... “Pan Am” romanticizes the past, whereas “Mad Men,” on AMC, takes pleasure in slyly mocking antiquated mores ...
“Pan Am” takes place in New York, Paris and London, and practically every scene is shot in lush, golden light. The series is a paean to a more prosperous and confident era; even an airline terminal looks like a movie dream sequence about 1960s heaven. [It really does.]
If only for the costumes and ’60s music, “Pan Am” is amusing to see at least once, but if it has any instructive benefit at all, it’s as a mood indicator for these times, not those. There have been plenty of series set in earlier times — “That ’70s Show” was set in the Carter administration, “M*A*S*H” took place during the Korean War. But usually period shows pick through the past to meditate on the present, whether it’s examining generational rites of passage or critiquing the Vietnam War at a safe remove.
“Pan Am” doesn’t say much of anything about the current state of the nation except that our best days are behind us.
Expect that to be a recurring theme this decade (and beyond?).