FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE PAM & TOMMY, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
When the first set of photos of Pam & Tommy came out, my initial reaction to them was astonishment and disbelief. Is that REALLY Lily James and Sebastian Stan!? How could that possibly be? Once it settled in that these two incredible performers were taking on these roles… and they looked THAT authentic; my anticipation for this limited series skyrocketed. It also helped that Craig Gillespie (who directed Cruella, I Tonya, and multiple episodes of one of my favorite new series of last year Apple TV+’s Physical) was involved in developing the series.
WHAT IS PAM & TOMMY ALL ABOUT?
Set in the early days of the Internet, Pam & Tommy is based on the incredible true story of the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor, the video went from underground bootleg-VHS curiosity to full-blown global sensation when it hit the Web in 1997. A love story, crime caper, and cautionary tale rolled into one, the eight-part original limited series explores the intersection of privacy, technology, and celebrity, tracing the origins of our current Reality TV Era to a stolen tape seen by millions but meant to have an audience of just two.
8 HOURS!? TO TELL THIS STORY!?
Now Pam & Tommy has finally graced our screens and after watching all eight episodes… I can say that all I can feel, is underwhelmed. After the first initial shock and awe of seeing Stan and James as these iconic stars wear off in the first episode, you’re left with another seven hours of well-made, yet blasé material. That leaves me with my biggest qualm of this limited series… who thought that this story, constituted eight hours of television? There is no reason that Pam & Tommy needed to be this long. If the writers had taken all of the real meat of this true-life tale and reigned it into three or four episodes… they would’ve had a tight and wholly entertaining hit on their hands. As is, the series is wildly inconsistent… with some moments being totally absorbing, while others are monotonous and throw-away.
HOW IS PAMELA ANDERSON PORTRAYED?
It also doesn’t help that all of the men in the show (which make up nearly all of the characters) are completely unlikeable, but we pretty much knew that would be the case going into Pam & Tommy. While I don’t mind entertainment that follows anti-heroes, there is just so much foul and debaucherous behavior going on here, that it gets tiring trying to care for any one of the many characters that we’re following… besides one.
The show does succeed, especially in its latter batch of episodes, in humanizing Pamela Anderson and elevating her beyond the stupid, dumb blond caricature that was bestowed upon her by the media. We really get to see a whole other side to this woman, whose dreams and aspirations were put on hold against her will because of this sex tape. And how it will haunt her for the rest of her life. There’s always so much more to a person than what meets the eye… and if Pam & Tommy gets anything right, it’s to show how unfairly judged this ambitious starlet was.
GET TO THE GOOD PART… HOW ARE LILY JAMES AND SEBASTIAN STAN!?
Another thing it gets oh so right… is its casting of Stan and James, who are both transformative in these roles. There is no doubt in my mind that they will have golden statues thrown at them left and right for their work here and deservedly so. While the make-up, costume, and hairstyling departments all had an incredible role to play in making these performers look as veritable as they are… it’s the two performers who take it all the way. They completely lose themselves to become Pam & Tommy. They seem to fully understand these two people (who on the outside seem simple to play, but are really far more complicated). It also helps that they look like they are having a blast chewing the scenery, so in turn, it is an absolute blast to watch them.
As far as the supporting players like Seth Rogen, Fred Herschinger, Taylor Schilling, and Nick Offerman are concerned… everyone is fine, but they are really all just background noise surrounding our two leads. Any time these actors were on screen, I was pretty much just counting the minutes down until James and/or Stan were back in our graces.
DOES THIS END UP FEELING LIKE A LIFETIME MOVIE?
But, despite their astonishing efforts… they are let down by their writers. It’s quite obvious that showrunner Robert Siegel who wrote The Founder and The Wrestler, along with his crew, have no idea what they actually want Pam & Tommy to be. One moment the show is a serious character-driven crime drama, then it’s a fun & nostalgic trip back to the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll of the early nineties, then all of a sudden it feels like a melodramatic, cheesy Lifetime movie… then it switches gears again and devolves into a raunchy comedy where Sebastian Stan has a full-on conversation with his animatronic hard-on. You honestly, will probably get whiplash from how unfocused and all over the place this limited series is.
IS PAM & TOMMY WORTH A SLIGHT RECOMMENDATION?
Unfortunately, because of this, I had a really hard time sitting back and just enjoying Pam & Tommy for what it is (or I suppose, what it should have been). This really should have just had a razor-sharp focus on these two, their relationship, and the unfolding events after the release of the infamous sex tape. And even though we do get that, and those scenes are the most gripping and entertaining… the rest of the material (which makes up most of the show) is just unnecessary filler.
We came here for a show about Pam & Tommy! Not the schlub (Sorry Seth Rogen) who stole the tape and is now some recluse selling weed in California. Even so, as much as I believe this show squandered its potential and is an overall disappointing experience… I still must very slightly recommend it, only for Sebastian Stan and Lily James. They single-handedly saved this ship from sinking completely.
The first three episodes premiere on HULU Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022.
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