One of the most eagerly anticipated series of 2022 finally arrives today, Wednesday, February 2, Disney+ premieres the alluring Pam & Tommy. After so many comebacks, reboots, revivals, sequels and prequels, the drama based on real events promises to delight all those who spent the 90’s glued to our TV’s and made Baywatch the biggest hit shows of that era.
Pamela Anderson was the undisputed star of the small screen, a modern-day Marilyn Monroe, only wilder but with that same sweet, smalltown-girl essence. She was one of the first celebrities to wear her surgically implanted chest proudly and ticked all the boxes for the American dream; successful thanks to an explosive physique. But rather than acting solely as the poster child for the United States, she represented an entire era.
“Pam” was everywhere , at every gas station, on posters at every bus stop, pizzas, magazine covers, in any country you went to… and her stormy relationship with Tommy Lee became a reflection of an entire society and its culture.
The eight-part miniseries Pam & Tommy narrates all this, with the first three episodes premiering simultaneously and then with a new episode each week after that, in what can be best described as addictive, and compelling viewing for the irrationality of the tale, the delirious lives of the couple, the music that surrounded them, their seductive physiques and the captivating sex tape that overshadows it all. But the truly fascinating aspect to the whole tale is its portrayal of an entire generation as innocent as it is guilty of our present.
Under the (ephemeral) spell of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee
One of the first successes of the show was getting the character of Pamela Anderson right, especially in terms of nailing Anderson’s seductive charm she sparked wherever she went. Ever since the stadium camera at a football game panned towards the young actress, and her image was shown on the big screen at the stadium, she has continued to mesmerize audiences throughout her life. And this is something the production also manages.
The first episode serves both as a statement of intent as well as a warning, whether she appears too much or too little, Pamela will be spell-binding every time she does. Which is what happened to Tommy Lee when he proposed to her just 96 hours after meeting her for the first time, in a hurricane of delirium, drugs, alcohol and fancy we know as Hollywood stardom.
A relationship that was doomed before it ever began, but then, who wouldn’t get hooked on a story when you know it’s all going to end in tears? And this attraction keeps audiences glued to the screens, watching the sexually charged train wreck they both conjured up. A relationship we now understand as unhealthy, obsessive and destructive, but back then, was cause for great envy. It was synonymous with living on the edge and the realization of every star’s dream.
The series captures all this in stellar fashion: protagonists capable of settling for physical attraction to believe they had met the love of their lives. It didn’t matter that they knew nothing about one another, if they were handsome, rich and were even remotely adept at sucking each other’s faces off… what could possibly go wrong?. But this was back in the age of supermodels, Pretty Woman, Baywatch… and low and behold, Pam & Tommy became the poster children for addicts to 90’s superficiality.
Unhinged scene with a welcome surprise
As I said at the beginning, Pam & Tommy is a breath of fresh air among the endless headlines telling tales we’ve already heard a thousand times, but it’s even more surprising when we discover a scene we’ve rarely (if ever) seen before.
After his first sexual encounter with our protagonist, the Mötley Crüe drummer engages in some honest-to-goodness, sincere dialogue with his penis. Sebastian Stan, who plays Tommy, communes with his member, which answers him in a deliriously unhinged scene that perfectly conveys the character’s state of emotional and drug-addicted intoxication.
While provoking hilarity, this original moment should also be applauded for still having the clout to astonish veteran audiences who’ve seen pretty much everything, or at least thought they had.
Characterization, the shows third cornerstone
Finally, another highlight here is the amazing characterization of Lily James and Sebastian Stan, definitively the show’s third carrot on a stick (and no less important) that makes it one of this year’s most coveted productions.
Seeing both actors as Pamela and Tommy borders on the salacious and you could pause on any number of close-up shots of either, torn between whether you’re looking at the actual, real-life celebrities, or the actors. Every word voiced, every gesture, every tick perfectly rounds off an almost identical interpretation of the originals.
In summary, between the characters of Pamela and Tommy, their context and characterization, this show is guaranteed to become one of February’s most entertaining releases for watchers everywhere.