Welcome to another edition of The Scotch Soaked 60s, featuring the time when sexy women worked demanding jobs in constrictive uniforms. The good old days, amirite?
This week's episodes:
Pan Am - "Pilot" (hahaha...funny! No? Just me?)
The Playboy Club - "Scarlet Bunny" (Hawthorne would not have enjoyed that)
Let's start with Pan Am...
Ah, this hearkens back to the dream of airline travel when people actually dressed up to look good on flights. It is with this motif that I recap the brand-new production-heavy, very expensive new ABC series.
The series premise is simple: focus on a core group of air hostesses (I hate the term “stewardess”) who seem to work the trans-Atlantic route quite a bit during the series. We have Maggie, a “purser” (whatever that means), played by the series’ one bona fide star, Christina Ricci. She’s a beatnik type living in Greenwich Village who appears to be the one distaff crew member. We have sisters Laura and Kate. Laura is brand-new to the airline industry but so easily enchants people that a Life magazine cover story ran a picture of her on her way out of the Pan Am building one day. Sister Kate is jealous, since she liberated Laura from an impending doom of a wedding and secretly moonlights for the CIA and/or MI6. The charming French flight attendant Collette’s defining trait so far (other than her nationality) is her affair with a married businessman. And there’s the mysterious Brit Bridget (not Jones), who curiously quits one day, but not before hooking Kate up with the MI6 beforehand. There are a number of good-looking male pilots around, but so far they all look like Ken dolls, and are not particularly memorable other than looking good in uniform, and even then, the women carry the day.
So, how do we know that Maggie is a beatnik? Simple: because she’s first shown in her Greenwich flat wearing all black and correcting a fellow beatnik on the difference between Marx and Hegel, that’s how. She’s been grounded for bending regulations – that means refusing to wear a girdle – and appears to be surprised that she got a call to fill in on the MIA Bridget before the maiden voyage of a snazzy new craft in the fleet.
By the way, pay attention to the hair. The time difference in terms of story continuity between Maggie’s phone call and her flight was an hour. Somehow I don’t think she could make it from Greenwich Village to JFK and stop for a haircut along the way. Continuity errors already, in the pilot? There should be a whole post dedicated to that.
Look at the shot of Maggie just an hour later, with Laura on her own maiden voyage:
Regardless of whether you’re a moneyed Connecticut socialite or a Beatnik intellectual, the Pan Am uniform was the great equalizer. Where else in the 1960s would Maggie and Laura have anything in common, really? (One also gets the feeling that Maggie’s background is just window dressing, and that we will never hear her quote Ayn Rand or Simone de Beauvoir for the duration of the series. Sadness.)
Flashback time! Laura was on her way to getting married but it was clearly to appease her mother. So when Kate shows up at the wedding, all hell breaks loose and Laura is liberated. Look at Mommy Dearest's outfit: nothing says raging bitch like dark purple eyeshadow matching the dark purple outfit. When a character on a TV series matches her makeup to the exact shade of her outfit, you know that character is evil.
Mind you, the producers decided to go heavy-handed with this by putting the innocent Laura in a structured, constricting wedding dress, while Kate was in a fiery red frock. Symbolism much? “What do you want to do with your life???” she asks of Laura. If we were to judge dialogue according to the subtleties of “Mad Men”, one clearly understands that this was written by someone who grew up with a lot of Oprah and not enough Dinah Shore: it’s anachronistic. So anyway, Laura runs out on her wedding and Kate takes her on a drive. She joins Pan Am as an air hostess. Let’s contrast this with the opening scene. Laura’s liberation is ironically edited because the first shot we see of her is at her weigh-in – yes, a weigh-in - when a minder slapped her bum to check that she was wearing a girdle and admonished her for having a run in her stocking. Touche.
There’s also a flashback to Bridget, the one character we never see in full uniform but who just looks stunning. I mean, look at the back of this outfit she wears in Rome: look at it.
While it’s tempting to think that the outfit would sprout wings and fly away, leaving her stark naked, it’s quite simply an absolute knockout of an outfit. Give the designer an Emmy. NOW. It’s also entirely appropriate for me to showcase her back because she’s so mysterious and quite frankly, the outfit is a stunner from this angle.
The remainder of the pilot is cryptic and leaves a lot of unanswered questions, presumably to keep us coming back for more. But what we wanted were more of the civilian outfits and less of the iconic blue air hostess uniforms. We do get to see them in fabulous outfits when they arrive in London and have a post-flight drink.
Let’s also discuss characters whose hair matches their exact outfits, as well. This lovely lady (whose name I can’t be bothered to remember out of sheer boredom for her character) matches her hair to her wardrobe. Funny how when characters dress out of their workday uniforms, they like to colour-coordinate so that we can tell them apart.
It’s too bad that her brooch disagrees. Despite her winning smile and perfect teeth (the dental work on this series is immaculate), that pendant is clearly frowning. Pout. If that were an insect, it’d claw all over her face trying to rip out this girl’s weave and demanding punk rock highlights. But London wouldn’t get into the great rock n’ roll swindle for another 14 years, so the safety pins would have to wait.
Next week, hopefully there will be more civilian outfits! This is the true glamour of that age: you didn’t put on a pair of jeans when it’s casual, you actually put on an outfit to make yourself stand out, not blend in. Plus, I’m looking forward to nattily dressed passengers, such as this woman whose husband has been sleeping with Collette, unbeknownst to our little French pastry, of course.
The more matching hats with coats, the better. Bon Voyage, Pan Am!
Meanwhile, on the ground...
In this week’s Playboy Club, we discover the following:
- Nick has designs on becoming state attorney;
- Sean’s parents are pressuring him and Alice to have a baby;
- Sean has political aspirations and all but blackmailed Nick into hiring him as his media consultant (if that was the term for it back in the 1960s);
- Brenda has a secret box into which she puts her savings, trying to save up for real estate; and
- Maureen seems to walk around with a choked expression on her face all the time.
“The Scarlett Bunny” centers on Hef’s bid to find a new Playboy cover girl, and naturally several of the Bunnies have been lining up for that cover, as a unifying theme. Janie’s horrified because it turns out she’s married to “a crazy guy” and cannot be the cover girl because he has a subscription to Playboy.
Two episodes in, I’m wondering if the fashion recaps will be all about Laura Benanti as Bunny Mother Carol Lynne. So to that end, let’s recap her outfits over the trajectory of the show.
First seen cascading down the stairs is this polka-dotted top with matching pencil skirt. Evidently, she’s going for that upside-down exclamation point look, the one that frames exclamations in Spanish. Regardless, it’s a great day-to-night look for her.
Carol Lynne, however, doesn’t always get “night to day” quite right, as her outfit when she issues new training manuals to sleeping Bunnies getting up for the day is too dressy for lunch:
I am aware that there are keys throughout the episode, but did she really have to wear a brooch in a shape that vaguely recalls one? Notice the ironic position NOT over her heart, and her throwing down every time that Nick comes within breathing distance of Maureen, and you just know she’s that obviously hurting to give him the key to her heart. Awwwww.
Although upon further inspection, it’s actually a tassel.
SHE’S WEARING A PASTY AND ATTACHING IT TO HER OUTFIT, PEOPLE! BAD ACCESSORIZING. I know she just got made Bunny Mother or the Lizard Queen (Simpsons reference #1!!!) or something, and is proud of being a former Bunny, but the tassel is about as obvious an homage to her former position as if she cut her bunny ears and made one of those into a brooch instead (which sounds AWESOME, by the way). I must say, however, that the peek-a-boo cutout and architectural design of the dress blows me away.
Also, it would hurt me less if she stopped looking at Nick like this:
Honey, I know: you have been forced into Chinese mall shower curtains masquerading as a scoop-neck dress. If she’s going for that material, she should go all the way with the collar and wear cheongsams like Maggie Cheung does in In the Mood for Love. Did you ever see that? If no, why not?
Oh yes, more on Carol Lynne. Here’s her smashing ensemble when she announces the Bunny girl cover story competition finalists, which is a much smarter day outfit than the black architectural wonder with the runaway pasty:
Also, she sucks in her cheeks a lot. I am guessing that when Laura Benanti eventually realizes she’s better off back on Broadway than this rather limp drama series, she’ll loosen her facial muscles and belt out Mama Rose’s numbers in Gypsy like there’s no tomorrow. I bet she’ll get another Tony for it: yes, this show has some pedigree, as Benanti is actually a quarter of the way to EGOT, having won a Tony for – wait for it – Gypsy in 2008. (Sorry, but if she wants the “E” next, she should really escape from this set and run to “Mad Men” while in full costume.)
Meanwhile, Sean and Alice are having an awkward dinner with his parents, who are pressuring them to make babies. There’s a scheduling conflict because Alice has to work that night and – oops! – they can’t find out that she’s not a homemaker but a Playboy Bunny (leaving the Sapphic tendencies aside). Alice is suitably stern when Sean not only tells her they’re coming over, but that she’s making chicken kiev. I can’t tell if she’s more perturbed by their presence or the choice of entrée she is forced to make:
Kudos to Alice, by the way, for giving excellent bitchface to her bitch husband, who you just know dreams of singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK while Alice is at work. But why her outfit is cut from what appears to be their sham family’s tablecloth is beyond me. (Again: look into cheongsams.)
And the hunt for the Bunny cover girl is on. Clearly, Janie is out to be as unsexy as possible, leading her to this choice of high-waisted golf pants that even a self-respecting lesbian like Alice would sniff at:
Here’s a panorama of the girls in street apparel:
Sorry Alice, but no more matching your outfit with your hair, OK? But the patterned skirt is to kill for. Maureen is in one of the only scenes where she’s out of costume and goes for a smart Brigitte Bardot look: very fresh, very clean, and totally unlike her glamourous persona. This is a girl who knows she can rock any look without turning them into golf pants. I must say that poor Brenda’s red ensemble looks like it’s made from a lesser fabric and I can’t tell if that’s the light hitting it wrong, but it is not flattering the otherwise lovely Naturi Naughton. Tell her to look into pants, but not golf ones.
Thankfully, despite the lack of facial expression Carol Lynne has throughout the episode, she is finally at long last allowed to smile big just once, at the end, when she’s out to dinner with Nick:
I have a feeling that her outfits match her moods. The polka dot indicated that an alarming situation was about to happen. The tasseled nightmare portended her giving new training manuals out to the Bunnies. The red-and-white number was purely business. The golden shower curtain was for a moment when she’s not at her best emotionally or physically (which could have been cured had she just gone for dim sum). So when I saw this shimmery sheath with the jewelry draped around her like a regal Egyptian figure-skating queen (cf. world champion Miki Ando at the 2010 Olympics, it’s on YouTube), I knew she felt regal, powerful and ready to smile. And they do look happy together. So the rule of thumb for all of Laura Benanti’s wardrobe in any scene is that her outfit matches Bunny Lizard Queen Mother’s mood on the show. And with that rule in mind, enjoy next week’s episode!
But first, how did you like this week's episodes?