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Uplift bras can't make Pan Am fly

PAN AM touches down leaving vapour trails of hype in its wake. The series has been heralded with comparisons to the brilliant Mad Men. You can understand why.

Both share an era, the early 1960s, a pre-Ryanair time when flying was still regarded as an exciting and exclusive way to travel, and pilots and air hostesses were the most glamorous people in the world next to Hollywood movie stars.

This, though, is where the comparisons end.

While Mad Men uses its distinctive setting to get under the clothes and skin of its complex and nuanced characters, Pan Am is all style and no substance: a glossy game of dressing-up peopled by cardboard characters.

The nominal star is Christina Ricci as Maggie, a bit of a renegade among air hostesses.

She shares a Greenwich Village apartment with an idealistic writer called Sam, who ridicules her job, leading to some painfully clunky dialogue exchanges.

"I get to the see the world, when was the last time you left the Village?" she yells at him. "You don't need to see the world to change it," he barks back. Ouch!

Maggie is suspended for breaking the Pan Am dress code by not wearing a girdle but quickly called back into service when a colleague, Bridget, fails to turn up for the maiden flight of the airline's new Boeing 707 Clipper Majestic.

We're then introduced, via a series of clumsy flashbacks, to the other characters.

Bridget was engaged to cocky captain Dean but went Awol when the crew had to hightail it out of Cuba as the Bay of Pigs erupted. Incidentally, one of the criticisms levelled at Pan Am in America has been the way it awkwardly shoehorns historical events into the storyline.

New arrival Laura, who did a runner on her wedding day, has put the other hostesses' noses out of joint by appearing on the cover of Life magazine as the face of Pan Am.

In a ridiculous subplot, Laura's older sister Kate has been recruited by US intelligence to ferry top secret information around the world.

What's more, as we discover near the end, the missing Bridget -- who's alive and well and in London -- was her predecessor.

Pan Am looks terrific but is pure tosh.

It takes more than tight skirts and uplift bras to make a series fly, and this first episode never really got off the ground.

Oddly, one thing it doesn't share with Mad Men is a cigarette.

Not a single character smokes, which is ironic for those of us who remember the days when airline pilots were used in campaigns to advertise Rothmans.

There are two reasons for the fuss surrounding Threesome: the fact that it's the first original sitcom commissioned by Comedy Central's UK arm, and the fact that every newspaper in the country, including this one (what's wrong with that? -ed.) went big on star Amy Huberman supposedly engaging in some raunchy sex scenes.

Raunchy? Unless you count a little three-way tonguing, raunch was pretty thin on the ground in Threesome. So were the jokes.

Amy plays Alice, who's just hit 30 and is feeling her age.

After a drunken night out with her boyfriend Mitch and their gay flatmate Richie, she decides she needs something to make her feel "less old, less boring, less 30".

That something is a three-in-a-bed romp, from which the viewer is tastefully excluded.

Alice discovers she's pregnant and decides to have an abortion.

But when Mitch, who's enthusiastically trying to become a sperm donor, learns that he's infertile and Richie is the baby's father, the three decide to have a go at raising the kid between them.

Shot in the frenzied manner of an American sitcom and featuring hyperactive Amy and her co-stars it's certainly an interesting departure for the Irish actress.

She is the best thing about the comedy and her acting talent shines through.

On the whole Threesome is high on energy but patchy on laughs.

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