Pam & Tommy : Season 1, Episodes 1–3
Might contain spoilers.
Sleazy and salacious. I expected something interesting and interested in Pamela Anderson’s perspective, but she’s hardly even in the first episode aside from a meaningful excerpt from a typical, disgusting interview that’s supposed to show us she’s more than just a sex symbol. I don’t buy that this story is anything but exploitative.
Sebastian Stan is unexpectedly and delightfully transcendent as Tommy Lee. His performance reminds me a bit of Barney from How I Met Your Mother: a wholehearted, fearless portrayal of a repulsive character, but packed with charisma, charm, and magnetism. He obviously lacks the bass voice, but I’m impressed by the low undertones he wields to capture its essence. Lily James isn’t bad as Pamela Anderson, with a shockingly good approximation of her physicality thanks to makeup and prosthetics, but her performance isn’t of the same calibre.
I’ve always been ambivalent about Seth Rogen—I find him a little irritating as a person, I like him in some movies, I find him annoying in others, and I detest his ultraviolent, ultra-American sensibilities as a producer—but this… well, Rand is bad. It speaks volumes of the show that the focus of at least the first two episodes is the unpleasant, mundane, faux-spiritual man with a Freudian excuse who took revenge on Tommy Lee by stealing from him and then selling Pamela Anderson’s sex life without her consent. Every scene with him is boring, uninteresting, and unpleasant.
I will say that I really like Taylor Schilling here—though Rand and Erica’s story is told in an unnecessarily confusing fashion—and I enjoyed the misdirection when Rand is watching porn, sees his own face in the television, and goes to the computer with purpose only to look up plumbing supplies.
I did enjoy the nostalgia, with the old computers, old monitors, Windows 95, AltaVista, and so on. Tommy Lee talking to his animated penis as voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, on the other hand, is… strange, and the bending made me wince. On the whole, I mostly agree with PopMatters’s review:
The lingering camera shots of Anderson’s breasts and Lee’s penis reveal the show’s obsession with their bodies and sexuality (not unlike that of the tabloids in the ’90s).
Pam & Tommy also wastes time humanizing a character that didn’t need to be humanized: Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen). Gauthier, an electrician who worked at Lee’s Malibu mansion, stole and released the tape after Lee abruptly fired him without pay.
Despite such alleged good intentions, the act of reclaiming a narrative that does not want to be reclaimed in the first place comes across as patronizing and presumptuous. And much like the tape, Pam & Tommy is profiting off Anderson’s private life without her consent.
It’s hard to believe this is the work of the famed director of I, Tonya whom I’ve heard so much about. Or that this is supposed to be a ‘transformative’ and ‘empathetic’ tale. Perhaps it spends time building everything up only to break it down later; I don’t care. If the point is to make the viewer realize they’re complicit in violating Pamela Anderson’s bodily autonomy, then I simply refuse to be complicit by watching more. The cinematography is repetitive and unimaginative, too; I grew extremely tired of the constant push-ins and the jarring cuts to very slightly different shots.