Fall TV

‘Pan Am’ vs. ‘The Playboy Club’: Sixties Showdown

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The casts of "Pan Am" and "The Playboy Club" (Bob D'Amico/ABC, John Russo/NBC)

(Television Without Pity) — Now that the general television audience has had a chance to see the fall season's two "Mad Men" wannabes, NBC's "The Playboy Club" and ABC's "Pan Am," it's time to pit these shows against each other, "Celebrity Deathmatch" style. Can Hef's Bunnies stomp Pan Am's blue-suited fly girls? Read on.

Most Glamorous Cast
The early '60s air game was all about glamour, and the fresh-faced, perfectly styled guys and gals serving aboard the "Pan Am" signature Clipper Majestic aircraft exude more glam than David Bowie. Don't get us wrong: Shapely employees of "The Playboy Club" are plenty attractive, but they don't resemble "Pan Am's" pearly-toothed gods and goddesses.
Winner: "Pan Am"

Best Uniforms
Let's just say that those Bunny outfits are iconic for a reason.
Winner: "The Playboy Club"

Best Movie Star Slumming on TV
Once upon a time, Christina Ricci would have easily won this category. But a solid decade's worth of terrible movies have almost irreparably damaged whatever goodwill she has left from her "Addams Family"/"Opposite of Sex" days. She's just lucky that Amber Heard's track record is even spottier. At least Ricci has an Oscar-winning flick like "Monster" on her resume to balance the badness; the best Heard can offer is "Zombieland" and she was only in that for maybe 10 minutes.
Winner: "Pan Am"

[Get to Know Your 'Pan Am' Flight Crew With Our Exclusive Preview]

Best Use of the Cuban Revolution
"The Playboy Club" features only one offhand reference to the troubles in Cuba; "Pan Am" has an entire flashback sequence in which the crew flies a planeload of Bay of Pigs prisoners off the island before Fidel Castro takes over. Not only that, but amidst the chaos, one of the pilots actually finds time to propose to his girlfriend, saying "it'll be a great story." Now that's the way you capitalize on a coup!
Winner: "Pan Am"

Watch the premiere of "Pan Am" here:

Best Don Draper Stand-In
As Chicago's most eligible (and dashing) single attorney, Nick Dalton, Eddie Cibrian resembles Jon Hamm's less charismatic younger brother. Still, he's a better fit for Draper's ad-man wardrobe than Mike Vogel's naïve young pilot, Dean Lowrey. You can bet that good ol' Don would never have let his intended fiancée get away that easily, even if she were an undercover intelligence agent. Speaking of that…
Winner: "The Playboy Club"

Best Undercover Agent
A green recruit in the spy game, Pan Am stewardess Kate Cameron (Kelli Garner) had a solid maiden flight as an international woman of mystery in training, rubbing elbows with intelligence agents foreign and domestic. Meanwhile, Bunny Alice (Leah Renee) infiltrated the Playboy Club in order to raise funds for her true passion, the Chicago chapter of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization. She's got her fellow Bunnies fooled, but we're suspecting that her lie about having a husband will fall through sooner than she'd like.
Winner: "Pan Am"

Best Use of '60s Pop Music
"Pan Am" offered up such pleasurable chestnuts as Julie London's "Must Be Catching" and Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," but "Playboy Club" really got us grooving with a rousing performance of "Shake a Tail Feather" from Ike and Tina Turner. (Okay, so that wasn't the "real" Ike and Tina on stage, but their stand-ins were a decent approximation.)
Winner: "The Playboy Club"

[Yahoo! TV Giveaway: 'Pan Am' Explorer Bags]

Most Potentially Interesting Ongoing Storyline
Based on the shows' respective pilots, the disappearance of Chicago's biggest mob boss from the city's most happening nightspot provides more fodder for dramatic story arcs than some pilot pining for his missing girlfriend.
Winner: "The Playboy Club"

Watch the premiere episode of "The Playboy Club" here:

Most Diverse Cast
Neither show is exactly what you'd call a model of diversity, but "The Playboy Club" boasts both an African-American character and a lesbian character. Relatively speaking, that makes the show a virtual United Nations compared to the lily-white, heterosexual crew aboard the Clipper Majestic.
Winner: "The Playboy Club"

Best Ratings
In the only category that really counts, "Pan Am" trounced the competition, attracting 10.8 million viewers -- twice the number of the "Playboy Club" premiere, which drew only 5 million sets of eyeballs. Ouch... that's gotta hurt worse than Hugh Hefner's broken engagement to Crystal Harris.
Winner: "Pan Am"

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Which new '60s-set drama do you prefer: "The Playboy Club" or "Pan Am"? Make your pick in the comments.

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