“Wait, is that actually Pamela Anderson?” we wondered out loud for a second, during the opening scene of 2022 mini-series ‘Pam & Tommy’. It starts with a TV interview of the Baywatch star with Jay Leno. Lily James who plays the 90s sex symbol was completely unrecognizable under all the make-up. So 10/10 to the team behind James’ incredible transformation for the show.
Created by Robert Siegel, the limited 8-episode series follows the incredible real story of how the world’s first celebrity sex tape got leaked/sold online in the days of dial-up internet. It’s aptly rated 18+, so expect a lot of coarse language, nudity and sheer madness. And for those of you who don’t know (neither did I) – there was a burglary in the celebrity couple’s mansion. Someone stole their safe and found their private tapes along with cash, guns, jewellery and Pamela’s wedding bikini. All of these things were even listed in their police complaint, but by the time they realized they were robbed, their sex-tape had already gone ‘viral’.
Sebastian Stan (Bucky from Captain America) plays famous ‘Motley Crue’ drummer Tommy Lee, who meets popular Baywatch actor Pamela Anderson at a club and it’s sparks all the way. The ‘bad boy’ of rock dates the hottest babe on television and their whirlwind romance leads to a beach wedding within days of them meeting each other. There’s a hilarious scene where they inquire about their families and interests after the nuptials. The casting for Tommy could’ve been better, Sebastian Stan does justice to his part, but doesn’t have Tommy Lee’s killer jaw or the exuberant cocky rock-god attitude.
Viewers are either going to hate or love this show, it’s hard to be somewhere in between, because the story and situations are just too larger than life – we are talking about two famous as hell celebrities after all. If how a Rockstar & his Playboy Model wife got fucked over by a random dude doesn’t sound like something you’d want to watch, steer clear of this series. Or give the first episode a shot – it does a fantastic job of setting the tone for the duo’s romance/misadventures and is so ludicrously entertaining, the rest of the episodes have a hard-time matching its energy and pace.
Pamela Anderson wasn’t amused to know a show was being made about her and told the makers she wanted nothing to do with it. However, Lily James with her performance brings a humane side to Pamela, making the viewer empathize with her. With the amount of imitation put into Lily’s delivery, she could’ve easily reduced the protagonist to a dumb-blonde caricature, but instead makes you see Pam as a hard-working young woman who wants to be bigger than the ‘Baywatch babe’ label, but is typecast and boxed in a corner by a male-dominated industry. The kind of misogyny women face in Hollywood and the insane disparity in how the same event affects a man and woman differently is done on point. Pam is the slut to be shamed, and Tommy is ‘the dude’ to be congratulated.
Seth Rogen plays Rand Gauthier, the jilted electrician who Tommy Lee fired without paying up. So he set out to rob the rich couple and landed tapes with the couple’s intimate moments from their honeymoon. Gauthier is a dense dude, who had a brief stint as a porn actor and Rogen plays it to sheer perfection. The story is largely told from his point of view, the ‘bad guy’, who has a hard time understanding the illegality of his act, firmly believing in the saying ‘finders, keepers’, as if he is now owner of the home-made porno. You cannot decide if you want to slap the character or applaud the actor, it’s got to be one of the best supporting roles I’ve seen this year.
From the inception of the crime, Gauthier’s attempts to monetize the sex-tapes, to the trauma and legal troubles that engulf Pam & Tommy – the show seamlessly dramatizes all events. Robert Siegel and team bring to life the 1990s, complete with DVD shops, a booming porn industry, grunge music, slow dial-up internet and well, Pamela in the iconic red swim-suit from Baywatch. Despite never getting too serious, the show takes a deep-dive into the exploitative nature of the media industry and just how intrusively destructive voyeurism is for famous people. If there’s meat to be had, all the vultures of the world have their claws out.
‘Pam & Tommy’ is a satirical dramedy, but with characters who are very very real, even if completely un-relatable. Based on a brilliant Rolling Stones article about the tape by Amanda Chicago Lewis, it’s available to stream on Hulu and Disney Hotstar. For its genre, this show is worth a watch and is a 8/10 from me.
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