It was inevitable, and at least partly understandable, that ABC and the creators of its new series “Pan Am” would get questions comparing it to “Mad Men,” since both are set in the early 1960s and filter the culture of that era through a 21st-century lens.
They would also like you to know that just because both shows are set in the early ’60s, it doesn’t mean that they’re the same show — or will draw the same size or same kind of audience.
“It’s a much broader, brighter canvas, and so we think it’s going to attract a broader and brighter audience,” ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee said Sunday (Aug. 7) at the Television Critics Association press tour. “Not that ‘Mad Men’ isn’t a wonderful show. It’s a glorious show for AMC and absolutely right for them, but it wouldn’t be right for us.”
“Pan Am” has a distinctively lighter tone than “Mad Men,” it centers on female rather than male characters — it’s just different. That’s the point “Pan Am” director/executive producer Thomas Schlamme tried to make when he took the stage soon after Lee.
“Television is just execution. It’s not the time period it takes place in,” Schlamme says. “All I can really say [is] it has nothing to do with ‘Mad Men.’ It just has to do with we hope our show is executed in a wonderful way that will have sort of a wish-fulfillment that will attract a large audience. It’s as simple as that. I think we’re all fans of ‘Mad Men’ … but, literally, one had almost nothing to do with the other.”
What the show does represent for ABC, Lee says, is an example of some risk-taking on broadcast TV this season.
“We’re in a business where there’s a lot of failure, and we know that,” Lee says. “I’ve done this long enough to know that you stumble as much as you succeed. But the fun of these [jobs] is to start taking some risks, and I think you’re seeing that in broadcast. I think that’s a good thing for broadcast.”