Review of Pam & Tommy – the amazing story of the infamous sex tape | Television
AAs absurd as it sounds, and resist it even if we can, the universe continues to insist that the 90s were 30 years ago instead of 10 minutes ago. Thus, we are increasingly confronted with dramas that take the headlines of our youth and examine them as the pivotal moments in history that they in fact were.
At least they’re not (quite yet) old enough to be treated with reverence or mystification. We 70s babies are still not Stonehenge or the ruins of Herculaneum. But the bouncing, questioning wit of genre king Ryan Murphy (who dramatized the OJ Simpson case, the murder of Gianni Versace and the Clinton-Lewinsky affair) still seems to set the tone for those who follow him.
Pam & Tommy (Disney+), adapted from the article by Amanda Chicago Lewis, unearths the sextape scandal that engulfed the celebrity couple in the mid-90s. The Baywatch star and international sex symbol (to give what was then her full official title), Pamela Anderson, and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee had become even greater than the sum of their parts (and Lee’s part in particular was already legendary – and about to do so). become) by getting married four days after meeting. Robert Siegel’s eight-part miniseries examines what happened to the couple after a private tape showing them having sex on their honeymoon becomes (for the first time thanks to the power of Internet then nascent) very, very public.
The series is really three stories braided together. The first – to which the opening episode is dedicated, although we return to it throughout – is a heist, true even in its most incredible detail. Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) is an unpaid contractor fired by the wayward Lee for a supposedly shoddy job, who gets revenge by stealing the rock star’s garage safe. He eludes security guards and cameras by using a fur rug to disguise himself as a big dog. Inside the safe, he finds various weapons, cash, and an unmarked Hi8 video tape, which he brings to his friend, a porn director played by Nick Offerman. “Look for a job?” he asks Rand. “Carpentry? Anal?” When they see what’s on it, the scene is set.
It’s a fun opener – so to speak – but doesn’t feature what will become a warm, funny, intelligent and rather emotional drama, with stunning performances from Lily James as Anderson and Sebastian Stan as Lee. They each achieve the feat of strangely resembling – aesthetically, vocally and in every way – real people, without falling into mimicry.
The series goes back and forth in time as the second and third stories come into play. There’s the love story – as unconventional as it gets, of course, but showing what the couple found in each other (beyond, yes, the obvious), and how, while a split was probably inevitable, their relationship came under unprecedented pressure when the tape went public. The third installment is one that virtually defines the genre: a critique of the media machinations, public appetite, and systemic legal biases at that particular time, which allowed events to unfold as they did. And, as always, we can see the misogyny that permeated everything, and here we made sure Anderson bore the brunt of the humiliation and damage to herself and her career. There is one particularly brutal scene in which she is deposed by a lawyer who seems to want to degrade her as completely as possible. But there’s a whole web of lesser moments (on the Baywatch set, during personal appearances, on her Playboy shoots), when she’s at the mercy of the men in charge.
The sight of Anderson’s 90s image and the scandal reconsidered in accordance with modern, more enlightened (though still imperfect) mores are welcome. But this is jeopardized by the fact that the whole enterprise was undertaken without his approval. Ironically, it’s the thing’s very alertness and compassion that – assuming it’s seen the script or been given an idea of the tone – makes you think how much it must have wanted, no matter what. either the shooting, the whole subject to be left alone.