Set in the Wild West early days of the Internet, Pam & Tommy is based on the true story of the Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor, Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen), the video went from underground bootleg-VHS curiosity to full-blown global sensation when it hit the Web in 1997.
A slick and fast-paced show, Pam & Tommy explores its subject through a Me Too lens that doesn’t always hits the right spots but somehow manages to be insightful and creates a nuanced story that tries to showcase how one sex tape changed the lives of so many.
By having Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) direct all the episodes, the show is able to create a style that works really well with the pace and writing of it all. It is very much in the vein of what we have seen him produce before but his style works with the show and having him direct every episode helps.
While Sebastian Stan and Seth Rogan have great shining moments, the show belongs to Lily James who steals every single scene she is in. We have all seen the pictures, the ones that had everyone flabbergasted when they were released because of her transformation, but make-up isn’t everything… And if she did not deliver a performance that was worth that transformation, the show would have fallen apart. But James delivers in every single scene, she uses everything in her arsenal and transforms herself completely.
But even if the show is entertaining, you can’t help but have a sour taste in your mouth while watching it.
The thing is, Pamela Anderson has publicly denounced the show. Stating that she wanted no involvement in it and refused to speak to anyone involved in the creation of it. Even with how well they handle Pamela Anderson’s story, how much they showcase she was the victim in all of this, the one who suffered from the situation, it doesn’t change the fact that the show is telling her story without her permission or approval.
The show makes a point to show how Pamela Anderson was the one who got caught in the crossfire and the victim of all this. There are moments where your heart breaks for her, and nothing is more explicit in telling how incredibly traumatizing it all was for her than when you watch the episode where she is getting deposed. It is one of the most harrowing times of the story, the one moment where it is clear that no one suffered as she did and that one episode proves that there is a reason why Anderson refused to even try and corporate with the makers of this miniseries.
Pamela Anderson’s career got derailed in all of this, she was the one that was used to market a private video and the one who was exposed the most, the one who got criticized for it while Tommy Lee got praised from men about it. The show does the best it can to show that, except knowing what we know of Pamela Anderson’s trauma surrounding the subject, you can’t help but feel wrong when you watch it.
Pam & Tommy is good, great even. A show that does what it needs in order to create the story it wants to tell. With incredible performances, especially from Lily James, the fast-paced and stylist editing makes for an entertaining miniseries. The problem is the behind-the-scenes of it all… If it had the approval of the woman the show was about, then it would be a different story. Except it doesn’t and if you watch it, remember that. This is a show that, just like everyone who purchased and watched the infamous sex tape, takes advantage of a woman’s trauma for their own benefit.