When Pam & Tommy was first announced, many fans were on board with the announcement that Lily James and Sebastian Stan would be playing the leads. Based on the 2004 Rolling Stone article, this series was billed as telling the story of the whirlwind romance of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, including the infamous sex tape released without the couple’s consent. Perhaps tellingly, Anderson herself refused to be involved in this series. From the first three episodes, it’s clear that this necessary perspective is missing.
Episode 1: Drilling and Pounding
In the premiere episode, the stage is set for the events that shook the early internet and the world. Seth Rogen is a disgusting slob who’s easy to hate as the infamous contractor Rand Gauthier. As detestable as he is, the base of his rage isn’t entirely unjustified. Tommy Lee clearly treated many people like garbage. True or not, it’s easy enough to believe a man cocooned in such privilege and wealth would treat those considered beneath him, like the construction workers renovating his home, as less than human. This doesn’t at all excuse the actions subsequently taken by Rand later in this story. It provides additional context however, and that’s valuable. We saw hardly anything of Lily James’ Pamela Anderson, and perhaps this was by design. At the beginning of a story that would impact her life in immeasurable ways, it’s clear from the get-go of this series her perspective is sidelined in favor of the men she would be involved with.
Episode 2: I Love You Tommy
The second episode followed up by moving backwards. The whirlwind romance is breathtaking to say the least. Fueled by drugs and yet with a clear undercurrent of genuine love, this relationship was always going to be intense. James and Stan are clearly so well matched, never more so than in this episode. Their chemistry is put centre-stage, and it’s really one of the things the show desperately needs. For all of Tommy Lee’s douchbaggery, having Stan show him as a man in love is such an effective counter. The transition from their extravagant lifestyle to the quieter moments of them just being two people on an airplane was played to perfection.
Episode 3: Jane Fonda
The third episode probably struck the balance with allowing Pamela Anderson’s viewpoint to permeate the story, or what her perspective might be. James does such a fantastic job of leaning into Anderson’s humanity in this episode in particular. Her fight to be taken seriously as an actress, and her clear passion for her career is so clear and James makes her so incredibly relatable to those of us who could never imagine this lifestyle. Her struggle to be seen as a person rather than a sexual object by her colleagues and bosses is depressingly relatable and unfortunately all too true.
This episode also features Nick Offerman being completely in his element as the creepy huxter trying to orchestrate the sale of the infamous home sex tape. His sliminess combines perfectly with Rogan’s and it’s almost hard to watch them both without feeling nauseated.
Although Pam & Tommy makes for compelling television, it says more about us as viewers than the show itself. This is the pinnacle of a deep dive into celebrity culture, which we are all vulturish consumers of. Hopefully as the series goes forward, we can refocus on the humanity of a woman who has been so objectified and dehumanized throughout her career. We as consumers owe her at least that much.
New episodes of Pam & Tommy air Wednesdays on Hulu.