‘Pam & Tommy’ Review 1×05: “Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie in Duluth”

The limited series Pam & Tommy is in its second half, with only three episodes left. The penultimate episode was the shortest one to date, but managed to have some of the most heartfelt moments in the series so far. Lily James and Sebastian Stan continue to be incredibly compelling to watch. The series is stronger when it revolves around them and their chemistry.

As Pam & Tommy has gone on, we’ve really gotten to see additional layers to these characters who in real life were elevated to mythic status. In the wake of their sex type, so much of their humanity was taken away from them. Stan in particular had such a deeply personal moment, where he gave voice to the fear he was feeling in light of such a personal and intimate video of him and his wife being stolen. 

The title of this episode is a reference to Jay Leno’s writers room. His writers pitched him jokes (more on this later), and were always held to the test of if a random couple in the middle of the United States would understand it. It’s further commentary to how poorly understood the internet was in its early days. Leno himself expressed doubt that working class America would fully understand the implications of a sex tape released to the internet, and the chaos it could cause for two people.

Photo Credit: Hulu

The Jay Leno writers room was so gross, and an emblem of what is wrong with the industry and frankly this series. Humor is pitched at the expense of actual people. This type of humor objectifies actual human beings. The callousness with which these writers and Leno himself spoke about celebrities, who, shockingly, are themselves human beings was both disheartening and cringe-inducing. It’s completely believable, however, that writers rooms today take the same callous attitude, playing the worst moments of peoples’ lives for laughs.

LA Times Reporter Alicia (Irene Choi) seems to be one of the only character with perspective and foresight in this situation. She rightly identifies how this case would have far reaching implications, including the nature of celebrity and who has the right to privacy. Seeing her repeatedly shot down by her supervisors was emblematic of how women continued to be treated in workplaces, especially when they have original and innovative ideas. 

Pam & Tommy — “Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie In Duluth” – Episode 105 — The tape falls into the hands of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. Richard (Paul Ben-Victor), Pam (Lily James), and Tommy (Sebastian Stan), shown. (Photo by: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Unfortunately, where this episode falls short is its continued dismissal of Pamela Anderson. She specifically says in the course of the episode that she disagrees with the decision to sue Bob Guccione, the infamous owner of Penthouse. To see Anderson so repeatedly invalidated is heartbreaking, and it’s clear as the episode plays out that she was actually right all along, since suing Guccione only caused more problems in the long term. 

The first half of Pam & Tommy set the groundwork for an exploration of an incident that so many played for laughs and fascination. The fact that two people were impacted in so many tangible ways. It’s strength is when it focuses on these characters as people, Pamela Anderson in particular. More episodes need to exclude Seth Rogen’s Rand. The series will be stronger for it. 

New episodes of Pam & Tommy air Wednesdays on Hulu.

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