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The Conservative Critic

Is Pam and Tommy as good as when it happened for real?



Directed by the creator (Craig Gillespie) of one of my personal favorite biopics, iTonya, comes a similarly designed bio-series on Hulu about the events surrounding the release of the private sex tape of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson Lee in the year 1990 something. Pam and Tommy’s intention is very clear and that is to bring us a chaotic and emotional story with a specific point of view still totally unauthorized by the film’s subjects. 

The 1990s scandal and the life and times of Pamela Anderson as well as Tommy Lee have been explosive on their own, so does Pam and Tommy really live up to their truth? The Conservative Critic will ask: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And is it liberal propaganda? 

The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Pam and Tommy

Overall Rating: Fantastic 

Its important to note that the source material and therefore the lens of Pam and Tommy is not actually the biography of Pamela Anderson Lee and Tommy Lee. It is based on a Rolling Stone article from 2014 called Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape. Rolling Stone is known for its take on reality which is to say that they like to take a bombastic approach (recall when they put the Boston bombers on the cover). The article’s first few sentences detail Tommy Lee holding a contractor at gunpoint. The material and therefore the lens of the series is intended to be a sensationalized telling of the story. It is not meant to be a serious, conservative take on crime and privacy. Much like how the very successful iTonya was based on interviews with Tonya Harding and  her ex-husband Jeff Kerrigan. 

With this in mind, Pam and Tommy achieves exactly what the article set out to achieve which is a chaotic and mesmerizing, not to mention often unflattering, look at two of the biggest characters of the 1990s. It’s a good show that is well crafted, well acted and never presents itself as credible. A must watch for the winter. 

Is it entertaining? 

Rating: Sensational (in every sense of the word) 

Each episode seems to give the audience a new perspective from which to frame the scandal and the story which offers a tremendous amount of variety not only in plot line but also in emotional arch. From the self-righteous perspective of the jilted contractor and thief, Rand Gauthier played by Seth Rogan (Pineapple Express, The Interview) to the perspective of vulnerable and ambitious Pam Anderson played by Lily James (Cinderella, Rebecca). This keeps the show engaging and dynamic ensuring we’re never on the same note twice but its all the same song. 

Further the show is silly and never aspires to credibility. It is easy for viewers to slip away into the chaotic noise of porn production companies, rockstars and the set of Baywatch without ever questioning “is that really how it went down?” 

The only thing making the show less than perfectly entertaining is that it really needs more Pam. Pam in real life was always the draw. No one really cared about Tommy Lee (sorry Tommy). It was Pam that made the story interesting. Pam has a central role in the show but it feels still like she could be on screen a lot more than she has been.

Does it have intellectual/artistic value? 

Rating: Masterpiece

The format suits the material well with all its color and chaos and its mixed perspective. Additionally the use of makeup and prosthetics works perfectly, looking extremely fake when it needs to (like during full frontal nudity) and looking extremely real otherwise. 

But the true hero of the series is the acting talent. Lily James as Pam Anderson is a revelation. Having only ever seen James play a sweet society girl or another in period pieces, to see her completely transform into Pamela Anderson is satisfying to say the least. James manages to present Pam with all of the caricature in which Pam presents herself but also with a lot of vulnerability and sincerity. James’s Pamela is a feminist and a victim. She is also a cartoon character of her own making. This is James’s breakout role. This is going to put her on the map.

Sebastian Stan (Avengers, iTonya) as Tommy Lee is unsettlingly good. Different than Jame’s Pam, Stan makes his Tommy really his own. Less of a true mirror of reality, Lee takes a stab at presenting Lee from each unique lens in which he is presented in the series. It’s better than good. If he’s not up for an Emmy next year it’ll be a true snub. The same for Lily James. 

Is it liberal propaganda? 

Rating: Agenda Free

There are many agendas in Pam and Tommy but none of them are political. They’re all deeply interpersonal which is what makes the series so great. 

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