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Sunday 18 November 2018

As Pan am looks set to crash, we look at other cancelled flights of fancy

If you're to believe everything you read in the newspapers and magazines, there's a full-blown revival of all things '60s about to hit TV like a cyclone. But you shouldn't, because there isn't.

The hype is based on the success of Mad Men which, with four series under its belt and the fifth due in the New Year, shows absolutely no sign of flagging.

But predictions that Mad Men would lead to an explosion of '60s-set series has been grounded by the dog doo-poor Pan Am, currently running on RTE2 and BBC2.

Hailed as the Mad Men of the skies, Pan Am has been most notable for its mile-high mediocrity.

It has been ridiculed for its cheesy dialogue, silly storylines (one of them featuring a trolley dolly who moonlights as a CIA agent), ridiculous no smoking policy and clumsy attempts to use major historical events as wallpaper against which to set its cardboard characters.

If there's any natural justice in the world, Pan Am will soon go crashing into cancellation like a jet hitting a runway with the landing gear up.

That's already been the fate of another American series that sought to capitalise on the Mad Men buzz: The Playboy Club, featuring Leah Renee as one of a group of Bunny Girls working at Hugh Hefner's original club in Chicago.

You might not have heard of The Playboy Club. If you haven't, don't feel left out; you're just one among an army of the ignorant -- and with good reason.

Having arrived on America's NBC network in September on the back of a massive advertising campaign, The Playboy Club was axed after three episodes.

The cancellation was swift but hardly surprising. Any drama series that attempts, as this one did, to reboot history by presenting big breasted women in bobtail bunny costumes having their bums patted by horndog politicians and celebrities as a tale of female empowerment was always doomed to fail.

It certainly didn't help when journalist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who famously went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in order to expose the sleazy conditions inside the clubs, waded in to condemn the series.

Undaunted, Hefner -- who contributes a brief voiceover to each episode but is portrayed on screen by an actor with his back turned to the camera -- and his production partners went ahead and filmed four more episodes after the axe fell, in the hope that another channel might pick the series up and run with it.

I kind of hope this happens, because I'd quite like to have a look at The Playboy Club -- but not for the reasons YOU might think. By all accounts, for a series about the selling of sex, The Playboy Club, which was constrained by the censorship rules of US network television, doesn't have much sex to sell. No, the reason I'd like to see it is because truly craptacular television has a special allure all its own.

Plenty of perfectly fine US series have been axed after a single season (Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) but to produce a series that's yanked off air before it even gets that far takes a unique kind of anti-talent.

>pay up It's not often I find myself putting the words 'Marian Finucane' and 'entertaining' in the same sentence, but RTE's highly paid radio presenter provided us with some fantastic entertainment this week when she dismissed claims that she's paid more than €500,000 a year for doing four hours' work a week as "baloney".

Basically, her defence was that she has to do "endless hours of research" by listening to radio and watching television.

Er, Mr Editor, sir (bow, scrape, lick shoes), I too do endless hours of research by watching television. Could I have half-a-million a year, please? No? How about a quarter-of-a-million . . . a hundred grand, then . . .

>SHOT DOWN When the news that the BBC has cancelled Shooting Stars emerged, it was as sudden and shocking as a whack on the back of the head with a frying pan, just like the ones Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have been administering to each other, on and off, for 18 glorious years of unfettered lunacy.

The reason it's going, says the BBC, is because there's less room on BBC2 for comedy/entertainment panel shows. So why not get rid of the tired and derivative Mock the Week?

Besides, Shooting Stars was more than a panel game; it was a true comedy original, unlike anything else on TV, as fresh and funny now as when it began. A plague on your house, BBC.

>PANEL PAIN RTE2, of course, has no such qualms about packing its schedules with panel shows -- and they don't even have to have the "comedy/entertainment" tag attached.

Shows such as Tuesday night's The Social, hosted by Craig Doyle, a man so lightweight he must wear lead weights in his shoes to prevent him floating to the ceiling.

In the first one, Doyle and a trio of rent-a-bores (Mairead Farrell, Lorraine Keane, Dylan McGrath) sat around a phoney-apartment set talking vacuous sh*te for the guts of 25 minutes. Why? No, really: why?

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