Pam & Tommy review: An unmissable look behind the world's most-famous sex tape
The first properly brilliant show to arrive on Disney+ is here.
There is a scene about halfway through the season of Pam & Tommy, as the shit has truly begun to hit the fan at high velocity and in huge quantities, when Pamela Anderson (Lily James) takes a little time out for herself to send some good vibes out into the universe, in an attempt to positively manifest a better future for herself and her husband Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan).
With the benefit of hindsight, her barely whispered monologue reads like some cruelly funny horror show:
"Everything is going to be okay. The tape is going to go away. And Barb Wire is going to be the biggest movie in the world. And we're going to get pregnant again. And we're going to have a long and happy marriage. Everything is going to be beautiful and perfect. Forever."
While that tape is definitely the instigator of the plot for this limited series, it is also merely a vessel through which we view a still-very-much-present social issue: the massive gap in how sex is acceptable in the eyes of men and women.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, I Tonya) in a manner than calls to mind David Fincher's narrative for The Social Network, we fly back and forth around the relationship of Pam & Tommy, from how they met to how they started to fall apart.
Their on-screen love and attraction feels incredibly real and understandable, with both James and Stan going to great lengths to completely lose themselves in these larger-than-life, known-by-everybody characters. Anderson is portrayed with a little bit more depth, understandably given more to chew on as the double standard levelled at her following the tape's release barrels through her persona in ways nobody would fully comprehend for years.
Orbiting around them, we've got Seth Rogen as Rand Gauthier, the man who stole the tape from their home in an effort to recoup monetary losses that Tommy Lee refused to settle, as well as Nick Offerman as Uncle Miltie, the infamous porn producer who goes into business with Gauthier to distribute the sex tape via a little known medium (in 1995) called the world wide web.
Everyone does career-best work, carefully threading what could easily be a simply salacious story of two of the world's most-famous, most-attractive people having sex, but pretzeling the entertainment around a harrowing, painful message about the inherent shame that is expected of women in these situations, while the men involved are given mental high-fives by the viewers.
Because Anderson made her career in Playboy and on Baywatch, in situations where she called the shots on how much or how little she decided to give of herself, when the tape was stolen and shared without her consent, the question is immediately asked: 'You already do porn, so what does it matter?'
While all she wants to do is stay quiet and have it go away, all of the men in her life - including her husband - keep making decisions for her, or around her, that only compound the problems further, bringing them more and more into the spotlight.
Contrasting the couple high on love and sex (and drugs, including one hallucinatory scene that will likely go down in television history for absolute shock value), only for the real world to tear it down when they didn't meet the standards they decided would be imposed on them.
The fallout of that tape is still being felt to this day, while the public perception of females suspected of being "too sexual" and perceived as having "too much autonomy" is perhaps more prevalent today than ever.
As a straight ahead piece of entertainment, Pam & Tommy is great. As a scalpel-sharp incision into some of the hottest of hot topics at play in the modern world, it is simply unmissable.
The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy will be available on Disney+ from Wednesday, 2 February, with the remaining episodes arriving on Wednesdays.
Clip via Disney Plus UK & Ireland