After watching a week's worth of pilot, mostly average fare, Pan Am comes as a relief, an escapist guilty pleasure to top off the week. It's visually pleasing, with bright colors abound and slick sheen, and the snappy pacing smoothly carries the pilot along a multitude of plots and characters..
Compared to that of The Playboy Club, the social message of Pan Am comes off more reasonable and unforced. There is something about female empowerment in there, the freedom to fly around the world, but it's done in a way we can actually see. We don't need Hugh Hefner to tell us a ludicrous story to better understand who these women are. It's plausible that one would become a stewardess to go around the world, especially in an age when air travel was more glamorous than the bus-in-the-air way of flight these days.
The overriding plot point in the pilot is Kate getting embroiled in the Cold War spy games, and the spy world has also consumed Bridget, who is mentioned several times and seen in two flashbacks before showing up at the end, peering in to see Dean, he ex-boyfriend (I guess that's what they are now). While I'm unsure how the show will handle a spy plot each week, I'm always game for a good spy plot.
At the end of the day, comparisons to Mad Men, aside from the time period, are unnecessary and inappropriate. As Pan Am strives to show the glamor and fun of a certain time and place, Mad Men strives to show an entirely different place--in relatively the same period but almost a different world unto itself. I do want to note, though, that Kate has a line about Laura's picture on the cover of Life that could have come from Don Draper's mouth. The picture, she tells Kate, is not you, but the promise of you. That's something I guess.