Pam & Tommy gives viewers an in depth look at the tape that changed several lives forever — tackling consent and double standards along the way.
When you first hear the words Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, if you were alive in the 1990s there is a good chance you think about the sex tape that was stolen and released without their consent. Hulu’s limited series, Pam & Tommy, dives into the story behind this scandal, and tackles issues like double standards along the way. While Seth Rogan’s Rand Gauthier certainly has him moments, it is Lily James (who plays Pamela Anderson) and Sebastian Stan (who plays Tommy Lee) who rightfully steal the show.
This eight part series covers the story in depth for those who don’t know the details. Personally, I was quite young at the time, but ended up hearing about the tape when I was a little older. I knew that it was stolen, but did not know much of the circumstances surrounding it. Obviously I cannot say for sure if this is the exact way that it played out, but it certainly is believable. As with most “based on a true story” shows and films, it is likely a lot more drama was added to it all.
The entire series sent me right back to the 90s. The clothes, the hair, and of course, the music.
Everyone has their role to play in this series, and everyone does a decent job. But even Sebastian Stan is outshined by Lily James here. As a women I could almost instantly relate to her and her feelings. Tommy sees this tape as an issue for him, just as much as it is for her. While this is understandable to an extent, it is her career that was tanked largely in part because of the tape. It was hard for studios to not only take her seriously as an actress after this, but for them to even want to be associated with her.
Pamela was the butt of many jokes that hurt her deeply. Just because she is a woman, and yes, one who had appeared in playboy before this tape was stolen, doesn’t mean that she deserves that kind of treatment. It all comes down to consent — which was not given for this tape to be shared and watched by millions.
James does a phenomenal job of capturing that hurt, and that anger. There is one moment in particular where she is on the set of Baywatch. A man grabs her shoulders in order to turn her for the spray tan. She brushes him off and tells him she can turn her body herself. This is something very subtle, but the look on her face tells it all. Women have to deal with this sort of behavior every day, and it was nice, although hard, to see this particular story told from her point of view at times.
Sebastian Stan is great as Tommy, too. He portrays his alleged anger perfectly. This is spread throughout the series, and all culminates to lay the groundwork for the moment that caused these two lovebirds to separate — a physical altercation that ended in him going to jail. There is a scene that takes place in a bar, where he is spoken to about the size of his… you know… and it is one of my favorites. Stan does a wonderful job of making it look like the light clicked on in Lee’s head and he finally understood what his wife has been going through, at least a little bit.
There are glimpses of chemistry between Stan and James sprinkled here and there, however overall their relationship seems doomed from the start. Perhaps that is how Pam & Tommy’s real life relationship was — who am I to say? There are certainly moments where they seem head over heels in love, but it clearly far too toxic to last.
Most of the story surrounding Miltie (Nick Offerman) and Rand (Seth Rogan) is interesting enough — in small doses between the Pam & Tommy plot. James completely steals the show, with Stan nipping at her heels. I get that Miltie is supposed to be a dirty older man, and Offerman does a good job of portraying that, however certain scenes are hard to watch because they just give me the heebie jeebies.
Rogan is a great casting choice for Rand, and as the show goes on his character arc really develops. He has his highs, and his lows, but in the end it just feels dramatized to real life. Having not known too much about the story as a whole though, I really can’t speak to that. I can only stress that his characters arc is commendable, but not believable.
Pam & Tommy is a series that is unafraid to dive deep into how women are all too often treated by men. It is Lily James that truly shines and allows the audience to feel what Pamela Anderson much have been going through at that time. This series is based on a true story, and it tells that story, but it also touches on topics like consent and abuse. An interesting watch for those who were alive in the 90s, and for those who have always wondered just exactly what happened with that stolen tape.
Rating: 3 out of 5
About Pam & Tommy
Set in the Wild West early days of the Internet, “Pam & Tommy” is based on the incredible true story of the Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor (Seth Rogen), the video went from underground bootleg-VHS curiosity to full-blown global sensation when it hit the Web in 1997.
A love story, crime caper and cautionary tale rolled into one, the eight-part original limited series explores the intersection of privacy, technology and celebrity, tracing the origins of our current Reality TV Era to a stolen tape seen by millions but meant to have an audience of just two.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.