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Lisa Steinberg

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Posted: 02/17/2012 6:25 pm

In my teens I was always fascinated by history and the incredible figures and events that have made their marks on the world. Even TV shows that portrayed these monumental moments and people truly captivated me. In particular, the show Quantum Leap was a standout favorite of mine because the main character Sam, played by Scott Bakula, would leap into bodies of people throughout different time periods and viewers would be treated to getting to see history play out in different eras. Viewers were able to see Sam showcase moments during periods in time that they were not yet born. Some of us could relive the moments that we were alive for. Nostalgia has always had a standout place in television which has allowed audiences to be a part of history continuously and to relive treasured moments. The philosopher George Santayana has a famous quote about history that reads, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Watching shows that focus on nostalgia provides the means to learn from what has been a path already paved for us.

Recently nostalgia has been drawn back into focus for television with shows like The Playboy Club and Pan Am. While The Playboy Club didn't run very many episodes, Pan Am has stayed afloat by not only showcasing historical events, movements and figures in the show, but also focusing on a rich backstory for its characters that has endeared fans of the program even more. One of Pan Am's beginning episodes focused on the character Maggie's, played by Christina Ricci, efforts to meet President Kennedy after having previously worked on his campaign to get him elected. In a more recent episode, fans had a snapshot of Kennedy's assassination which stunned the nation at the time of this horrific historical atrocity. In another episode it was revealed that the character Colette, played by Karine Vanasse, had been separated from her parents in France during the Holocaust as a young girl and was an orphan. Margot Robbie's character, Laura, recently had a storyline where she had been photographed naked by a Time magazine journalist and the photos were sold to an art gallery. Later on when she found out and went to the art gallery, she learned that Andy Warhol was a fan of her pictures and he wanted to meet her. A flash of the Bay of Pigs is depicted in another episode where Dean, Maggie and another stewardess, Bridget, portrayed by Annabelle Wallis, evacuate the last group of prisoners exiled out of Castro's Cuba on a Pan Am prop plane. Another recent episode gave a look at the Cold War in Russia and the price of politics there. The character of Kate, Kelli Garner, is not only a Pan Am stewardess, but she's also doubling as a CIA agent running different tasks and subterfuge for the U.S. government. It's been said that many a famous figure in the '60s worked as a CIA agent, including the rumored spying of designer Coco Chanel for the Nazis. The character of Kate's storyline spotlights that not only were celebrities at that particular pivotal time in history a part of covert operations, but international beauties of the sky as well.

While this sense of nostalgia may not be lingering around for long with the fate of Pan Am up in the air, the love and spirit of the past continues to affect the characters and storylines throughout each episode. The choices the characters make at times are derived from the historical events that are going on around them. History is directly affecting them at the time the events are occurring and it's magical to see the events, emotions and feelings play out that reflect the times and the sentiments of those who were alive during these times. Many of the characters are plagued by the past, especially the character Colette, who continues to let her past romances and family turmoil bog down her budding relationship with Dean.

Nostalgia may be a thing of the past, but we also have to remember that history will always have its place in time. Pan Am is a majestic look at events, times, people and places that have made our country a melting pot and provides a weekly adventure into the lives and times that have led us to our present.

 

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