“Pam & Tommy” is a new original Hulu series coming February 2. Based on the Internet sex tape scandal of the late 1990s, this limited drama series is not-to-be-missed.
As the title implies, Pam & Tommy on Hulu on Hulu is very much a story of Pam and Tommy and their relationship–how it began, how it ended, the explosive moments, some of the more mundane moments, and a lot of, er, details in between.
How Pam & Tommy changed the Internet forever – Review
Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were the trailblazers of the celebrity sex tape-gate, and they changed the Internet forever, though not by choice. In fact, quite the opposite. By choice or not, it is the beginning of the age of the celebrity sex tape online.
If you lived in the 90s, you know Pam and Tommy were household names. You didn’t have to watch “Baywatch” to know who Pamela Anderson was. They were one of those celebrity couples who defined a time period, and the kind the Paparazzi could not get enough of their tumultuousness.
Why is “Pam & Tommy ” Important?
“Pam & Tommy” is a welcome cultural shift, reframing the events of the 1995 sex tape scandal through the lens of a female perspective.
Take whatever preconceived notions you may have had about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and throw them out the window because regardless of what you think you know or what you think about them as celebrities, everyone over the age of 18 can benefit from watching Pam & Tommy on Hulu.
What about this “tape?”
After dating each other for less than a week in 1995, Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee were married in Cancun.
During their honeymoon, they recorded themselves having sex (on a boat on Lake Mead).
Later during a remodel of their Malibu home, a safe was stolen, which contained guns, cash, and jewelry—and the now-infamous tape.
“Pam & Tommy” explores everything from entries in Tommy’s 2004 memoir, “Tommyland,” where he describes talking to his “buddy”–and it talks back–to the volatile moments showcasing anger from both Pam and Tommy, from intimate moments that highlight moments of pure love to high-pressure moments that would test any couple to the extremes.
Pam & Tommy Review – What Works
Award-winning Casting in “Pam & Tommy”
The transformation of Lily James and Sebastian Stan to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee is nothing short of award-winning and brilliant. Every attention to detail has been made and from the first photos last year to the last scene in the series, they are believable as the celebrity duo.
Sebastian Stan leans so fervently into the role of Tommy Lee, it’s as if he plans to become Tommy Lee. He is the embodiment of the 80s big-hair drummer. Spend 10-minutes watching and you almost forget he’s NOT Tommy Lee. There are moments he’s likable and plenty in which he is not.
Lily James’ transition is brilliant as well, but her embodiment is a bit more nuanced as her variations of Pamela Anderson are more wide-ranging.
We see James portray everything from a naive party girl to a young woman whose mother seems to value large breasts and an “in” with Hugh Heffner over all else in life, from an overwhelmed up-and-coming actress who knows she being typecast to a woman who is fully aware of what is happening in terms of misogyny and women’s right when others in the room can’t or won’t admit what is going on.
From Tommy Lee's POV in the first few episodes, he is very much the 80s rocker the media portrayed him to be. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear Pam is the victim of a crime and reacts accordingly.
She is publicly humiliated, not just because she's been violated with having her private video leaked all over for the world to see, but because she's also being attacked for reacting to that crime as any woman would, yet the media as a whole—and misogynists in every corner—are telling her she shouldn't feel the way she feels about her body that is what largely made her famous in the first place.
Other notable casting includes Seth Rogan as Rand Gauthier and Nick Offerman as Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley. Not generally a huge Rogan fan; he typically plays the same overrated character as he did in The Hangover, but he's great as Rand. Offerman has an uncanny ability to nail every role, whether the sleaziest adult filmmaker or wholesome Frank Fisher in Hearts Beat Loud.
Authentic 90s vibe through direction, camera work, and music in “Pam & Tommy”
Craig Gillespie is known for his ability to create films that no other director does. His distinctive amalgamate of humor and empathy at the forefront of everything he does creates the perfect mood in his visual storytelling. His ability to make a villain feel not so villainous is a special talent.
The camera work in “Pam & Tommy” helps to set the scene and tell the story all while engaging the audience and creating that authentic 90s vibe. The soundtrack of the 90s grabs you in every scene leading you to the next scene, engaging you, and wanting more of the story. Episode 102 “I Love You, Tommy” is a prime example of this.
Who is Pamela Anderson?
The real-life Anderson was an actress on the popular TV series “Baywatch,” and she also appeared in Playboy magazine. If there was anything we learned about Anderson in the last two decades, it's that she was just one of many victims of a misogynistic Hollywood tabloid culture ripe for the exploitation of women.
Who is Tommy Lee?
Tommy Lee was the drummer for 1980s big-hair era rock band Mötley Crüe. Lee was arrested for domestic abuse and the couple divorced in 1998. They eventually remarried in 2008 before splitting a second time in 2010.
Privacy, consent, women’s rights, and the 1st amendment
What have we learned about privacy, consent, and women's bodies?
At the dawn of the Internet, privacy wasn't a topic that was readily discussed. However, the infamous sex tape that was stolen and posted online without the couples' consent has been the basis of myriad discussions, debates, and has even been examined in lawsuits surrounding 1st amendment rights for nearly 25 years now.
If this had all shaken out today, or even a decade later than it did, the outcome regarding the suit surrounding privacy and posting without consent could have been wildly different, as the legal options are much more progressive now than they were decades ago, significantly due to revenge p*rn laws. The landmark Hulk Hogan victory over Gawker Media is a great example of that. However, at the time, the verdict was heavily based on the idea that the tape was already out in the public and that it could never be unseen.
A judge granted Anderson and Lee default damages for $740,893 each against Warshavsky’s Internet Entertainment Group in a 2002 verdict, but no amount of money undoes the tarnish of the tape being out in the public.
Tommy Lee is savvy enough to know that privacy is and was a concern and a huge piece of the story being told, and shared as much in a recent interview.
Despite some lingering concerns online about this series being made without Anderson's sign-off or consent, it’s evident that this 8-part series has every intention to do right by Pamela Anderson. As my colleague, Ashley said, the whole planet owes Pamela Anderson an apology.
Finished PAM AND TOMMY & it was AMAZING. Sebastian Stan & Lily James are PERFECTION. The soundtrack, camerawork, direction are all great. Consent discussions? Yes please. But above all it gave me a new respect 4 Pamela Anderson. The whole planet owes her an apology#pamandtommy pic.twitter.com/N6XpSYdlMH
— Ashley Saunders (@ThatAshleyErin) January 31, 2022
Pam & Tommy Review – What Doesn’t Work
The series starts off a tad slow with the whole Rand-Tommy dynamic. Recognize that while essential to the narrative and why/how the tape was stolen, it can feel drawn out. The meat and heart of the series are realized in the second half of the series, so you have to stick with it to get past a few slower-moving episodes.
But here's the larger problem overall: while this series is brilliant and well done, it is a bit of a catch 22. There's an element of exploitation that can't be overlooked.
The cultural shift from a female perspective is highly beneficial and, TBH, it's about time someone told this story from this lens. When this first happened, 99% of the world that had access to the story laughed, shamed, blamed—or some combination thereof—the couple, especially Anderson, over the events. Pamela deserves this redemption.
However, as we relive this event through the telling of this series, one can't help but wonder if maybe we were part of the problem?
- How many new downloads and searches will there be for this material?
- For those who weren't old enough in the 90s to know the details, what stories or discussions are being had now that aren't part of that cultural shift?
- How many old reruns of “Baywatch” have been or will be downloaded?
- How many old issues of Playboy and Penthouse will be searched for and purchased?
Does the negative impact spiral at a rate much more deeply and quickly than the positive can undo. Or does the inherent good of painting this in a different light and showing Pamela and the entire event from a different lens make up for that?
About “Pam & Tommy” on Hulu
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 cultural obsession 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.
The first three episodes of “Pam & Tommy” premiere Wednesday, February 2, on Hulu. The remaining five episodes will air every Wednesday on the streaming platform.