Pam & Tommy Review: Equal Parts Absurd and Stunningly Witty

A truly exceptional tale

After Netflix’s mind-boggling Tinder Swindler, all eyes were on Hulu’s (also on Disney+) biographical miniseries, Pam & Tommy, starring Sebastian Stan and Pamela Anderson. Everyone expected dramatized adaptation of an already sensational fiasco and the series does check that box. But it’s more than a mere revisitation of something that happened decades ago- there is no denying that it’s funny and does represent its voyeuristic aspects, but it’s also a heartfelt story of the lives that got tangled in perhaps one of the biggest controversies of Hollywood. 

Pam & Tommy is adapted from the 2014 article by Amanda Chicago Lewis, which lays out the intricate details behind the world’s most infamous s*x tape scandal ever that took place in the mid-90s. The series sees Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee getting married after a whirlwind romance. High on their love, the couple starts getting their Malibu home renovated via a carpenter, Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen). But Lee continuously proves that he is a difficult person to work for as he constantly makes changes in the renovation work and holds back payment. 

Things get out of hand when Lee fires Rand one day without paying him, pushing the latter to seek vengeance by stealing his locker, which contains some cash, jewelery, guns, and of course the infamous s*x tape of the couple filmed during their honeymoon. 

But why did the tape become such an ill-famed topic? Was it because it exposed the private life of the famous Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, the co-founder of the famous heavy metal band Motley Crue? Nope, it became a phenomenon because it is unlike what one would expect. Given the social status of both Anderson and Lee plus the fact that the couple got married within four days of laying eyes on each other, the simple deduction was that all their marriage was based on nothing but pure lust. 

But as explained by the characters of Nick Offerman and Taylor Schilling in Pam & Tommy, the s*x tape didn’t show two people giving in to their lustful desires- it was intimate, “super-wholesome,” and “private”- “something we are not supposed to be seeing.” This immediately flips the story- while one would start watching the show expecting to binge the controversial life of celebrities, they would find themselves engrossed in the fate of two people who unwillingly became a public spectacle. 

Despite its agenda, Pam & Tommy doesn’t always manage to depict the most infamous scandal ever with the amount of depth it needs. While Sebastian Stan does justice to his depiction of Tommy Lee, the comedy does appear forced or out-of-sync with the rest of the story at some places. But what makes the series worth a watch is Lily James as Pamela Anderson who ensures that even when the script isn’t exactly winning her brownie points, her tiniest expression is enough to make the viewer root for her. 

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