Review by Sean Boelman
There are few romances as wild as that of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and so their story was undoubtedly going to make for some absolutely bonkers television. Pam & Tommy delivers a consistently entertaining if narratively uneven telling of this bizarre and unbelievable tale, amplified by two phenomenal performances at its core.
The series follows a contractor who, after being unfairly fired by rockstar Tommy Lee, sets out on a quest of revenge and accidentally coming into the possession of his sex tape with his wife Pamela Anderson, setting off a media whirlwind. It’s the type of thing you just can’t make up, and it’s hard to look away from it.
Without a doubt, the biggest strength of this show is its rapid pacing. It’s an eight-episode miniseries, but it’s extremely bingable in nature, each episode revealing more layers or taking the story in crazy new directions. Structurally, the series arc is a bit convoluted, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
One of the more interesting decisions made in the series is to tell the story both from the perspective of Anderson and Lee and the person who stole their sex tape. Perhaps the writers thought that Anderson and Lee wouldn’t have been approachable enough for general audiences, when in fact, it is the episode focusing exclusively on them that is the best in the show.
Sebastian Stan gives a brilliant performance as the unhinged rockstar. It goes beyond a mere impression to really add some depth to an exaggerated character. Lily James’s performance is a bit more in imitation territory, but she does have a few really great moments to showcase her talents. And Seth Rogen is better than ever as the third lead of the show.
The biggest issue with the series is that it doesn’t really seem to engage all that much with the bigger questions that this material provokes. There are a few scenes in which Anderson discusses how things are much different from her as a woman being in this tape than Tommy Lee as a man, but the topic is dropped in the conversation as quickly as it was introduced.
The series takes some very ambitious swings from a stylistic standpoint, but these are largely one-offs. One bit involving Tommy Lee having an anthropomorphic penis gets a huge laugh, but is never revisited. Although the style is fun as a whole, especially the soundtrack, it would have been nice to see this more daring approach be more consistent.
There are definitely some issues with Pam & Tommy, yet it’s so slick that viewers won’t be able to help themselves but be entertained. It may not be in the best taste, but there is more than enough good here to recommend it.
Pam & Tommy streams on Hulu beginning February 2. New episodes debut every Wednesday. All eight episodes reviewed.