Pam & Tommy peels back layers of the 90s celebrity relationship

Synopsis: 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, Yesterday) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan, The Falcon & the Winter Soldier) sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor (Seth Rogen, Long Shot), 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 show era to a stolen tape seen by millions but meant to have an audience of just two.

Showrunner: Robert Siegel
Stars: Lilly James, Sebastian Stan, Seth Rogen, Taylor Schilling

Before I ‘officially’ start my review allow me to have a conversation with myself.

“Keith, what do you know about Pamela Anderson?”
— Blonde, Canadian, discovered at a BC Lions game, was in Baywatch, Borat, was obsessed with her!

“Good, now what do you know about Tommy Lee?”
— Drummer for Motley Crue, lots of tattoos.

“Lastly, what do you know about Pamela and Tommy?”
— They were married, there was a sex tape.

Ok, talking to myself is now over. I started like that because I think many people would have similar answers. Pamela Anderson did make her name in the television show Baywatch while Tommy Lee was the drummer for Motley Crue.

I can’t say that I ever gave either a lot of thought and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I am, of course, familiar with them but that is about it. I didn’t watch a lot of Baywatch and, outside of a few songs, I don’t consider myself a ‘Motley Crue fan’.

It’s funny how a show can come along and provide a different perspective. The new series Pam & Tommy, coming to Disney Plus, does just that. Over eight episodes, we get to know these two intimately as Robert Siegel, the showrunner, has crafted a series that peels back the layers of their love story.

The show explores how the couple meets, their courtship and whirlwind wedding, and how ultimately a tape capturing private moments between the couple became so public and infamous.

Now, if this series was exclusively about a ‘sex tape’ that would be one thing, but it isn’t. At least not for me.

First, we get a glimpse at two people who, at the time, were some of the biggest stars in their respective fields and they are played brilliantly. Lilly James completely transforms herself into Pamela Anderson. In fact, I had to double-check the credits to confirm . . . ‘Yes, that is Lilly James!’ She humanizes Anderson and shows us her strengths as well as her insecurities.

Sebastian Stan’s performance of Tommy Lee is equally impressive. I find Sebastian Stan so captivating. Whether he’s building his resume with strong film festival performances, like Monday or Fresh, or suiting up as The Winter Soldier, he shows incredible range.

These two together are a casting agent’s, heck, a director’s dream.

In addition to our leads, Seth Rogen needs to be complimented for his role in the series as a man who feels slighted by Tommy Lee and then must ‘take matters into his own hands.’

This series is excellent. In addition to the acting, which is great, you are given a story that I feel we only had part of. I didn’t know the details, specifically how the tape was obtained and everything that happened after.

I’ll be the first to say, as a society we have an appetite, somewhat unhealthy, for what goes on in the lives of celebrities. I am mildly fussed about celebrity gossip and who’s dating who etc., but the attraction for me with this series is the story development and the acting. At first, you can dismiss and say James and Stan are playing ‘dress up’ but the reality is that they both give award-winning performances as they become their subjects.

So, you may watch it for the story, but allow yourself, as I did, to be mesmerized by the acting.

They took a subject that I didn’t have a huge interest in and delivered quality television to enthrall me from episode one through eight.

Grade: B+