‘Pam & Tommy’ review: Addictive viewing for its recreation of a time gone by

The tumultuous relationship between Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, interspersed with other sub-plots, is told engagingly in Robert Siegel’s mini-series

Published - March 25, 2022 05:23 pm IST

A still from ‘Pam  & Tommy’

A still from ‘Pam & Tommy’

There is a lot to love and enjoy about Robert Siegel’s Pam & Tommy. The mini-series tells many stories: the tumultuous relationship between Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, the highs and lows of celebrity culture, fin de siècle excesses, the mob and the frontier spirit of the early, burgeoning days of the internet. The fact that all these stories are told engagingly is its greatest strength as well as its most troubling aspect.  

Though it purports to tell the story from Anderson’s point of view, the actor did not want to be involved in the show. While showing the damage the tape did to Anderson’s career (she lost out to Kim Bassinger for LA Confidential and Liz Hurley for Austin Powers), the show will rekindle interest in the tape all over again, forcing Anderson to relive the trauma. Lee’s support of the show also makes sense as he is presented as a loveable rogue or as a character says, “a sensitive caveman”, with no mention of the spousal abuse that got him jail time.   

Pam & Tommy starts with talk show host Jay Leno (Adam Ray) asking Anderson (Lily James) about the tape during what was meant to be an interview about her new movie, Barb Wire. We then go back to 1995 in Lee’s (Sebastian Stan) Malibu mansion. The construction crew is being driven round the bend with Lee’s last-minute changes. Despite insisting “MINO” (money is no object), Lee does not pay Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) and when Gauthier accidentally walks in on Anderson, Lee fires him.  

Pam & Tommy
Episodes: 8  
Creator: Robert Siegel
Starring: Lily James, Sebastian Stan, Nick Offerman, Seth Rogen, Taylor Schilling 
Storyline: The story of the notorious sex tape that stormed the internet  

When Gauthier goes back to Lee’s house to retrieve his toolkit, Lee threatens him with a shotgun and tells him he is keeping the tools as collateral for the cost of getting a new crew to redo Gauthier’s shoddy work. A believer in karma, Gauthier feels well within his rights to burgle Lee. After months of planning, Gauthier breaks into Lee’s house and steals a safe. Among all the jewellery, guns and assorted pricey junk in the safe, is a hi8 tape.   

Gauthier, who in another life was a porn star, approaches Uncle Miltie, (Nick Offerman) his producer  from the old days, to play the tape. When the two figure out it is a sex tape made by Anderson and Lee during their honeymoon, they realise they are sitting on a goldmine. Their only problem is no adult entertainment store is willing to stock the tape without signed releases from Anderson and Lee for fear of legal action. That is when Gauthier hits the motherlode and decides to harness the power of the internet, unleashing a tsunami that no one can contain.    

Pam & Tommy is beautifully acted. James and Stan have literally become Anderson and Lee. Apart from the prosthetics (including an animatronic penis), hair, make-up and tattoos, the two have been able to distil the characteristics of the glamazon and her rockstar husband. While James’ Anderson is a warm, likeable and smart woman with a fondness for rom-coms who wants to have a large family, Stan has channelled Lee’s drug-fuelled excesses, his hair-trigger temper, and his habit of wandering about the house in tiny briefs and having long conversations with his penis, to create a character you might want to hang out with for a little bit.    

The others, including Taylor Schilling as Erica, Gauthier’s ex-wife; Andrew Dice Clay as mob guy, Butchie, Mozhan Marnò as Gail Chwatsky, Anderson’s publicist, and Fred Hechinger as Seth Warshavsky, internet wiz-kid, are all characters not caricatures.   

Based on the article, “Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape”, Pam & Tommy is addictive viewing for its recreation of a time gone by — of dial-up modems sounding like something Pink Floyd would come up with, MTV, cable television and the Internet.   

Pam & Tommy is currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar

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