“Pam & Tommy” is a sad and hilarious tale of a 90s famous tattooed, hot-head metal band drummer and a drop-dead gorgeous Playboy model and “Baywatch” actress, streaming on Hulu. Yes, it’s a tale of “revenge porn” of which Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were victims. Yet, it’s also the tale of so much more—marriage, celebrity, jealousy, privacy, intentional slut-shaming, black markets, and the origin of Internet pornography.
The eight-part series starts today, with Episodes 1-3 available now and the other five dropping each week consecutively. During the 90s, as I was raising teens, I remembered the details of the Pam and Tommy sordid, tragic tabloid headline story. I was surprised to learn that the ‘sex tape’ was of their honeymoon—also, the degrading treatment of Pam Anderson in her Hollywood dealings with producers, directors, and lawyers. I loved the 90s soundtrack, the spot-on wardrobe, makeup, hairstyles, set design, and main characters. Both were outstanding in creating these colorful characters that were clueless on so many aspects of life. I can recommend the series, just know that it contains lots of nudity and a weird segment with Tom’s talking male organ.
Pamela Anderson, portrayed by Lily James of “Baby Driver” (2017) fame—arrives in LA from Canada via an invitation from Hugh Heffner. Tommy Lee, Sebastian Stan “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014), drummer of the highly successful LA band Mötley Crüe, meets Pam and immediately falls in ‘lust’. They quickly marry and film their honeymoon, including their wedding night. Fast-forward, the tape is placed in a large locked safe in their home and stolen. The rest is history, as they say, as the video is sold online, on the streets, and in stores without their permission.
Unfortunately, the miniseries doesn’t feel like the Tonya Harding film “I, Tonya” or the O. J. Simpson series featuring Marcia Clark. These women had processed their pain and were ready to tell their story; by all accounts, Pam Anderson has not given the series her blessing. This aspect is troubling as, again, without her consent, her pain is brought front and center. Clearly, the victim here is Pam Anderson; the personal tape ruined her career in Hollywood caused her emotional pain and suffering all amid her pregnancy. Thankfully filmmakers create great empathy and outrage for her situation; because she’s not on board, we feel somewhat redeemed.
The series begins in 1995, Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) is fired from his carpentry job at the celebrity couple’s Malibu mansion and never paid the $20,000 he says he was owed. When he returned to their home to pick up his tools, Lee aimed a shotgun at him. The physical threat and the non-payment created a retaliation mode in Gauthier. He stole a safe from the couple’s house, forced it open, and discovered a tape that Pam and Tommy had made on their honeymoon. Garnering a loan from a mobster played by (Andrew Dice Clay), he created a website to recoup his losses by selling video copies of their most intimate moments.
Rand is told early on, “Nobody is ever getting rich off a celebrity sex tape,” The porn industry, with which Rand has more than a short-lived familiarity, won’t touch the tape without consent, the carpenter went on to sell it on the Internet. Reliving those early days is fun to see, as Rand has to explain to his druggie business partner, Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman), what a search engine is, and the capability of its reach. What’s really crazy is the scene where Tommy and Pam need to go to their local library to see the actual website in Malibu, despite having a computer in their home.
Nonetheless, all the alcohol, drugs, blind lust, and atrocious decision-making that led to their tying the knot, director Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) constructs a solid belief in their love. Tommy’s bad-boy self-indulgence allows Pam, whose persona is rigidly self-disciplined and people-pleasing, to enjoy some of his freedom. Pam’s musical-loving wholesomeness, there’s a scene of her favorite movie “The King and I” which she sweetly sings, “Getting to Know You,” which in contrast, lends the just-divorced Tommy, who sports the word (or life philosophy) “MAYHEM” tattooed across his torso, needing a firm foundation a groundedness that he actually craves, They say opposites attract and in many ways these two clearly were miles apart. Tommy treats her like a princess after her long humiliating days on the “Baywatch” set, where directors are more interested in how much skimpy swimsuit coverage they can get away.
In the end, Pamela Anderson is given the compassionate treatment she deserves from the media (aka, this Hulu series) and not to be made the brunt of jokes that was commonplace during her hype. There is a sweetness to her performance, while Sebastian plays a cartoonish rock god with non-stop energy. He’s in constant movement with a short fuse. We see shades of domestic violence that appear to have led to the real-life Anderson and Lee’s divorce, although only lightly touched upon as to not complicate their passionate romance.
Sarah Knight Adamson© February 2, 2022