This week’s episode of Pam & Tommy was a definite improvement on last week’s, largely because it didn’t feature Seth Rogen wandering around with a “poor me” expression on his face. Last week, far too much time was devoted to Rogen’s sad sack portrayal of Reed Gauthier, who the show insists on trying to make a sympathetic character even though he was essentially just a thief who tried to make a lot of money by stealing and then selling someone else’s private sex tape.
Reed was nowhere to be found in this week’s episode. Instead, the narrative focused on how Pam and Tommy’s sex tape became a national story. Not surprisingly, it all turned out to be Tommy Lee’s fault. When the show opens, Jay Leno won’t make jokes about the sex tape because it’s not something that Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie in Duluth have heard about. The LA Times won’t run a story on it because the editor says that it’s not real news. With Pam preparing for the opening of Barb Wire and Tommy working on his new album (and very much aware that his label no longer views him or the band as being a top priority), it appears that there’s a chance that Pam and Tommy can ride this out.
But then Bob Guccione the publisher of Penthouse, gets his hands on the tape and Tommy and a bunch of lawyers decide to file a lawsuit to keep him for publishing stills. Pam has her doubts but Tommy and the lawyers do what they want. Guccione responds by saying that he had a first amendment right to publish pictures from the sex tape. The L.A. Times discovers, from the court filings, that the sex tape was stolen from Pam and Tommy and that it’s being sold without their permission. With the story going national, Jay Leno realizes that Duluth now know all about it. On top of all that, Pam learns how to use a search engine!
It was a busy episode. And, in contrast to the nearly hour-long episodes that proceeded it, it was only 32 minutes long. A half hour is the perfect amount of time to spend with Pam & Tommy. Spending more than half an hour with them means dealing with the fact that Tommy’s a moron and Pam really does seem to think that she’s going to win an Oscar for Barb Wire. Spending just 30 minute with them means that both characters get a chance to present their cases without wearing out their welcome. Sebastian Stan and Lily James both gave good performances in this week’s episode, with Stan portraying Tommy as being a manchild who is in deep denial about the fact that the 80s are over while Lily James captured Pam’s need to try to keep everyone happy. It’s Pam who instinctively knows the right way to deal with Guccione but she’s ignored by Tommy and his team of lawyers. As Pam’s publicist puts it, women are taught from an early age to always say yes and to agree with men, even when they know that the men doesn’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about.
That said, Pam & Tommy is still definitely a flawed vehicle. For every moment that works, there’s a moment or a line of dialogue that just tries too hard. Particularly in the scenes with Jay Leno, Pam & Tommy felt like it was one Nathan Lane cameo away from turning into a Ryan Murphy production. Five episodes in and the main problem remains that Pam & Tommy continues to struggle to convince the audience that it’s telling a story that needs to be stretched out of over 8 episodes. If ever a true story was meant to a 90-minute TBS production, this is it.