At the dawn of the internet in the late 1990s, a stolen VHS tape would become one of the biggest scandals in celebrity culture history. Pam & Tommy tells the story of the unauthorized release of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape and all the wild details. Starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, the eight-episode series dives into the Playboy icon and Mötley Crüe drummer’s whirlwind romance, subsequent invasion of privacy, and the surrounding chaos.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya and Cruella) and written by Robert D. Siegel, Pam & Tommy blurs the line between its wild, highly dramatized storytelling and the real-life eccentric couple. The nature of how the tape was stolen—by a disgruntled contractor named Rand (Seth Rogen)—and then produced in itself is so unbelievable and salacious. And with some more wacky elements (hello talking Tommy Lee penis) and ultra-stylized scenes, every episode has you consumed.
The series does a great job of capturing the pop culture elements of the time, the developing obsession with celebrity, scandal, and where their privacy rights begin to diminish. It also really encompasses the magnitude of Pam and Tommy’s place in the cultural zeitgeist back then, with both actors nailing their portrayals. However, it’s James who steals the show, as she completely disappears into the role. You truly cannot tell where she ends and the prosthetics begin.
While the event itself is ultra scandalous, I would say the series offers a slightly new sympathetic look at Anderson, whose persona back then clouded public perception. And how sexist double standards boosted Lee for being a “sex god” with Anderson shamed for her part. Through a modern lens, the series does make you rethink the whole situation and how the public reacted to the complete exploitation of their privacy.
However, considering Pam & Tommy was produced without consultation from Anderson or Lee, you do have to watch with an air of skepticism. Perhaps also question whether or not we’re still exploiting their story, just in a different way. But it’s hard to deny that it doesn’t make for one absurdly entertaining show.
The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy premiere February 2 on Hulu