The success of Mad Men has given new licence to pomade and American nostalgia on the small screen. Now, that nostalgia has lifted off from New York's Madison Avenue and taken to the skies, with the new big-budget drama Pan Am (AXN Beyond; Saturdays at 9.50pm), which is set in the 1960s, back when flight attendants were happy to be called stewardesses.
The pilot episode opens with a homage to the golden era of the commercial airline. Wide shots of a brand new Boeing 707 taking off to a grandiose score cuts to the perfectly groomed, glamorous flight crew. Everything is bright and glossy. And, of course, behind the shiny veneer, each of the stewardesses is hiding a secret.
Having left her fianc? at the altar, Laura runs off with older sister Kate to become a Pan Am stewardess. Little does she know that she will become the face of the company after she appears on the cover of a magazine in her uniform. This doesn't sit well with her protective sister, who has a secret of her own: she's working undercover for the CIA. French gamine Colette finds out mid-flight that her love interest is married with children.
Then there is Maggie (Christina Ricci; Sleepy Hollow) - perhaps the most con- temporary character. Where most of her female peers aspire to the male-imposed ideals of femininity and propriety, Maggie has the makings of a budding feminist. Granted, her introductory act of defiance - not wearing a girdle under her uniform - isn't exactly revolutionary; but we expect a lot more pot-stirring from this plucky lady. Having said that, where Mad Men seeks to mock the antiquated values of the time, Pan Am is more about romanticising them.
For a bit of Jason Bourne-style conspiracy adventure, there's XIII (Max; Fridays at 10pm), a series based on Belgian author Jean Van Hamme's graphic novels, which have sold more than 13 million copies worldwide since the 80s. The show picks up two years after the events of the 2008 miniseries, which starred Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff. Stuart Townsend (Queen of The Damned) takes up the role of XIII, an American secret agent who escapes from a CIA-operated secret prison in Eastern Europe with a surgically altered face and a fake identity, and returns to the United States to find the people responsible for his incarceration.
XIII's personal mission is to uncover his true identity and, to do so, he reluctantly plays into a conspiracy involving the highest members of the US government and their enemies jockeying for political power.
Finally, Franklin and Bash (above; Fox, Sundays at 8pm) are a pair of ambulance-chasing lawyers whose small firm specialises in quirky cases and low-brow humour. They work out of their bachelor pad - the hot tub is often the location for strategy sessions - which they share with their two assistants: agoraphobic researcher Pindar and ex-convict Carmen.
Their goofy, inconsequential lifestyle gets upended when they happen to impress legendary trial attorney Stanton Infeld (Malcolm McDowell; Heroes) by winning a case with the help of a bikini model, who strips on the witness stand. Infeld hires the men to shake things up at his firm and show the sleazy, slick lawyers how it's done. A season of frat-boys invading a stuffy law firm begins.