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'Pan Am' gets lifeline

"Pan Am," premiered Sept. 25, 2011.

"Pan Am," premiered Sept. 25, 2011. Credit: ABC

Good news for fans of lightly viewed "Pan Am," which has struggled mightily on Sunday nights. ABC has ordered five more scripts.

This means a couple of things: Because scripts have been ordered, it does not mean five more episodes will be shot. It means -- mostly -- that ABC wants to see where this is going into the spring, and whether it will be worth holding on to for that long, or whether a course adjustment is needed.

The network has been puzzled by its performance and, to an extent, so have I. Most critics have tended to dismiss it -- too retro or sexist or whatever -- but I've admired its overall look and ambition. Can a show survive on look and ambition? Ummm, no.

ABC is heartened by the fact that "Pan Am" has had a pretty healthy DVR playback, but that can indicate that viewers don't find it compelling enough to watch in pattern. Ten on Sundays is impossible, of course, but it's also the night with the heaviest overall viewership of the week, which means networks charge and get premiums over other nights. Because "Pan Am" is so expensive, the show needs to stick on the night to pay the freight. That's my guess anyway. 

Meanwhile, both "Once upon a Time" -- which I also like -- got a full season order -- and so did "Last Man Standing" and "Happy Endings."  

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