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Glamorous ‘Pan Am’ ready for takeoff

The cast “Pan Am” includes (from left) Karine Vanasse as Colette; Michael Mosley as Ted; Margot Robbie as Laura; Mike

The cast of “Pan Am” includes (from left) Karine Vanasse as Colette; Michael Mosley as Ted; Margot Robbie as Laura; Mike Vogel as Dean; Christina Ricci as Maggie, and Kelli Garner as Kate.

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‘PAN AM’ ★★★

9:01 to 10 p.m. Sundays on WLS-Channel 7

Updated: November 10, 2011 5:16PM

Before heading to the airport, limit your carry-on liquids to 3-ounce bottles, give yourself plenty of time to go through security and — most important — do not watch “Pan Am.” It will only make you mad.

That’s because ABC’s new Sunday night drama takes place in 1963 during the glamorous dawn of the Jet Age, back when flying was still fun and “the friendly skies” was more than just a slogan.

“About five years ago in my office, everyone was coming back from traveling for the holidays and complaining about how horrible it was,” said Nancy Hult Ganis, an executive producer of the show and a Pan Am stewardess in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Ganis regaled her co-workers with stories about what it was like to fly with the world’s most prestigious airline: invites to embassy parties, layovers in exotic locales, encounters with powerful people — even a little espionage work for Uncle Sam, a plotline “Pan Am” viewers might think is far-fetched. Ganis insists it’s grounded in reality. As to whether she was a spy … “I’ll never tell,” she laughed.

“It was the young people in our office who encouraged me to move forward with this,” she said about her new high-flying period drama, co-produced by Jack Orman (“ER”), who wrote the premiere, and Thomas Schlamme (“West Wing”), who directed it.

“Pan Am” focuses largely on a circle of four stewardesses, including the always delightful Christina Ricci, a rebellious bohemian hiding beneath her blue uniform.

Laura (Margot Robbie) is a runaway bride who follows in her sister Kate’s (Kelli Garner) high-heeled footsteps to an adventurous life in the skies. The group’s caretaker is Colette (Karine Vanasse), a French beauty with bad taste in men.

This group of pre-feminists sees squeezing into a girdle and weigh-ins before takeoff as a small price to pay for the opportunity to go globetrotting and bring home a relatively fat paycheck.

“These women were definitely ahead of their time,” Orman said. “They were out exploring the world.”

Viewers get to tag along as the curvy cabin crew jets off to Berlin, Paris, Monte Carlo and Jakarta with a couple of pilots: nice-guy Dean and playboy Ted, who’s no doubt a charter member of the mile-high club.

The action is set to the beat of “Mack the Knife” and other swingin’ songs that, along with some stunning production design, help the show deliver a hefty dose of ’60s nostalgia.

Setting the series in this “Mad Men” time period gives Orman and his writers plenty of fodder to round out the characters’ personal dramas.

The first episode dips its toes into the Bay of Pigs fiasco. (The government used Pan Am to rescue released prisoners from Cuba.) The civil rights struggle should surface later in the season when a black stewardess comes aboard.

“The world was changing drastically,” Orman said. “There was a lot of injustice, a lot of turbulence.”

Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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