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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The early 1960s is the hottest era in television. Nothing is going to stop it until it jumps the shark.


Mad Men

collected its fourth Best Drama Emmy last weekend, a new show looking to capitalize on nostalgia for the era will take flight this Sunday.


Pan Am

, set in 1963 and starring the alluring

Christina Ricci

and a cast of stewardesses in pillbox hats along with a crop of closely cropped pilots, will look to recreate that bluesy era.

Judging by the trailer below,

Pan Am

has some potential, particularly when it comes to costume design.

Now that this genre is at maximum altitude (

The Playboy Club

debuted earlier this week), what is it about the early '60s that is so appealing to audiences?

One aspect of it is

the style

. In

Pan Am

, the blue uniforms are so smart and crisp and the dialogue delightfully breezy. But it's not just about the airlines, it's more the imagery of the era.

Notice how in old black-and-white photos of sporting events then that many fans in the stands were wearing hats (no, not baseball caps, fedoras), some even jackets and ties. And in football seasons, they wore dashing overcoats and scarves.

A crowd at Yankee Stadium after Roger Maris hit his 61st home run in1961.

Then you had the golden era of advertising, which

Mad Men

exalts. I found the cigarette ads of the day particularly rich (Taryeton: I'd Rather Fight Than Switch; I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel, etc.), which, to the detriment of the lungs of millions of Americans, portrayed smoking as cool. Either way, no one could argue with the confident, urbane tone of the ads in picture book magazines such as





Then there was the imbibing, risque culture. You had stiff martinis (in the office, even), long lunches on Madison Avenue, and married men living in bedroom communities likely wishing to consort with their secretaries, such as Christina Hendricks' Joan Holloway character in

Mad Men


Mad Men's Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks)

Why don't we have elegance and style

en masse

anymore? Sure, we have some of that (Fashion Week is a phenomenon in New York) but not across such a wide swath of the public. Why is dressing like a slob more acceptable?

Other people see ulterior, perhaps repressive motives in harkening back to an era when women were mostly homemakers and a family could get by with one breadwinner, usually dad. wrote about

"TV's new nostalgia for sexism."

Maybe another reason for throwback series is that the lens of time eventually trains its eye on different eras -- every decade gets a makeover. We've had plenty of '70s and '80s retrospectives. We even have one hit series, HBO's

Boardwalk Empire

, that made the 1920s hot again.

And when did this suddenly sacrosanct, early '60s era -- which culturally is an extension of the 1950s -- run its course?

One could argue it was with JFK's assassination in 1963, but it probably came around 1964-65, as problems in the nation's cities began to fester, along with riots (Watts in L.A., Detroit, Newark) and racial confrontations, particularly between civil rights marchers and police.

The '60s of

Pan Am

were unrecognizable by the end of the decade. You also had the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, Vietnam War protests, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King slain, Nixon and finally, Woodstock.

Mad Men

faces a challenge four years in, because the calendar is still turning, and the show just can't be the same in the late '60s. (Don Draper with muttonchops and a mod tie?)

As for

Pan Am

, maybe it will show this appetite isn't whetted. Imitation seems to be the sincerest form of greed when it comes to copycats, whether in TV shows, smartphones, computers, etc. But ultimately, the quality of the show will determine its success or failure. Those retro plastic Pan Am stewardesses bags seem to be a hot item around the city, and that was before this show was dreamed up.

Perhaps most of all, these shows represent a desire to recreate a time when America was at its pinnacle, when it was a nation still flexing its economic muscle and not worried about mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps and bank failures and TARP and TALP and credit rating downgrades and sovereign debt and 10% unemployment and bitter partisan politics and federal deficits and insolvent state governments and...

Maybe we just want to win again, if not for real then in our imagination.