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Why 'Pan Am' Flies On While 'Playboy Club' Crashed and Burned

Unlike it’s nostalgic counterpart “The Playboy Club” which fell into the dust bin of “Mad Men” knock offs this season, ABC’s “Pan Am” will live to fly the friendly skies after the new year, due to its genuine embrace of a bygone era and its endearing leading lady, Christina Ricci, experts say.

The show's ratings have dropped since its strong premiere of nearly 11 million viewers, and the past few weeks have brought whisperings of a cancellation now that the show hovers between 5 and 6 million viewers each week. But even though ABC has shelved new episodes of the series until January 8, the show is still busily shooting new episodes in Manhattan, and reps for ABC announced that it is still in contention to be renewed for the fall.

Critics say the network needs to give the show more time, the way AMC gave “Mad Men” to develop its characters and find its niche.

FOX411 BLOG: Christina Ricci in 'Emmy' Magazine.

“ABC really needs to give this show more time; give it better promotion, experiment with time slots, and keep some aspect of the show alive during the hiatus," Newsday television critic Verne Gay told Fox411.com. "It's worth keeping, and it's worth going the extra mile for."

Loyal fans enjoy the show with a cult like fervor, not unlike the early followers of “Mad Men.” Earlier this month, fans began circulating a petition online and through various social networks to keep the show alive. They also encouraged their ranks to write to ABC to ask that they keep it on the air.

The drama follows four sassy stewardesses in the sixties during a time when being smart and sexy were requirements to work in the burgeoning air travel field.

“Unlike ‘Playboy Club,’ ‘Pan Am's’ retro vibe feels authentic. It's easy to get transported to the '60s when you're watching the show,” explains TVLine.com Editor in Chief Michael Ausiello.

Critics also add that, despite capitalizing on an era of sexism, “Pan Am” doesn’t get caught up in being a negative symbol of a bygone era representing the commodification of women, the way that “The Playboy Club” did.

“Pan Am, by contrast, is a very good symbol of innovation and international travel, and the onset of the jet set age, and even of elegance. Jack Orman, the producer, has captured that very well,” Gay says.  “The show is beautifully produced, with a real sense that this is as a much a visual spectacle as a dramatic one. Sure Pan Am went out of business, but the best of the symbol remains.”

Ricci, in her first starring role in a television series, has endeared herself as Maggie, the beatnik who uses her glamorous job to travel the world but doesn’t buy into all of the stereotypes that go with being a woman who is paid handsomely to serve men perfect Manhattans at high elevations.

Ricci explained the allure of the show in a dazzling cover spread in Emmy magazine, the industry mag for the Academy of Television Arts and Science.

“It’s like an ultimate flight of fantasy. We’re women living in 2011 and we get to go way back and dress up every day in vintage clothes and be in a completely different world,” she said.

Television critic Ronnie Karam senior editor for TVGasm.com credits Ricci’s easy ability to channel fantasy with her grounded relatability.

“There's something sweet and wonderful about Christina Ricci. She's like a lot of us. To look at her and hear her speak, you'd think she didn't have a whole lot going on in the noggin, but under it all she's a smart, tough cookie,” Karam tells Fox411. “Also, she's never been caught shoplifting, taking copious amounts of illegal substances or battling a sex addiction. America loves our train wrecks, but we also love our strong, independent weirdos.”

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