Let’s face it, when pioneering internet pornographer Seth Warshavsky released the highly controversial – and much viewed- sex tape of Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in 1998, he didn’t have any aspirations of high art. Warshavsky’s sole motivation was money, which he more than achieved, although he ended up having to pay out the reluctant and litigious stars of the show $1.5 million after making their stolen property public. No one in the equation would expect their situation to inspire a critically respected miniseries.
And yet, here we all are. After weeks of hype and an inescapable ad campaign, Pam & Tommy dropped on Hulu today, and the result is a resounding “pretty good” according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The Hulu Miniseries has an impressive aggregate critic’s score of 87% on the site and the Critics Consensus on its Rotten Tomatoes page reads, “Pam & Tommy sometimes undercuts its own critique of cultural voyeurism with lurid stylization, but Lily James’ performance gives this sleazy opus an undeniable heart.”
Not bad for a movie that is about, well, a home sex tape sold under extremely dubious circumstances. According to the Mötley Crüe biography, The Dirt, the tape was allegedly stolen from Lee’s house by a worker and former porn star by the name of Rand Gauthier – portrayed in the story by series co-producer Seth Rogen. The tape found its way into Warshavsky’s hands and thence onto the internet. The then-married couple sued Warshavsky’s Internet Entertainment, which ended with an undisclosed settlement.
It should be noted that neither Lee nor Anderson was involved with the miniseries. The couple divorced after two incidents of domestic violence perpetrated by Lee upon Anderson. An unnamed source has told Entertainment Tonight that Anderson views the series as “very painful” and that, “It is shocking that this series is allowed to happen without her approval.”
Although the three available episodes have earned a few critical “splats” on Rotten Tomatoes, a firm majority seems to be enjoying the series as an occasionally flawed gem. NPR’s Aisha Harris called the series “CHAOTIC. Also, thoroughly entertaining,” while The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan wrote that it was ” warm, funny, intelligent and rather moving drama, with astonishing performances from Lily James as Anderson and Sebastian Stan as Lee.”
Comic Book Resources critic Ashley Saunders tweeted, “Sebastian Stan & Lily James are PERFECTION.”
Pajiba’s Lindsay Traves complimented the series take on morality, stating, “It’s an unflattering portrayal of celebrity that, like Succession, lets you sympathize with the evildoers just long enough, before splashing cold American beer in your face to snap you out of it.”
It remains to be seen if the series maintains its B+ average on the site as Hulu airs the remaining episodes over the next few weeks. But the critics do seem to be in consensus about Stan and Lily’s chemistry. The faux couple may end up attending an award show or two down the road.
The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy are currently available on Hulu, and the remaining five will be released weekly.