Correction to This Article
A March 24 TV preview in Style of "Fly Girls" misidentified the airline that employs the flight attendants featured in the show as Virgin Atlantic Airways. The women work for Virgin America. This article has been updated to reflect that change.

Hank Stuever on the CW's 'Fly Girls'

The CW's new reality series follows five Virgin America flight attendants, capturing their work and personal lives -- from traveling coast to coast to partying on South Beach. The series premieres on March 24 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

They didn't call it "Air Heads" because . . . that would be demeaning?

Instead, it's called "Fly Girls," CW's new reality-esque series filmed in deceptive, "Hills"-style fake-o-vision, about a quintet of Virgin America flight attendants who are based out of LAX and are forced (by producers?) to share a condo, which they call the Crash Pad.

The Fly Girls are: Tasha (black; single mom), Louise (Asian; parents wanted her to be a nurse), Farrah (blonde; biological clock suddenly ticking loudly), Mandalay (the pert one; the hero), and finally, Nikole, the mean one nobody likes, pulling up to the Crash Pad with her two Chihuahuas in a white Hummer -- she drove all the way from 2003!

Would you believe they sent the preview DVD of this show in a cute little airsickness bag? I'll keep it handy for you -- especially if you're entertaining any notion that feminism has survived. The women of "Fly Girls" would probably have me jettisoned for suggesting that they are anything but fiercely independent, but their lives (as depicted here) come across as frenetic, sad and, since we're on the subject, unsexy.

Look, I know we're not aboard Simone de Beauvoir Airlines here. But I held a glimmer of hope that "Fly Girls" would provide an interesting glimpse of work life in America's least favorite milieu -- airline travel -- and that it would somehow validate the unsung heroes of the post-9/11 age: tireless, underpaid women and men flight attendants, who must now cheerfully act as host, bartender and federal deputy.

Commercial flying offers a wide array of subjects for documentary social study -- A&E had a very good series five years back about the stressful lives of ticket agents at Southwest Airlines -- but "Fly Girls" seems determined to fulfill a set of demeaning, outdated stereotypes centered on stewardess fantasies.

This can be achieved, apparently, only by giving the women of "Fly Girls" a lot more time off than the average sky slave. Because they work for Richard Branson's upscale Virgin America, these women have bought into a certain cachet (a marketing gimmick) that scrambles luxury into a "Mad Men" retro mishmash of jet-setting that existed only in mid-century advertisements.

"Back home in Arizona, I was destined to have the white-picket-fence life," Mandalay announces in the show's intro. "When we put on our uniforms, the world is our playground and anything can happen."

But for some reason, when these girls put on their uniforms (tight white blouses, kerchiefs and A-line miniskirts), absolutely nothing happens.

They seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the ground, where they have to work (no, it's an honor) company-sponsored red-carpet events in Hollywood -- serving drinks, running errands, schmoozing and looking pretty.

On a San Francisco to L.A. flight, Louise accepts an impromptu invitation from a blue-eyed passenger (an IFB, or "in-flight boyfriend") to a cocktail party in Beverly Hills. She takes Mandalay along, and they have to put up with dumb questions from drooling idiots.

"You're called 'air hostesses' now? Or something like that?" one dude asks them.

"Actually, the correct term is 'flight team member,' " sniffs Louise.

"I wanna be in that mile-high club," another oaf jokes.

Mandalay and Louise roll their eyes, disgusted that these fellows would dare to make stewardess jokes. In this day and age. The nerve!

Then, with their brains locked in the upright position, the "Fly Girls" take off for another contrived adventure, way up there, where the air is very thin.

Fly Girls, (30 minutes) debuts at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on CW.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company