Scott D. Pierce: Pamela Anderson deserved better from us after her sex tape was stolen

She and Tommy Lee were crime victims. Bill Cosby is a hypocrite.

(Erin Simkin | Hulu) Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) meet, get high and get married … all in four days.

One of the weirder things from my 30-plus years of writing about TV happened a couple of decades ago at a Television Critics Association press tour: Pamela Anderson was at an L.A. area hotel to promote her latest project, and her sex tape was available on pay per view in the hotel’s guest rooms.

I was not aware of the PPV sex tape until a fellow critic pointed it out to me. (Really.) And I thought that Anderson and her former husband, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, had probably leaked the tape to generate publicity. It made me think less of them — particularly of Anderson. And I already thought of her as just a Playboy model/untalented actress who had roles on “Home Improvement” and “Baywatch.”

But the release of that the tape was not a publicity stunt. It was stolen. Anderson and Lee were crime victims. And, unfairly, it reflected badly on Anderson and not so much on Lee.

The story of that crime is told in the eight-part Hulu series, “Pam & Tommy,” which is also, well, weird. And surprisingly heartfelt at times.

It starts out as sort of a comedy. Rand Gautier (Seth Rogan) is a carpenter who an out-of-control Tommy refuses to pay and threatens with a gun. (The series is based on Gautier’s version of events.) Rand seeks revenge by stealing a safe from Tommy (Sebastian Stan) and Pamela’s (Lily James) garage — and the sex tape is inside the safe. This part is supposed to be funny, but it’s plodding and mostly sad.

(Rand is the son of Dick Gautier, an actor with a long list of credits who is perhaps best known for playing the robot Hymie in “Get Smart.”)

When “Pam and Tommy” focuses on Pam and Tommy, it’s better — albeit debauched. It’s extremely R-rated, with dozens of f-bombs, nudity and sex scenes — and a talking penis. (Really.)

It’s a moment in time in the 1990s, when the internet and online porn were new. And, looking back, the media of the time does not fare well. Particularly Jay Leno, whose insensitive questioning of Anderson would not go over well today. “What’s that like to have all that exposure?” Leno lasciviously asks Anderson on “The Tonight Show.”

“It’s horrible,” Anderson replies. “To have something so intimate stolen from you. Something private from inside your marriage. And have it taken and exposed to the world — it’s devastating.”

It’s not great for Tommy, who is increasingly unhappy that he’s become more famous as a porn star than as a rock star. But Pam isn’t wrong when she says, “People are going to think you’re cool for this. They’ll be high-fiving you in the street. Me, I’m going to get looked at like a slut by the whole world.”

Lee is portrayed as an out-of-control moron. I can’t speak to his behavior then, but I did interview him once on the phone, and he came across as funny, charming and amiable — sort of a regular guy.

I’ve interviewed Pamela Anderson more than once, but I honestly have close to zero memory of talking to her. Which doesn’t speak well of me. She certainly deserved better than what I, and millions of other Americans, thought of her.

(The first three episodes of “Pam and Tommy” just started streaming; the remaining five will drop one at a time on the next five Wednesdays.)

(Mario Casilli/mptvimages | Showtime) "We Need to Talk About Cosby" is airing on Showtime.

“We Need to Talk About Cosby”

An in-person encounter I had with Bill Cosby almost 25 years ago gave me a glimpse into the man once known as “America’s dad.” He was rude, condescending and arrogant — not at all what I expected from a man I grew up admiring.

Cosby was meeting with members of the Television Critics Association to promote his CBS sitcom “Cosby” (1996-2000). He was clearly holding a grudge against critics — he complained that many of us had written that his wildly popular NBC sitcom, “The Cosby Show,” declined significantly in quality in its later seasons. Which it had.

But he was in a room full of people who, for the most part, were on his side. We were iffy on the new sitcom, but in 1996 Cosby was a TV legend. I’d been a fan since I was a kid. I watched “Fat Albert” cartoons, his 1969-71 sitcom (“The Bill Cosby Show”) and his 1976 variety show (“Cos”) before “The Cosby Show.” I laughed at his comedy albums. I thought he was great long before his 1984-92 sitcom zoomed to the top of the ratings.

Cosby lambasted and lectured critics for giving good reviews to shows he considered “irreverent, lurid, appetizing and blasphemous.” In doing so, we had “helped things get to this level.” (This was after his 1994-95 series “The Cosby Mysteries” had gotten weak reviews and pretty much bombed.)

Bill Cosby — who has been accused of sexual assault be more than 60 women — was lecturing us on morality. It was sort of uncomfortable then; it’s outrageous now.

I’m not the only one who has conflicted feelings about Cosby. That’s the through-line in W. Kamau Bell’s thought-provoking, four-part documentary series “We Need to Talk About Cosby.” Bell does a masterful job of juxtaposing Cosby’s undeniable achievements, his talent, his success and what he meant to Black America with the survivors who tell so many similar stories of how he drugged and raped them.

Not surprisingly, Cosby’s representatives have attacked Bell’s docu-series. Cosby continues to maintain he’s innocent, and that all of his 60-plus accusers are lying. In a recent statement, Cosby’s representatives said that “none” of the allegations against him “have ever been proven in any court of law.”

That’s not true.

Although the statute of limitations expired before almost all the 60-plus accusers came forward, Cosby was convicted of sexual assault in 2018 in one case and sentenced to prison. Yes, he was released in June 2021 after his conviction was vacated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But while Cosby claims he was vindicated, that’s not true. The court ruled that prosecutors reneged on a promise made by a previous district attorney who agreed not to charge Cosby if he agreed to be deposed in a civil suit against him. Cosby ended up paying more than $3 million to settle that suit.

There’s some debate in “We Need to Talk About Cosby” over whether the man’s undeniable talent can be separated from what we now know about him. Is it still possible to laugh at “Fat Albert,” “The Cosby Show” and his standup performances?

Some say yes. For me, it’s a big no.

Episode 1 of “We Need to Talk About Cosby” repeats Sunday at 4 p.m. on Showtime; Episode 2 airs at 8 p.m. Sunday.