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New TV Show Review: The Playboy Club on NBC

By Fred Topel

HollywoodNews.com: Well, The Playboy Club seems right on board with Hugh Hefner’s decades-old mandate that a magazine with naked pictures of women isn’t about sex or exploiting women. I agree with Hef, but it’s not enough for a TV show. Just as Playboy magazine is soft porn, The Playboy Club is soft drama. It can be fun, but it’s no Mad Men, which is exactly what it’s trying to be.


NBC’s new hour long period piece sets the stage well. Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti) is on stage performing a musical number. Those swing time covers of old hits could be big downloads. Not Glee big but the jazzy doo wop is even better for sophisticated tastes. Benanti is fantastic. They get a soul band in the second half of the hour too, and a good Tina Turner impersonator. The bunnies shake it on the dance floor too.


The stage entertainment looked great, but lots of clubs had great acts. I still don’t get the point of The Playboy Club? Did you meet girls from the magazine? That would be something I guess. I mean, I don’t expect a brothel, or even a strip club, but just to be served cigarettes and drinks by women with ears and tails? God, men were lame in the ‘50s.


The bunny outfits are cute and the modern day actresses sure look nice in those old styles. The guys wear suits and slick hair. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) is the lawyer and man with a plan. He’s no Don Draper, but he’s married to Carol Lynne because he read her article in the first issue of Playboy. Get it? He read it for the articles!


Maureen (Amber Heard) is a doe eyed admirer of Carol Lynne and a newbie cigarette bunny. It’s a shame she gets involved in a cliché crime subplot, because her cliché All About Eve storyline is at least more natural. Even if guys did get rough at the Club, Maureens’ got a lame self defense murder cover up plot. I’d rather just see a show about a night at the Playboy club each week. Even if it doesn’t go raunchy or dark, was it at least a fun place to go or work?


The character with by far the most interesting storyline is Alice (Leah Renee Cudmore), whose closeted innuendo speaks volumes about important themes of then and today. Billy Rosen (David Krumholtz) is the manger who really can’t manage anything when Carol-Lynne just goes over his head to Hef. Janie (Jenna Dewan Tatum) won’t marry bartender Max (Wes Ramsey) and can’t tell him why (I bet she’s already married. I called it.) Brenda (Naturi Naughton) is the token black bunny who wants to be the first chocolate centerfold in the magazine. That would be racist if I were making it up, but she does make the point that the nicknames she gets called on the street aren’t as cute.


They pay lip service to bulimia and other social mores that were new in the ‘60s but the sleazy sexist comments are tame compared to Mad Men. Sorry, there’s already a show exposing the subtle ways ‘60s men objectified women. They try to talk dirty for prime time, but referring to a lady’s “kitty cat” and revealing that a double entendre was actually about a penis the whole time is not edgy. They’re spelling out things that should be implied to create a sense of the world.


The musical performances will be worth watching every week, and there’s a chance that subsequent episodes can improve now that they’ve gotten all the basics out of the way. They already improved the pilot from its rough version, and really if they take our advice and scuttle off the crime subplot they can move on to much more fun stuff.

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  • OST
    September 6, 2011 | Permalink |

    I’ll check it out once to see what it’s all about.

  • Andy
    September 6, 2011 | Permalink |

    With all due respect to writer Fred Topel, the comment: ” I mean, I don’t expect a brothel, or even a strip club, but just to be served cigarettes and drinks by women with ears and tails? God, men were lame in the ‘50s” seems completely off base. You’re criticizing what was once a social phemonenon instead of the show itself. It may seem “lame” by today’s standard but it definitely echoed sentiments of that time and the influence Playboy had on sexuality, and I have a feeling that there was more to the club than just what you describe. Unfortunately, (and to your other points) it doesn’t sound like this show really does a good job exploring that angle with the kind of depth necessary to make it another Mad Men. Too bad.

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