TV Review - The Playboy Club

Premiering on September 19th, The Playboy Club was canceled after its third episode aired on October 3rd. It became the first show of the 2011 fall season to get the axe.

The critical response was mixed, leaning more toward the negative. I described it as like Mad Men but with an edge. It centered on a Hugh Hefner nightclub in Chicago during the 1960s.

The quick end of this NBC series was prognosticated a day or so prior. Hollywood Uncensored, a talk show on Reelz Channel hosted by Sam Rubin, has a segment called Crystal Ball. In the segment, the guests make predictions about what's going to happen. One of the guests predicted TV audiences would have enough of these Mad Men-like shows.

The Playboy Club was one of two shows that were Mad Men clones, or, in the least it was a show set in the 1960s that aimed at deconstructing a particular business. Mad Men deconstructed the advertising business. The other series Pan Am deconstructs the airline industry. The Playboy Club deconstructed Hefner's playboy business.

A series about a group of beautiful women, walking around in tight, bunny outfits would seem to be a ratings boom for the peacock network. That's assuming you could get men to watch. Men age 21 and up would seem to be the perfect demographic for this show.

Except, if you look at the 10PM hour on other, broadcast networks that are doing better than NBC, not only on Mondays, which was the time-slot for The Playboy Club, but also on other days of the week, men might not be the key demographic for 10PM scripted dramas. Putting aside Monday night football, the 10PM hour is now dominated with medical and police procedural shows, starring mostly strong women.

For the returning shows as well as the new programming, the 10PM shows are normally about women who are cops and doctors, using their brains and occasional braun to solve mysteries and fight crimes. One can imagine the demographic built-up from these shows is itself women who like to use their brains and braun. This demographic would perhaps not want to see a bunch of scantily-clad women set back in a pre-feminist world.

The show starred Amber Heard as Maureen, a new girl at the Playboy Club. She's trying to start over or reinvent herself. She meets various other bunnies, including an African-American named Brenda. All the bunnies are basically trying to do the same. Things get a little dicey when Maureen accidentally kills a mob boss in self-defense, using the spiked heel of her shoe. An aspiring attorney named Nick Dalton, played by Eddie Cibrian, comes to her aid.

All three episodes were concerned with Maureen and Nick covering up this murder and making sure fellow mob boss John Bianchi, played by Troy Garity, doesn't discover the truth. Yet, Maureen wasn't the only bunny with secrets. Another bunny named Alice was a lesbian. Alice was in a lavender marriage and was a part of a group known as the Mattachine Society, a secret organization for gay men and women.

The plot threads that the show was laying down with regards to the Mattachine and its implications in politics seemed intriguing. The problem was that the rest of the playboy club stuff was rather boring and inconsequential. Yes, it's nice to see actors or even real-life musicians performing numbers in the club, but what was this show truly saying about women?

I appreciate that Hefner was a man who fought for civil rights and progressive issues, but, at the end of the day, it's still just women in bunny tails and tight outfits that push up and out their boobs. But, with all the other representations of women at the 10PM hour, this program was very far out of place. Like with Friday Night Lights, maybe this series will find a new home on a cable or satellite channel where it could be appreciated.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Available on Demand
and NBC.com and Hulu.com

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