‘The Playboy Club’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 3 years ago by

the playboy club series premiere nbc ‘The Playboy Club’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Perhaps four years ago, before Don Draper was THE name in retro-cool, before Mad Men had not just staked a claim on 1960s nostalgia, but made reliving the cultural and societal differences of half-century ago a television phenomenon, The Playboy Club might have been a charming, thought-provoking concept.

At first glance, one would believe The Playboy Club, from Parenthood, Friday Night Lights producer Brian Grazer, intended to be a program seeking to analyze the sexual revolution through the eyes of women on the forefront of the movement – promoting a brand, while also selling fantasy to their male customers.

Surprisingly, instead of exploring that potentially rich subject matter, The Playboy Club has chosen to be a somewhat run-of-the-mill crime drama that utilizes the fabled club as a setting for all sorts of intermingling of both shady underworld and political dealings. Whether this is an attempt to throw off critics who encouraged boycotting the show for its sexual subject matter, or a move to throw the audience a wily curve ball that, for all the talk about sexual revolution, these women are cogs in a story that is essentially about men is unclear.

Having seen the trailer for the series is to have practically seen the series premiere – but with without all those pesky commercials to filter through.

The episode begins (and ends) with a voice-over from the face of the company, Hugh Hefner (though Hefner doesn’t actually make an appearance), which further undermines any notion that The Playboy Club is capable of entering Mad Men territory – or really has any intention to do so.

Soon after Hef fades out, the audience is introduced to new bunny Maureen (Amber Heard), who dreamily looks on as Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti) captivates the audience with her vocal stylings. As Maureen watches, her fellow bunny pals Alice (Leah Renee Cudmore) and Brenda – played by former Mad Men bunny Naturi Naughton – introduce themselves to the audience through some clunky exposition about Carol-Lynne being the first bunny.

No sooner have the introductions been made than Maureen finds herself under the lustful eye of a handful of men – and then she manages to accidentally kill one of them after he gets all hands-y with her in the club’s back room.

heard dewan tatum naughton the playboy club nbc ‘The Playboy Club’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Lucky for Maureen, she’s also caught the eye of up-and-coming attorney Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), who, for reasons not immediately made clear, helps the novice bunny by disposing of the body.

Dalton isn’t at the club waiting to rescue bunny-tailed damsels in distress, though. He is the romantic interest of aging bunny Carol-Lynne – who is arguably better suited for running the establishment than being a fixture of it – a fact she constantly drops on the uninterested ears of club manager Billy Rosen (David Krumholtz).

Overall the cast is attractive and well suited to their roles but, ultimately, there is no substance to any of them, at least not yet. Each bunny has her own side story – the problem is, none of them are particularly interesting or new to television.

Heard is, of course, beautiful, but that’s seemingly all that Maureen has to offer. Sure, the audience is given a glimpse of her dreams of making it as a big star – beyond a nice smile, however, there’s no indication that Maureen is anything but a dreamer.

More troublesome is the casting of Cibrian, who took over the role from Jeff Hephner (soon to be seen in Boss). Cibrian has the look of 1963 down pat, but one can’t help wonder if his casting has something to do with the way he almost perfectly mimics Jon Hamm’s casually smarter-than-you speech rhythm. If you were to close your eyes, you would almost swear that Don Draper had dropped by the Playboy Club for a few drinks.

Furthermore, Cibrian’s Dalton is shown to have a bit of a dark side – with hints that he was (or still is) involved with the Chicago mafia. All of that is fine and dandy; the real problem is Dalton’s ubiquitous presence at the Playboy Club or Playboy Mansion. For a guy who may be a key protagonist, Dalton comes off as being a bit of a pervert.

cibrian krumholtz the playboy club series premiere nbc ‘The Playboy Club’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Eddie Cibrian & David Krumholtz in 'The Playboy Club'

So the question then is: just what is a series like The Playboy Club aiming at? The answer is far from certain. More so than any other program draped in some semblance of nostalgia, The Playboy Club should be front and center in confronting that decade’s societal inequalities and, to some degree, share a subtle wink with its modern audience that we all know better, or look how far we have come – regardless if we have or have not. Unfortunately, The Playboy Club seems content to parade pretty women in front of the camera and make nods at progressive thinking, as though the program actually believes the Playboy brand was responsible for curing several of society’s ills.

Ultimately, The Playboy Club is selling a product, and obsessively reminds the viewer of that fact as much as possible. Hefner’s claims, “the world was changing, and we were changing it. One bunny at a time.” It’s clever the way Hefner, Playboy and now The Playboy Club have masked the company’s marketing behind the allure of providing women a place where they “could be anything they wanted.” So long as what the women wanted was to be responsible for filling the coffers of a worldwide company, then yes, they could be anything they wanted.

Right now, for all of its eye candy and uncertain intent, The Playboy Club comes off as a splintered segment of a larger whole. Sadly, that segment is all style and no substance. After expecting there to be some sense of self-awareness, it soon becomes clear that The Playboy Club has no intention of being something deeper. The show already believes it has plumbed the depths of the 1960’s complexities.

It’s not as though the talent to do so isn’t there, so despite some reservations and disappointment in the overall structure of the program, it feels like there is potential for The Playboy Club to grow up and make for interesting television. Time will tell whether or not it does.

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The Playboy Club airs Monday nights @10pm on NBC.

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  1. I hope you will tune in for episode 2…I worked on it as an extra!

  2. I have a friend working as a regular on the show. He moved to Chicago for this show. I really hope it finds its way. Unfortunately – I don’t think it will. :-(

  3. I hope this show makes it. I think it will pick up more viewers now that the hype is somewhat over with Two and a Half Men. More viewers will probably tune in the coming weeks.

    • This isn’t even on at the same time as two and half men. ??? This show is on at the same time as Hawaii 5-0 and Castle. I want it to be successful but given the choices I’ll choose those two over this anytime. I can only record two shows at once :-(

      • Yeah but don’t forget the Charlie Sheen Roast came on at 10 last night also. Wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t draw the same amount of viewers as Two and a Half Men if not more. The Playboy Club or anything else that aired at 10 last night was going to have horrible ratings.

  4. I think this review makes some pretty bold accusations for a series that is only one episode in.

  5. Show was great. Kept my interest

  6. I really really liked this show!! Most of the new and returning shows have been great!!!

  7. IMO the show sucks. I dont care to elaborate because most of my biggest gripes are mentioned in the review

  8. I was really excited for this show and I thought it tanked. What a let down.

  9. This show has nothing to do with Mad Men. It had so much potencial in terms of storyline, they simply blew it with the mafia-theme. My bet is audience will start falling, show will be cancelled after 10 episodes.

  10. I totally agree you can almost hear the Don Draper trying to come out but sadly this show isn’t as good. It was 3 or 4 scenes of “why are you sad and where’s the mob boss?” All the side plots all seem to be done before and I can see where this show will probably go but it will never make it there.

    • Thats Chicago guys! The mob was a big deal in the 60′s. I live in Chicago and it is still something you don’t talk about in certain neighborhoods.

  11. See I read the review thinking the show wouldn’t be worth checking out, but then I watched it and it turned out pretty ok. I think I shall continue watching it and see where it goes

  12. I have watched both episodes of this show and so far I think it has real potential. I enjoy the scenery, costumes, and storyline. I hope viewers give it a chance! Eddie Cibrian is worth tuning in for….

  13. It is such a Mad Men wannabe that it was hard to watch. Eddie Cibrian must have watched a hundred Man Men episodes to copy Don Drapers voice. It is hilarious. Good try though. I’ll watch the ORIGINAL. Mad Men is in a class by itself.

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