Thursday, September 15, 2011

Candidate for Worst New Show: THE PLAYBOY CLUB

I’m giving you fair warning:  This one is a turkey.  It premieres Monday night. You gotta see it to believe it.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB.

From the first second you know you’re in trouble when Hef himself narrates it. I will acknowledge that a hundred years ago Hugh Hefner was indeed a major force in popular culture. And his willingness to challenge society’s repressed attitudes on sexuality and ignorant views on civil rights were courageous and to be applauded. And more importantly, thanks to him I saw pictures of naked girls when I was a kid!

But Hef has become a sad comical caricature of himself. Now in his 80s and looking like a whittled fungo bat you see him surrounded by busty 20 year-old bimbos, wearing his robe and sailor’s cap still prancing around like a swinging ladies man. He was recently engaged to a trollop who could easily be his great granddaughter. Aging with dignity I guess is not in the vaunted Playboy Philosophy.

His narration doesn’t add gravitas, it sets the tone for goofiness. Plus, since a real person is discussing a real place that actually existed, his narration would suggest that the events you are about to see are true… or at least not preposterous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bunny costumes are authentic right down to the cuff-links. Other than that, everything about this show is absolutely absurd.

Newbie bunny, Maureen (played by Amber Heard who looks 30) accidentally kills a major mob boss (essentially Sam Giancana) in the first five minutes.  I mean, that's the kind of thing that happened usually on Thursday nights in the club, right?  Who needs to hire a hit man from Detroit when you've got a waitress from Iowa.

But wait! It gets worse!

Laura Benanti, a Tony winner, is reduced to playing the Bunny Mother/bitch delivering bad Joan Crawford dialogue in a tail. And we’re supposed to believe that David Krumholtz is a no-nonsense tough guy. Kenneth from 30 ROCK could kick his sorry ass.

But wait! It gets worse!

If the real Hef isn’t enough, there’s also the “character” of Hugh Hefner actually in the show. You just see him from the back in his smoking jacket and pipe (ala George Steinbrenner on SEINFELD) but he’s a presence. What the pilot intimates is that one of the themes of this series will be the Chicago mob trying to get their greasy mitts on the club only to be thwarted at every turn by the much stronger, more intimidating Hugh Hefner.

But wait! It gets much worse!
This show is such a blatant rip-off of MAD MEN that it’s shameful. The lead actor, played by Eddie Cibrian, is DOING Don Draper. He’s a flat-out Jon Hamm impersonator. The moves, the expression, the look. He’s not an actor, he’s a mimic. Seriously, if I was the president of NBC and I screened this pilot I would turn to my lieutenants and say, “I can’t put this on the air. We’ll be the laughing stock of the industry.”

But wait! (You know what’s coming.)
Naturi Naughton plays one of the bunnies. She was in MAD MEN. And what part did she play? A Playboy bunny. This is beyond a rip-off. This is a rip-off and a crossover. One of the other bunnies looks like Joan of MAD MEN and every blond is a Betty Draper clone. Like I said, utterly inexcusably shameful.

I love this era. Love the music, the look, the style, pretty much everything about it except Topo Gigio. And it kills me when a show comes along and does it badly. Oh well. At least I still have PAN AM to look forward to. Although from what I understand, that series asks you to believe that most of the international stewardesses on PAN AM also worked for the CIA. Ohhhh-kay. I guarantee you if that works, by episode ten of THE PLAYBOY CLUB Hugh Hefner will be a secret agent.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB debuts Monday.  A better way of spending the hour is just being under the covers with a copy of the magazine.  

49 comments:

jerrybloomfield said...

It would be interesting to see what interaction there was between The Playboy Club and the Chicago mob.

Please Leave Name said...

You know it's a bad show when Gloria Steinem is set to guest star and she's wearing her old bunny outfit.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how bad it is, I'm not throwing away my Playboy Club Keycard.

Paul Kreppel said...

I can't believe you dissed Topo Gigio!

afg1 said...

Topo Gigio for President!

Janet T said...

Really Ken?. Taking on Topo Gigio, one of my favorite memories of the sixties? (I was young). Pick on someone your own size next time.
(and maybe someone/thing who isn't a puppet)

JRB said...

Topo Gigio IS Ken's size.

RCP said...

Hilarious. But it CAN'T get worse. I'll tune into PAN AM as well - I have what are probably idealized memories of flying PA as a kid in the 60s, when just the design of the logo promised exotic adventure - and don't forget it was displayed prominently behind the Beatles at that press conference (that'll be the Beatles episode). I remember the stewardess handing out wings and hard candy - no doubt the writers will have them doing something a bit more dramatic and sexy.

Tom Quigley said...

Why not just combine the two shows and have an episode where PLAYBOY comes out with an issue that features "The Women of Pan Am"?...

Well, probably has actually been done...

media_lush said...

your review has firmly put this into the 'so bad it's good' category that I feel I have to watch it now

Mike said...

Wow, reading your review I thought "isn't David Krumholtz that guy from Numbers? That can't possibly be who Ken is referring to. I guess I need to bone up on my CBS procedural actor name trivia." You're right that Jack McBrayer could be a tough guy first, as could any of the men on 30 Rock, even the writers.

That didn't come out as I'd planned, given the site to where I'm posting it. But you get my point.

Anonymous said...

Wait until you see Terra Nova. 85 million years ago - when giant turkeys roamed the Earth.

Breadbaker said...

The only way this could have been worthwhile was to play it for pure camp and to accentuate how tame the Playboy Clubs were and how risque they were considered in the day. The Mad Men episode that featured the Playboy Club did this pretty well, because, after all, the Playboy Club was just a passing reference in a real show with real themes and plot. It worked because we know that in a few years Gloria Steinem would have their number and in a few more Hugh Hefner's ideas of sexuality were going to seem tame on the one hand and lame on the other. Acting as though the Playboy Club mattered is a whole different kettle of fish.

gottacook said...

I know this is a minor factor, but I read someplace that Hefner (the real one) is only involved in the first episode.

Anonymous said...

PanAm will not be showing any smoking.

jbryant said...

Best throwback show on right now, in MAD MEN's absence, is THE HOUR on BBC America. It's set in England in 1956.

Chris said...

Here's a question for friday: How helpful do you think is watching The Comeback for people who want to get into show-business, particularlly the sitcom world?

Donald said...

"Keneeee, keess me goodnight..."

D. McEwan said...

I was not planning to watch it, but now I HAVE to watch the pilot.

Mike Doran said...

To me, the most hysterical aspect of this show is that both Gloria Steinem and L.Brent Bozell III are trying to get it knocked off the air before it even starts.

Talk about strange bedfellows.

Of course, thet each have their own reasons:
Steinem fears it might start some kind of return to '60s attitudes toward women as sex objects.
Bozell says that NBC is openly promoting the legitimization of pornography.
The joke is on both of them.
Hawaii Five-O and Castle are each sufficiently popular that The Playboy Club most likely won't make it through the first thirteen weeks - if that much.

My WVA word is snostshn.
Somehow, that seems truly fitting.

John said...

I was always more a Senior Wences guy than a Topo Gigio fan. But the series sounds like it's going to remind viewers of a retro version of "Showgirls" as much as it does "Mad Men".

Anonymous said...

I was part of the "Mad Men" era and went to the Play Boy Club twice, only because of business (a client wanted to go there, and we had a men's club lunch there). Hated the place. Pretentious, yes. Sexy, NEVER!

Carlos Matthews Hernandez said...

Ah, I feared this. I knew a show based on this era on a major network could not hold up. I'll still watch the first episode because I watch the first episode of a lot of shows, but I was already assuming it won't last long.

Cap'n Bob said...

Playboy was important back in the day, but it derailed when Hef's daughter took over, and when they made a woman the cartoon editor.

Topo Gigio made me squirm, and was not in the least bit amusing. Maybe if I'd been four instead of 14 when I became aware of him it would have been different.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Maybe Topo Gigio's the next retro thing to be made into a big screen extravaganza. But hmm...who could play Topo?

benson said...

But hmm...who could play Topo?

Well, with a good dialect coach, what about Roseanne?

Fung Chew said...

...starring John Boehner as Topo Gigio.
It's the decade of the 2010s, Ken, we no longer have to take the Playboy under the covers.

Frank said...

Sounds the best comedy of the new season.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I saw David Krumholtz on SVU this year, and he's chubbier but no more menacing than he was as a math genius. They should have talked to Hank Azaria, who's utterly wasted on the dim FREE AGENTS.

Sorry, afg1, I think Topo Gigio was born in Kenya.

xjill said...

Ken, you forgot that she kills the guy WITH HER SHOE. HER. SHOE. It actually is kindof entertaining in a camp/trainwreck way - it has certainly stuck with me.

Michael Zand said...

I have my DVR set to record it for two reasons:
It might so bad that it's good, you know,"Showgirls" bad?
And I'm watching for Amber Heard, one of the most beautiful women in film today.
I know she plays for the other team, but if I could just talk to her, you know, have dinner with her, show her the shrine I've built for her in a secret room I've dug out under my basement, I just know I could flip her dick switch back on. I just know it. Amber...? Are you listening....?

Larry said...

Her shoe? Sounds like The Naked Kiss.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3cD7N3Mleo

Barry Traylor said...

I suppose given the success of shows like Mad Men that the "brains" at the networks felt a show like this from near the same time period would fly.

mcp said...

For Michael Zand:

http://www.eonline.com/news/marc_malkin/playboy_clubs_amber_heard_has/258692

So, she doesn't play for the other team. She switch hits.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Michael Zand said...

mcp,

As slim as it is, thank you for offering me that ray of hope.

Michael

Jeffrey Mark said...

Hugh Heffner had a television series debuting in 1959 called Playboy's Penthouse. The show set the stage for the lifestyle of the urbane sophisticate. It was set in Heff's living room. Very relaxed, very casual show.

Heffner and his viewers had the vicarious thrill of listening in on conversations and compositions of some of the most interesting and dynamic artists of the day.

Amid swirls of cigarette smoke, booze and canoodling, elegantly clad guests partied with the 33 year old neophyte TV host in a modernist space age bachelor pad.

Sammy Davis Jr. made his appearance on the first show. It was all very hip, very cool for its day. Heff talked a lot about jazz music, architecture and cool, modernist designed furniture.

1959-1961...Heff truly was a hip cat.

roastbeefvampire said...

Unfortunately television is a copy-cat form of entertainment. With the success of Mad Men, 60s era shows are being produced. Do studios think that Mad Men is successful solely for the look of the show? Do they not realize the importance of writers, producers, and actors? Every time I see a promo for "The Playboy Club" or "Pan Am" on ABC, I just think a network is trying to cash in on the success of Mad Men instead of the cultivation of great, original programming.

MBunge said...

"I suppose given the success of shows like Mad Men..."


Sadly, the conversation at NBC should have gone something like this.

"So, what sort of new crap should we have this fall?"

"I've got it! Have you seen that show on AMC that nobody actually watches?"

"The one with the bald guy who raises pot?"

"No."

"The one with the zombies?"

"No. People really watch that show."

"Uh...you mean the one with the blonde, the redhead and that guy who'll vanish into obscurity when the show's done?"

"That's it! That's the sort of programming we need!"

"You're fired."

Mike

cadavra said...

Okay, I guess as someone who actually knows Hef, I need to come to his defense.

I hate to sound like The Manchurian Candidate, but he really is the kindest, warmest, most generous person I've ever known. A relative nobody like me can go to his house, eat his food, watch his movies and hang out with his famous friends--and he asks nothing in return save my friendship. Why am I so lucky? Kismet, perhaps, but it would not have happened if he weren't such a stand-up guy.

Yes, he's in his 80s, but so what? He's still sharp as a tack, and as long as he can continue the lifestyle he enjoys and is used to, why should he change? Because a few envious tongue-cluckers disapprove?

I once asked him if the jokes bothered him. He replied, "Hey, how many people my age still get kidded by Leno and Letterman?" He added that for decades he was called far worse--and not in jest--so if he could weather that, he can certainly take some good-natured ribbing.

He is truly a great guy, and when he goes, sadly there will be no one to replace him.

cadavra said...

P.S.: I haven't seen the show yet and thus won't comment on it, but you don't get a huge Broadway talent like Benanti to sign on if it's a total piece of crap.

Dave-El said...

The Playbob Club has GOT to succeed! It has hot babes in bunny costumes, strong characters...no?...er, sharp dialogue and..no? and thought provoking... plots? No? OK, let's try that again. It has hot babes in bunny costumes and...and...did I mention hot babes in bunny costumes? But really, do we need more than that? C'mon!

Johnny Walker said...

Yeah, but shouldn't it be banned for being pornography? (Kidding.)

Karen Hall said...

Don Draper goes to the Playboy Club and meets his doppelgänger in a very special Playboy Club.

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm shocked that this is bad. What was there other than the concept that could have clued us in?

Will said...

There was mob-Playboy Club interaction. Read The Outfit by Gus Russo.

So glad to see Hef slapped around. To me he's nothing more than an Uncle Tom of sexual liberation. Goes to show what squares we have in the media and among Hollywood types who flock to his parties and praise him endlessly, like he's relevant or something.

Dan Coyle said...

Wow, I watched the last ten minutes of this and was seriously impressed at how weird and lame it all was. Amber Heard deserves an Emmy for pretending to find Eddie Cibrian- the man who's best known for being the one actor the rest of the CSI: Miami cast, who have spent the past decade working with David Caruso, couldn't stand and had kicked off the show- charismatic and attractive.

DAVID KRUMHOLTZ????

Brian Phillips said...

I am forty-eight minutes in to the new "Charlie's Angels" and as the hipsters say, all y'all owe "Playboy Club" an apology.

I've seen PC and it was awful (as to the last scene, I liked the part where the Ike and Tina Turner band sang a song that was released some ten years AFTER the time the show takes place), but friends and neighbors, I am SAYING some of the dialog along with the characters and I haven't written it. All your favorite tropes are here, the outsider that is begrudgingly taken on and has to prove herself, the baddie that says when captured, "Whatever _____ is paying you, I'll double it.", the "I'll prove I'm as good as a guy" moment, I could go on, but I need my five senses for work tomorrow.

I refuse to watch one more minute of this. Tell you what: I'll watch next week's trailer...the day Gloria Steinem gets married! HAHAHAHAHA....

Dang. Really? OK.

The trailer for next week's episode has one of the Angels spot a guy with a gun on a boat. She says, "Gun!" and tackles the man. They both fall into the water. One of the Angels on deck says...guess!






"That girl sure knows how to make a splash!"

Yeesh,
Brian Phillips

Dave Olden said...

I finished watching the entire MAD MEN series, for the first time.

Then sampled THE PLAYBOY CLUB.

Talk about quality contrast!

(Ken, I should have listened to you!)

(Cruel irony: The magazine has, over the years, published some amazing fiction, by major 20th Century writers. Why couldn't they find some for this??)

Red said...

Heh, heh, heh. Hef narrating? Really? I remember when Cleveland Amory described him as having "a television personality that can only be described as being midway between technical difficulties and a station break."