The new fall TV season is here and we're watching a bunch of new shows like Whitney, Two Broke Girls, How To Be A Gentleman, Pan Am, and probably our favorite debuting series, The Playboy Club.
In a nutshell, it's Mad Men, meets American Dreams with a smattering of The House Bunny.
Like Mad Men, The Playboy Club features an ensemble cast, and is set in the early sixties in a workplace where all of the male characters are unapologetically misogynistic. The lead character, Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) channels the cool, suave persona of Don Draper and like Draper, has a mysterious and shady past.
The American Dreams comparison refers to the plotlines of that show (which also took place during the 1960s) being set against the backdrop of real life events. American Dreams, for those who don't remember the overlooked but critically acclaimed series, traced the lives of a Philadelphia family as they experienced the tumultuous culture shifts of the 1960s. The JFK assassination, 1964 Philadelphia riots, Vietnam War, and American Bandstand TV show (produced in Philadelphia at the time) were just a few of the many real-life events incorporated into show episodes.
The Playboy Club is set to travel this same historically accurate route, teasing storylines that incorporate the infamous Chicago mob, the Civil Rights Movement, and even the Mattachine Society, one one of the country's earliest pro-homosexual organizations.
And there's a lot more going on with The Playboy Club, like the ongoing murder/coverup/investigation of a mafia kingpin, and (also like American Dreams) spot-on recreations of actual musical performances. (The premiere episode featured Ike and Tina Turner performing at both The Playboy Club and at Hugh Hefner's Chicago Playboy Mansion.) There's also a healthy dose of workplace romance, and lots of sexual tension between Cibrian and Laura Benanti who plays Carol, the club's resident den mother (hence, the "House Bunny" comparison.)
But if the primary reason you think you might be interested in this show is for the titillation factor, then you won't be dissapointed. There are plenty of sexy, bunny-eared, cotton-tailed bunnies flitting around. (Hey, you know you've got a sexy show when Jenna Dewan is only the third most attractive female cast member.) The clear standout, however, is the gorgeous Amber Heard as Maureen.
We first noticed Heard in Never Back Down back in 2008 and since then, she has taken on a series of curious roles in a number of offbeat films (Pineapple Express, Zombieland, The Joneses) presumably waiting for that breakthrough role that will make her a household name. Maybe the upcoming The Rum Diary, in which she co-stars with Johnny Depp, will serve that purpose. But on the other hand, maybe television is where she'll wind up -- at least for awhile.
In any case, there's an awful lot to like about The Playboy Club, but you have to wonder if it will
last. As a period piece with a large cast, it's an expensive show and will need to garner good ratings in order to survive. How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men have helped CBS own
Mondays for years, making it more difficult for The Playboy Club to draw the viewers it
needs to stay afloat. The debut scored a disappointing 1.6 rating (in the key demographic of 18-49 year olds) and yesterday's episode did slightly worse. Clearly, the show is being hurt by WWE Raw and (on the east coast) Monday Night Football, which combine to siphon off a huge share of male viewers.
Too bad, because The Playboy Club is a quality show. Guess we'll enjoy it for as long as we can.