CliqueClack TV

Did The Playboy Club deserve the controversy?

At long last, 'The Playboy Club' has premiered. Now the people that have been demonizing it will actually be able to do so having SEEN what they're denouncing.

Every year there’s a new show on the fall slate that is surrounded with controversy long before it ever airs on television. This year it has very obviously been NBC’s The Playboy Club. KSL-TV, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, famously has decided not to air the show. Tonight, we got to see what all the fuss was about.

Frankly, I think all of this pre-air controversy is largely hypocritical. Take this guest commentary provided to KSL-TV by the chairwoman of the Utah Coalition against Pornography, for instance. I don’t want to take anything away from this nice lady’s efforts to better the lives of those around her, but she had obviously not seen The Playboy Club before rendering her verdict (I’m sure the leaders at the affiliate did, but I’m not sure how it factored into their decision). At the end of the day, though, The Playboy Club is no more risqué than anything else on television (I remember a particular episode of Chuck that featured a storyline with sexting that caused a brouhaha behind the scenes at CliqueClack HQ).

I’m the last person on the staff here at CliqueClack who should ever weigh in on feminism or women’s issues. We have several people much smarter than me like Kona and An that would likely smack me around for even talking about it out loud, I’m so clueless. But, risking a Special Agent Gibbs-esque slap on the back of the head, I’ll wade into the waters far enough to say that this show is about a moment in our history … good or bad. Plus, these women all seemed pretty damn strong to me.

Strongest of all was Carol-Lynne. Laura Benanti plays far and away the most interesting character on the show. I’m not entirely sure yet if she’s to play the antagonist to Maureen’s heroine, or if the story will grow beyond focusing primarily on her, Nick, and Carol-Lynne. I like the promise of Alice and her husband’s storyline, and I love Naturi Naughton’s Brenda. That’s the good.

There was — at least in my estimation — a lot more of the bad. Eddie Cibrian seems like he’s trying to be a “nice” version of Mad Men‘s Don Draper (as Brett said to me in an email earlier, “Don Draper was a friend of mine. Mr. Dalton, you are no Don Draper.”). As much as I like David Krumholtz (you browncoats can talk about Serenity all you want, but he was amazing long before in ER’s “All in the Family,” which ironically makes the second time tonight I’ve referenced that episode), his Billy comes across as a one-note middle manager in the first hour.

If The Playboy Club is to succeed, it will be because they expand the focus on the secondary characters. The hints to some of those stories are there, but I think they could have done a considerably better job introducing those ideas in the first hour. More of these — specifically the Mattachine story and race-related themes — and I think the narrative will be more complete. Otherwise, I don’t think TPC is long for this world; I just don’t want NBC to give the folks that passed judgment before seeing a single scene a victory … actual or perceived.

Photo Credit: NBC

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4 Responses to “Did The Playboy Club deserve the controversy?”

September 20, 2011 at 1:55 AM

Aww, shucks, thanks for the mention, I. I mentioned this to Carla, but I don’t think there was much of a controversy. The show felt too cliched for that. We’ve seen these archetypes before: the jealous boss and the good girl doing bad, and I expected more. Neither Carol-Anne or Maureen really impressed me as strong female characters, or playing them believably. Carol-Anne had her moments, but there are female actresses that can play pretty and hard simultaneously (like Kyra Sedgewick or Maria Bello). Laura B. didn’t give that to me.

Plus, you’re right about Eddie C. He didn’t have sex appeal, and he’s basically a good, equal opportunity guy. I would’ve liked to see a bit more bad in him or a bit more of the not knowing you’re being an ass when talking to someone of the opposite gender/race, but doing that deliberately (and, no, I’m not talking about you ;) I haven’t watched Mad Men, but from what I gathered, it does that well. I hoped to see some of that in PBC.

Somewhere out there there’s the real PlayBoy club which actually was gritty and dirty despite the surface glamour. But, this show was too unwilling to offend, so that it comes off as toothless.

September 20, 2011 at 8:09 AM

Stop giving me a heart attack that I had her name wrong … IMDB says Carol-Lynne. The editors had enough of a time with me last night!

Curious to see the next two episodes. I saw the first version of the pilot, and there were several changes, but none of them seemed to significantly change the themes, tone, or narrative. But we all know how much shows can change in episode two!

September 20, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Why would people need to watch something before being against it? These are the same people that are for sanctity of marriage, yet get divorced or have 10 affairs. These are the same people who complain about “killing” 4 cells, and how that’s murder, yet they are all fine with starting wars that kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, are in favor of the death penalty. Same people who preach Jesus when they agree, yet completely ignore 95% of what Jesus supposedly said.

So it’s best we just ignore those losers and watch some good TV….

After we find some good TV.

September 21, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Glad I’m not the only one who saw the blatant Don Draper impression that Cibrian was doing. I had to stifle laughter through every scene he was in.

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