NBC’s “The Playboy Club” is one of two period dramas from the ‘60s that debuted on network TV last week (along with ABC’s “Pan Am”) that many critics believe are trying to play off of the critical success of AMC’s “Mad Men.”
“The Playboy Club” pilot might not have been as sleek and shiny as “Pan Am,” with good reason as it’s more seedy, but proved to be the more entertaining of the two.
The pilot of “The Playboy Club” wasn’t great by any means, but it was fun as a crime storyline is thrown in almost immediately and is sure to stay. Our lead bunny, Maureen (played by the gorgeous Amber Heard), is a small town girl from Indiana in her first week as a bunny trying to reinvent herself in the big city. She’s already popular with the customers, maybe a little too popular, as she catches the eye of Chicago crime boss Bruno Bianchi who corners her and tries to rape her. Maureen fights back and in turn accidentally kills Bruno with a stiletto heal to his throat. Nick Dalton, played by Eddie Cibrian, a lawyer with aspirations of being District Attorney helps Maureen dump the mob boss’ body and the two now must keep that fact quiet from the rest of the mob family. Maureen and Nick are definitely the most interesting characters from the pilot, with other crucial characters being Bunny mother Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti), Playboy club manager Billy Rosen (David Krumholtz) and Brenda (Naturi Naughton) who wants to become the first African-American Playboy Playmate and is probably Maureen’s closest friend thus far.
The pilot certainly shows a little bit of campiness, but I’m not too sure whether that’s intended or not. Personally, I’m not typically a fan of camp, but it didn’t really bother me at all in the episode. The only thing about the episode that somewhat bothered me was the Hugh Heffner narrations that were a little corny or over the top.
The most intriguing part of “The Playboy Club” is likely going to be the nice pop culture additions to the show, mostly in the form of music. The first episode had Jenifer Lewis portraying Tina Turner and in future episodes Colbie Caillat will pop up as Lesley Gore, Raphael Saadiq as Sam Cooke and “The Voice” winner Javier Colon as Ray Charles.
“The Playboy Club” is certainly good and interesting enough to hang around a little while, but I definitely have my doubts that it will. The first episode only drew a pretty wretched five million viewers, finishing well behind its competition of ABC’s “Castle” and CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O.” Those types of ratings could end up seeing “The Playboy Club” being one of the first casualties, if not the first, of the fall season.
“The Playboy Club” can be seen locally on KARK Conway Corp. Channel 4 on Mondays at 9 p.m.