It’s the fall season so NBC is once again trying to find a successful drama for the Mondays at 10pm timeslot. They had moderate success with Harry’s Law last season but opted to shift the Kathy Bates legal drama to Wednesdays.
The TV series takes place in the 1960s in Chicago. The Playboy Club is home to $1.50 cocktails, music, glitter and the beautiful Bunnies. One of the town’s top attorneys, Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), is a frequent visitor and has mysterious ties to the mob. He comes to the aid of a new bunny (Amber Heard) who accidentally kills the patriarch of a prominent crime family. Others in the cast include Naturi Naughton, Laura Benanti, David Krumholtz, Leah Renee, Jenna Dewan, and Wes Ramsey.
Here’s what the critics are saying, and they aren’t being particularly kind:
Chicago Tribune: “If you can forget any knee-jerk reaction to the idea of the show, and forgive historical inaccuracies and a bit of hypocrisy, you might enjoy its mob mystery and an intriguing gay subplot, not to mention the fabulous Laura Benanti — and Eddie Cibrian’s dimples.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “The Playboy Club is one of two new dramas (ABC’s Pan Am being the other) that tries to cash in on the retro feel of Mad Men but has neither the ambition, writing nor acting to make such a comparison anything more than a chuckle-heavy notion.” …
“The whole thing quickly becomes hokey and a grind. Blame goes consistently to the writing, from one Bunny reiterating how awesome Nick is — up to and including the rumor that he has a big penis — to another Bunny scolding an allegedly prudish married Bunny by saying she waves her wedding ring around ‘like a man could get electrocuted if he so much as glances in the region of your kitty cat.'”
Reuters: “The musical touches are just the kind of unselfconscious goofiness the show could use more of — they feel as tacked on as the performances at the Boar’s Nest that used to end episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard. And that’s fun.
“The show will improve if it can loosen up to be a little more Dukes of Hazzard and a little less Mad Men: First, because Daisy never monologued about Appalachian poverty to make up for those shorts. And second, because it poses no threat whatsoever to Mad Men in terms of storytelling, social commentary, or acting. (Then again, few shows do.)”
“The Playboy Club does do a good job of swiping some aesthetics from Mad Men, but the Mad Men cast still wear better clothes — and slightly more of them.”
NPR: “I don’t want to spend more attention on this particular pilot than it deserves, to be candid. It’s splashy, it’s heavily promoted, and it’s just completely uninteresting. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not angry at The Playboy Club for not being expertly written and acted. I like a good, frothy nighttime soap. There are a couple of shows that may turn out to be just that kind of thing this fall. But this isn’t particularly soapy, it isn’t sexy, it isn’t fun. It’s just uninspiring actors going through the motions, weak and watery dialogue (‘You’re selling something people want — and it sure ain’t cigarettes!’), and cliched plot elements (bitter aging beauty resents younger beauty, good man struggles to escape criminal ties, and so forth).”
“You’ve seen this all before, done better. You’ll see it done better again. As a matter of fact, you’ll see it done better this week. There’s absolutely no reason to sit through The Playboy Club, revisions or no revisions. It’s one thing to be all in good fun, but this is all in no fun.”
NY Daily News: “The show itself, meanwhile, periodically tries to convince us the Playboy Club was really helping women empower themselves by stuffing them into unwearable outfits. It also tries to convey the broader sense of freedom and possibility that was starting to waft through the air in those years, even as the accordant sense of change felt unsettling.”
“So we’ve got this murder mystery weaving in and out, and the bunnies are struggling with their love lives, and we keep hearing well-chosen period music like “Playboy” and “Shake a Tail Feather,” and the gay rights group the Mattachine Society is meeting, and the sobering truth is that sometimes when you mix too many colors, you don’t get a brighter rainbow. You get dark gray. Or, in this case, a supersize soap opera.”
Not that The Playboy Club seems to notice. ‘The world was changing,’ a Hefner character intones in voice-over, ‘and we were the ones changing it — one bunny at a time.’ Someone ought to get a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for reading that line with a straight face.”
What do you think? Will you try this new TV series? Do you think it’s worthwhile or should it be quickly cancelled instead?