‘Playboy Club’ audience: Never had it, never will

Playboy

0.2

That was the grade-point average of Kent Dorfman in “Animal House.”

It’s also the overnight rating among boys ages 12-17 for Monday’s episode of “The Playboy Club,” and the surest confirmation that this NBC drama, canceled today, was an ill-fated venture.

“The Playboy Club” had to be one of two things to succeed (and by succeed, I don’t mean merely limp from week to week because NBC is so starved for compelling content). It had to 1) be a quality program that would put to rest the issue of whether it was a “Mad Men” knockoff, or 2) titillate sufficiently that people would tune in whether it was Chayefsky or chaff.

Enough critics weighed in to terminate option 1. As for option 2: 0.2 says it all. It says that in this day and age, pretty women in skimpy outfits are not enough.

I’m confident this isn’t because boys 12-17, let alone Americans in general, have gotten less horny. It’s because the options to address that horniness, if you will, have become so much more … diverse. (You can decide for yourself whether this signifies the age of enlightenment or the age of decay.)

Had “The Playboy Club” aired during the era of the original “Charlie’s Angels,” which ran from September 1976 through June 1981, the kids I knew — and not a few adults — would have debated Amber Heard vs. Jenna Dewan as enthusiastically as we did Farrah Fawcett-Majors and then Cheryl Ladd vs. Jaclyn Smith. We’d have watched the show, whether engrossed by the stories (for some reason the football episode still sticks in my mind) or not. Heck, when it came to “Charlie’s Angels,” you made damn sure not to miss the opening credits.

It was an era in which a show that was safe, like the original “Angels,” could also be the most exciting, arousing program on TV.

But that era is gone, and I’m not sure how anyone could not realize it. And that includes the team behind ABC’s current “Charlie’s Angels,” which, while scoring a 1.1 rating in boys 12-17 last week that “Playboy Club” looks up to, suffers from the same “Who is this show for?” dilemma.

Young boys can fall in lust with an endless supply of media options. They don’t need “The Playboy Club” or “Charlie’s Angels.” And if they don’t need those shows, then who does?

I suppose it circles back to option 1 — the idea that the show creators thought they were going to create worthwhile drama that stood on its own two feet, regardless of the outfits. But in the end, “Playboy Club” and the new “Charlie’s Angels” were the scripted equivalent of stuffing your bras.

 

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