×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Playboy Club

Critics will inevitably do some comparing-and-contrasting in appraising the fall's two early-1960s dramas, "Playboy Club" and ABC's "Pan Am," a juxtaposition that favors NBC's glossy if not wholly satisfying period soap.

With:
Nick Dalton - Eddie Cibrian
Carol-Lynne - Laura Benanti
Maureen - Amber Heard
Janie - Jenna Dewan
Tatum Brenda - Naturi Naughton
Alice - Leah Renee
Max - Wes Ramsey
Billy Morton - David Krumholtz

Critics will inevitably do some comparing-and-contrasting in appraising the fall’s two early-1960s dramas, “Playboy Club” and ABC’s “Pan Am,” a juxtaposition that favors NBC’s glossy if not wholly satisfying period soap. Advance hand-wringing about racy content appears wholly overblown, if perhaps helpful from a promotional standpoint. Yet the setting only fitfully works as a prism through which to contemplate the present — one of the inherent strengths of “Mad Men,” to which comparisons are also inevitable — meaning that the serialized elements and characters must prove more alluring than what’s initially revealed to keep this bunny going, and going.

Not that series creators don’t try, kick-starting the premiere with the accidental death of a thuggish club patron after he gets more than just fresh with a wide-eyed new Bunny, Maureen (Amber Heard). Coming to her aid is Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), a slick ladies man and lawyer who, we’re told, every guy wants to be, and every girl wants to marry.

“Women’ll be the death of you,” he’s told at one point, and given the mix of money and mobsters surrounding the Chicago locale, that threat is meant to linger.

Indeed, those elements contribute to a swinging atmosphere the show pushes hard to sell. Exceedingly handsome as pilots go, the initial flourishes range from the music (stand-ins for Ike & Tina Turner perform in the pilot) to the period soundtrack to the unfulfilled promise of seeing more skin than networks normally unveil.

Past that, the series’ prospects remain as shrouded in mystery as an unopened centerfold. The bottom line is “Mad Men” has never been a popular smash, inviting skepticism as to whether this kind of series can deliver on a broadly commercial level.

There are a couple of nice twists involving secondary players, and given the challenge filling those Bunny outfits, the program is well cast, with David Krumholtz as the club’s fidgety manager and Laura Benanti as the queen bee, who’s dating Nick and jealous of Maureen.

Still, given the emphasis on soapy doings and shiny exteriors, the serial threatens to short-change its most interesting attributes, glancingly commenting on issues pertaining to sociology and the sexual revolution (such as a Bunny marveling, “I make more money than my father”) while lacking the latitude to truly probe them.

Ultimately, “Playboy Club” appears to represent a conceptual seduction — a series meant to seem more provocative, risky and cable-like than it is. (Voiceover narration from Hugh Hefner — depicted so that his face stays obscured, like Blofeld in early Bond movies — feels oddly cheesy, and wisely won’t be repeated beyond the introduction.)

Credit the pilot with achieving one objective, teasingly dangling a carrot designed to lure those viewers who do turn up into sampling a second hour. Even so, while the magazine’s read mostly by men, the series will rely on a female audience — meaning that if NBC’s “Playboy Club” bet proves scantily dressed up with no place to go, women will indeed have been the death of it.

The Playboy Club

NBC, Mon. Sept. 19, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Chicago by Imagine Television and Alta Loma Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Brian Grazer, Chad Hodge, Francie Calfo, Jason Burns, Dick Rosenzweig, Ian Biederman; co-executive producers, Leslie Linka Glatter, Karyn Usher; supervising producer, Mark Fish; producer, Hannah Shakespeare; director, Alan Taylor, writer.

Crew: Camera, Kramer Morgenthau; production designer, Scott Murphy; editor, Conrad Smart; music, Wendy Levy; casting, Jason La Padura, Natalie Hart, Jennifer Rudnicke, Mickie Paskal, Scott Genkinger (series). 60 MIN.

Cast: Nick Dalton - Eddie Cibrian
Carol-Lynne - Laura Benanti
Maureen - Amber Heard
Janie - Jenna Dewan
Tatum Brenda - Naturi Naughton
Alice - Leah Renee
Max - Wes Ramsey
Billy Morton - David KrumholtzWith: Jenifer Lewis.

More TV

  • ‘Riviera’ Renewed for Season 3 at

    ‘Riviera’ With Julia Stiles Renewed for Season 3 at Sky

    Sky has ordered a third season of “Riviera” with filming starting this fall. Julia Stiles will return as Georgina Clios and the action is set to move from France’s Cote d’Azur to an international stage. Stiles will also exec produce the new season, which was announced soon after season two launched on U.K. pay-TV platform [...]

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Blake Jenner What If TV Show

    'What/If' Star Blake Jenner on Creating Chemistry With Jane Levy, Renee Zellweger

    Blake Jenner first rose to fame in 2012 when he won “The Glee Project” and therefore earned a role on “Glee” proper. In the years since, though, he graduated from teen heartthrob status to meatier, edgier roles in films such as “American Animals” and now the Netflix limited series “What/If,” in which he stars opposite [...]

  • Mario Lopez Candy Crush

    Mario Lopez, Seth Kurland Set Latinx Family Comedy Series at Netflix

    Mario Lopez and Seth Kurland are teaming up for a new comedy series at Netflix. Variety has learned that the streamer has given a 16 episode order to the multi-cam comedy “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” co-created by Lopez and Kurland. In the series, when Ashley Garcia — the world’s only 15-and-a-half-year-old robotics engineer [...]

  • HBO logo

    TV News Roundup: HBO Announces Recipients of 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

    In today’s roundup, Fox Nation announces a fresh slate of programming for the summer and HBO announces the recipients of its HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. DEVELOPMENT: HBO has announced the recipients of its 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The eight writers selected out of the 3,000 submissions will participate in an 8-month program of master classes and [...]

  • Big Bang Theory

    'Big Bang Theory,' 'Manifest' Among Top Live+7 Gainers of 2018-2019 Season

    With 2018-2019 broadcast season wrapping up, certain shows stand head and shoulders above their competition in the Nielsen Live+7 rankings. Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 [...]

  • Anna Kendrick Paul Feig

    Anna Kendrick, Paul Feig Team for Comedy Anthology Series at WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Anna Kendrick and Paul Feig are coming to the WarnerMedia streaming service Variety has learned that the upcoming streamer has ordered the romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life,” the first season of which will star Kendrick with Feig executive producing. WarnerMedia has ordered a 10-episode first season of the half-hour series. Lionsgate Television and FeigCo [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content