|written by Chad Hodge; directed by Alan Taylor|
starring Amber Heard, Eddie Cibrian, Laura Benanti, Naturi Naughton & David Krumholz
To be fair, The Playboy Club does a decent enough job of introducing its characters and priming the audience for what's to come, all while giving us a little taste of what The Club's all about. There's no denying the concept here is fun and has appeal, but the execution is worryingly flat and the characters too wooden. The only real standout moments were the brisk opening five-minutes, with Maureen accidentally stabbing someone in the throat with her stiletto, and a few musical moments when various performers sing and dance in the club (including impersonators of Ike and Tina Turner). The rest felt strangely soulless, yet overconfident that audiences will lap this stuff up because it's a faster-paced Mad Men-esque piece and, hey, Cibrian's just as handsome as Jon Hamm and comes with a similar drawl. Plus there are hot girls running around in tight corsets with bunny tails pinned to their pert behinds. How can it fail?
Overall, I wouldn't say The Playboy Club isn't an all-out failure, but it's an idea that doesn't click as a primetime NBC series. Maybe if there were better writers involved and it was on an edgier cable channel, it would stand a better chance of success. There was just too much here that put me off; from Hugh Heffner's awful voice-over (wisely ditched for the series ahead), to the insipid Hamm-lite performance of Cibrian. A few of the young actresses show promise, especially the radiant Amber Heard, and giving the show a connection to organized crime neatly introduces some danger (if all else fails, maybe it'll focus more on the criminal underworld than rich men ogling pretty girls), but it wasn't enough for me to consider giving The Playboy Club anymore of my time.
- Given the fact a number of NBC affiliates are refusing to show this drama over claims of indecency (which is a typically American overreaction that's patently ridiculous), together with the more immediate problem of a very weak response to the "Pilot" (only 5 million people bothered to watch Monday), I'll be surprised if The Playboy Club makes it to Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Or maybe October.