‘The Playboy Club’ Review: Series Premiere

We’ve talked a little about NBC’s The Playboy Club, and the time has come to take a look inside the club. Based on the real clubs from the Playboy franchise, we get to see a gritty period piece set in Chicago during the early 60’s after the sexual revolution has ignited. The club’s were a place for the VIP’s of the era to stake their claim as valued members of society. The Playboy Club takes us in a little deeper to the seedy world of big business, sexy bunnies, and Amanda Heard. While it’s an obvious attempt at replicating the success of AMC’s Mad Men, it just might offer us something different.

The show opens (with a 14 rating proving that chances of nudity are even slimmer) on the landscape of Chicago, with a surprising voice-over from the man himself, Mr. Hugh Hefner. He speaks of the gritty, corrupt dark city as the camera shows exactly that, until it focuses on the brightest sight in the area; The Playboy Club.

It’s a place where every room unlocks a fantasy for everybody that walks through those shining doors. Enter Mr. Suave Nick Dalton (Played by Eddie Cibrian), who immediately begins to enjoy the atmosphere of the club. A Bunnie sings on stage, and we are told that this is a place where anything can happen. And cue the reason I’m watching the show, Ms. Amber Heard. She stares longingly at the stage, a hint picked up by her co-Bunnies. So automatically we get an idea of Maureen’s ambitions to be the Bunny on stage. Isn’t that really what we all want out of life, anyway?

We are introduced to what I’m sure will be a central theme of the show. Creepy old white guy. The Bunnie finishes her driving rendition of Frank Sinatra’s Chicago, as Creepy Old Man #1 whisks Maureen across the dance floor as her two comrabbit’s watch. What follows is of course, a little bit of inappropriate touching deftly evaded by Maureen. The spotlight seems to be on her as she makes her away around the room, being noticed by all. Including Nick Dalton, who we briefly met earlier.He is standing with David Krumholtz (Numb3rs, Harold & Kumar), who heads off to handle the dancing Bunny.

As Maureen is shooed back to work she meets Mr. Dalton, who has a perpetual raised eyebrow that I have yet to see drop. As the singing Bunny walks off stage, she heads to Dalton, who is obviously the BMOC around here. We learn that she has indeed noticed the new girl who is longing for her act.

Speaking of the new girl, she is confronted by the Creepy Old Man once again as she is refilling her cigarette tray in the back room. This is bound to go bad. The rest of the club continues as the singing Bunny starts another song, and things get more heated in the back room. Creepy old man attempts to force himself on Maureen, and she responds in kind. Dalton, who really really needs his cigarette’s heads to the back room, arriving at the right time.

A fight breaks out, and for some reason Dalton isn’t able to handle the Creepy Old Man, forcing my favorite gal Maureen to take care of it. With one well placed kick of her obviously sharpened heel, she plunges it into his neck, and we are shown our first murder of the series.

Cue opening titles.

And really, I’m already sold on this show. It has sexy ladies, murder, music, and a voice-over from Hugh Hefner. And all that before I even find out what show it is.

Over the next few minutes we see just how easy it is to clean up after you stab a guy in the neck with a shoe. Seriously! They clean up and get that body in the river faster than the opening titles played. And we learn that not only is the Now Dead Creepy old Man Mobbed Up, but Dalton’s eyebrow is never going to drop. Oh, and Maureen bosomed the dead guy’s Playboy key.

We head to Dalton’s swinging bachelor pad, which actually looks quite similar to the penthouse that was used to film Playboy After Dark way back in the day, so I thought that was a nice touch. Of course Maureen is urged to shower by Dalton, and we find out that not only has she lost the key, but she looks great even when seen through glass shower doors.

Singing Bunny and gal of Dalton’s Carol-Lynne (Played by Laura Benanti) walks in on the bartender Max and very sexy Bunny Janie (played by Jenna Dewan-Tatum… Yes, as in ‘Married to Channing’ Tatum). As the girls change in the Bunny Hole (that’s what I’d call it) they discuss the new cigarette girl. Carol-Lynne comments how she tried to steal the show from her with her dancing, and we learn that “you can’t be a bunny forever”. This is true, because eventually you’ll become a rabbit.

Alice (Played by Leah Renee Cudmore), One of the co-Bunnies from earlier, heads outside to be picked up by Sean (Played by Firefly‘s Sean Maher), and we learn that she is skimming off the top. (FYI, she is Canadian, and smokin hot). Cue ominous music. But then it’s back to Maureen and Dalton, who declares Maureen needs to get out of the city. He’s a lawyer, and he knows how dangerous the Mob can be. But she isn’t having any of that, cause she’s a tough old gal who can take her of herself. Keep in mind at this point she’s wet and wearing Dalton’s shirt.

Enter Carol-Lynne, who immediately locates her brand new rival. She storms out, despite thier actually not being any hanky-panky. Unless you count the murder as hanky-panky. Everyone heads home leaving Dalton all alone with his eyebrow. Back at the Mansion, she chats with her roommate, easily the shortest Bunny, Brenda (Played by Naturi Naughton).

The next day Dalton and Rosen meet at the Club, and questions are already flying concerning the whereabouts of the Creepy Old Dead Guy AKA Clyde Hill.It looks like the anonymity of the club will only help them sweep the murder on the rug, and we learn a little about Dalton’s character. And even more of Rosen’s.

So by this time we already have a number of plot threads on the go, with appropriate dramatic tension and suspenseful musings. Things go from bad to worse as Carol-Lynne is fired by Rosen, and Dalton is approached by a Made guy who drops a bombshell. The reason Nick knows so much about the Mob? He used to work for them.

Back in the Bunny hole, which I am looking forward to more and more, and we learn of a party at the mansion. Rosen receives a call from Hef, and all of a sudden recently fired Carol-Lynne is now queen of the Bunnies. And she takes no time in making clear the fact that she’s Boss with a capital Bitch. The new rule is that Bunnies are forbidden to date keyholders. Guess who she was looking at when she said that!

And then we get more musical numbers! I love musical numbers, as long as it’s not on Glee. And when things couldn’t get any better, all the Bunnies head out onto the floor to dance along to Shake Ya Tailfeather, and my PVR is put into use immediately. Even Maureen joins in on the fun, despite her misgivings about her new secret. Meanwhile a couple of shady gentleman watch from the balcony.

After Dalton swings and misses on his attempt to re-woo Carol-Lynne, she calls Maureen to the back office. She plays the nice boss with the hidden bitchy demeanor, and drops the best line of the night. WTF!

“Why the face?”

I missed most of what happened next as I was laughing uncontrollably, but it turns out that they each stake their position, and set up a season of tension and competition. As Maureen leaves she runs into one of the shady gentleman from the balcony, who starts to question her about Clyde Hill. And just when you think Maureen might break down she flips her shit and starts playing this guy like he was a 1964 jukebox.

Max and Janie argue briefly, and Dalton recieves a call from his old boss, the Bianchi family. Alice and her man talk over the phone about thier thievery, when another bomb is dropped, and we learn her man is in a secret relationship with another man. DRAMA!

Dalton heads out for a meet with the Bianchi’s and learns that Maureen’s story involves going home with him the night of the murder. He uses this as an opportunity to kiss my girl with them watching. So now he has to worry about me killing him as well as whatever other shenanigans are brewing.

Shouldn’t have touched my girl, Dalton!

The discussion continues in the car, and it seems all signs point to Maureen, despite her smooth talk with the jukebox. We learn even more about Dalton’s connections to the mob. It goes deeper than we thought, and turns out he’s a Bianchi himself. But I’ll still call him Dalton, cause it makes me think of Road House.

The episode is beginning to wrap up, and we learn that Alice and her man (Firefly’s Sean Maher – who actually isn’t in a secret gay relationship, he’s just secretly gay in a time when it isn’t as accepted) are holding a meeting for the Mattachine Society of Chicago, a pro-homosexual group fighting for improved rights.

And finally we get to see what most of us will never get to see. A party at the Playboy Mansion (which was in Chicago at the time). Carol-Lynne cozies up to Hef, the Bunnies party and the music is pumping. Another voice-over from Hef describes the Mansion as being the only place in the world that a Bunny can be anyone they want to be. For Maureen, we see her on stage living out her dream.

The camera focuses on an inscription on the gate of the mansion. Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare, which means “If you don’t swing, don’t ring”. Dalton and Maureen lock eyes as the party heads into full swing mode. And that eyebrow doesn’t move once. The episode ends with a couple of city workers on the side of the river finding the missing Playboy key.

“Hey Paul, Wanna go to the Playboy Club?”

I have to say, I really enjoyed the episode. Earlier I likened it as an attempt to hit the Mad Men market, but it turns out to be so much more than that. With a full cast and a ton of rich side stories, there was always something to keep me watching. And If I got bored then they threw in a gratuitous Bunny dancing scene.

The cast works well in their roles, which are clearly defined throughout the episode, and I just can’t get enough of Amber Heard. She starts off as a girl trying to life her dream, and turns into a girl willing to do anything to see that dream come true. You can almost see a change happening within her personality. And Dalton is likeable enough, I just can’t over the amount that eyebrow is up. This guy could give the Rock some lessons.

I give the episode 4 Grizzly’s out of 5, and actually can’t wait for the next one.

What did you think of the episode? Was it worth all the hype and build-up? Were you let down or excited for next week?

Sound off in the comment section below!

And if you want to see more of the Bunnies then you need to click here for a full on gallery of all the stars of The Playboy Club.

See you next week!

3 thoughts on “‘The Playboy Club’ Review: Series Premiere”

  1. I didn’t like it. I thought the pilot was trying to do too much in one hour.
    I don’t like Cibrian, I find him wooden and dull (the eyebrow being his only expression).
    Sean Maher and the gay storyline (the reason I was watching) took up maybe 90 seconds of the show.
    Also, I found the young-Hugh-with-his-back-to-the-camera while old-Hugh-does-voiceover really creepy. But that’s just me.


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