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The Playboy Club– is Having The Key Really Something to Envy? (A Review of NBC’s New Drama)

I couldn’t wait to watch The Playboy Club, mostly because I have been dying for someone to take me back to the 1960s while I wait for Mad Men. While The Playboy Club does take us back to a time that is not our own, it still doesn’t have that smart and addictive immersion into the 1960s that you get from watching Mad Men.  When comparing the show to Mad Men it is nothing but a failure on all fronts, but that isn’t really a fair way to grade the new NBC drama.

The truth is I went into the drama naively.  I thought I was going to get some sort of sexy, women empowerment television, but what I really got was a love triangle mixed with the underbelly of the mob.  The main focus on the show is the new Bunny, Maureen, who with innocent eyes clearly has big plans to move up in this world.  Within the first few minutes she finds herself in a bit of trouble after dancing with the wrong guy who follows her in the back and tries to rape her.  That’s when sexy and popular Nick Dalton tries to come to her rescue.

But he can’t pull the guy off, so Maureen kicks her attacker in self-defense …and ends up killing him with her high heel.  That’s when Dalton informs her they must dump the body because she has just killed the mob boss of Chicago.  When Dalton takes her to his house the first Bunny, Carol-Lynn (and the one with all the power in the club) finds them and believes they are having a fling together (which they did not).  That’s when we also learn that Dalton is maybe in love with Carol-Lynn, or at the very least appears to really care for her.  Throughout the episode Dalton’s character becomes the most complex as we learn he wants to run for States Attorney and also used to be in the mob.

Without giving the rest of the story away (just in case you try to catch up) a love triangle and a tangled web of secrecy starts to unravel like an onion slowly being peeled away.  I have a theory that no pilots are ever as good as the rest of the season and I am thinking that is probably true of The Playboy Club.  While we get to know some characters somewhat well (like the developing love triangle), there are just too many other characters that are only lightly stroked in the first episode that just doesn’t quit hook me for the rest of the series.    For example there is Alice who claims her husband hates that she works at the club, but later we learn that they are earning money for something, but we don’t know what exactly they are up to.  Then at the end of the episode we find out that they are gay, but clearly that seems to have no connection yet to why they are trying to make so much money.  Ultimately I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about them.  Should I care?  There are a few more story lines that are scratched at the surface the same way.

If you are looking for a fresh new drama I don’t think you’ll find it in The Playboy Club.  The characters have just not been fully developed yet and it’s unclear if these women’s lives will be more complex than their focus on the men surrounding them.  However, there are enough story lines that are opened in the first episode that gives hope for the show to develop in the future.  I’m not hooked, but I am intrigued.  If you like dramas check it out for a few episodes, but if you are on the fence (or maybe just rather stick to reality TV on Bravo) than don’t bother setting your DVR.