Fall TV Preview

Fall TV First Impression: The Bare Facts About The Playboy Club

The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall, including Charlie’s reborn Angels, homecomings for Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rachel Bilson, two series set in the ’60s, and one case of bolder time travel — to the days of dinosaurs. To help you prep for fall, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. First up…

THE SHOW | NBC’s The Playboy Club (airing Mondays at 10/9c)

THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Castle and CBS’ Hawaii Five-0

THE CAST | Eddie Cibrian (CSI: Miami), Amber Heard (Hidden Palms), Laura Benanti (Eli Stone), David Krumholtz (Numb3rs), Jenna Dewan Tatum (Melrose Place), Naturi Naughton (who, fun fact, played a Playboy Bunny on Mad Men), Leah Renee (Blue Mountain State) and Wes Ramsey (CSI: Miami)

THE SET-UP | It’s the ’60s, and Maureen (played by Heard) is a newbie bunny at Chicago’s Playboy Club. After a run-in with a mobster, Maureen gets a helping hand from high-powered attorney/club regular Nick Dalton (Cibrian) — and that does not go over well with Nick’s steady (Benanti). Krumholtz is the club’s manager, Tatum, Naughton and Renee play other Bunnies, and Ramsey is a barkeep dating one tail-wiggler.

THE GOOD | The show does a decent job of evoking its retro era, though not as winningly as ABC’s Pan Am, let alone standard-setter Mad Men. (In voiceover, Hugh Hefner calls the club “a place where anything can happen to anybody — or any Bunny.”) Benanti steals every scene she is in, playing the very first (and thus entitled) Bunny. Heard fits into her role best once the “Gee-whiz” veneer fades and her shady past is hinted at. Shed of his Numb3rs locks, Krumholtz is almost unrecognizable, but sadly isn’t given much to do in the pilot. The hour ends with a neat twist.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | Cibrian gives us his best dapper Don Draper, but the role screams for volatility as much as handsomeness. Hopefully — versus most every TV role he has inhabited — he can “danger it up” a bit and convince us this legal eagle runs with a rough crowd. The club itself is a bit claustrophobic; I trust that storylines will take the action beyond its walls.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | It’s going to take more than Bunny costumes cut higher on the thigh to distract folks from the established Castle and Five-0. That said, for NBC this is a far buzzier Monday closer option than Harry’s Law. P.S. to the PTC and SLC: Not much to fret about here, outside of one blink-and-you-missed-it hook-up in the loo.

Watch a video preview for The Playboy Club, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. mandy says:

    I really like Eddie Cibrian ever since his Third Watch days but my DVR is occuppied with 5-0 and Castle. May catch a few on the web though.

  2. Laura says:

    I’ll be watching “Castle.”

  3. Jennifer says:

    Eddie Cibrian is about as dynamic as a piece of plywood. I think I’ll pass.

  4. Becky says:

    I’ll definitely be watching Castle.

  5. Drew says:

    I love Laura Benanti, and while I think she deserves a better show with a chance of lasting, I’ll give this one a shot.

  6. Michael Sacal says:

    I’m morbidly curious about this show and intend to watch it.

  7. Cameron says:

    Just finding no interest here. It sounds like this type of show has been done before and it can get repititious and boring after a few viewings. At least Castle has me interested in it’s plots and Hawaii 5-0 has an exotic locale. I just don’t think this show will be pulling me away from them. Sorry -but this show isn’t on my radar as something “must-see”.

  8. josh says:

    I’ll be watching Beckett/niki heat, well and castle too I supose

  9. Meg says:

    I’ll watch Castle live and keep this on the DVR for later viewing.

  10. Alexis says:

    I’ll give it a shot. I’m far more interested in ABC’s Pan Am, and still annoyed about the long wait until Mad Men’s return, but for an NBC show, this actually looks pretty decent, quality wise.
    Interesting that NBC and ABC both picked up 60s era and “fairytale” shows. Though I’ve heard that ABC’s offerings are better on both counts…

  11. Tim says:

    Amber Heard may make me watch it but it won’t be live. I already watch Castle live and Hawaii Five-O immediately after so :P

  12. Matthew Thomas says:

    I’m glad NBC has taken a chance on an offbeat project (for network television atleast) but my interest died when Eddie Cibrian was cast in the lead role. The guy can’t act for nuts. For lead roles in complex layered dramas like these you need versatile actors not pieces of wood.

    Still I’ll give the series a shot.

  13. Frenchie says:

    I’ll be watching the Castle premiere live, but I’ll definitely catch the pilot online.

    • Me too. I’ll be watching Castle, but I’m at least interested in watching the pilot and maybe a few more episodes online – just to see how potentially good/bad it could be.

  14. George says:


  15. JC says:

    Usually the PTC doesn’t concern itself with facts, they typically just jump to conclusions based on the promos and assume they are correct. Having rational discussions about the show or reading articles like this one to gather information are not their M.O. (see: Skins) And I never did figure out if the executives at the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake ever actually saw the pilot. Their comments were all about the Playboy brand and not about the pilot itself.

    • Jacob says:

      Yeah, SLC was more concerned with the brand. They made a preemptive strike, as opposed to fielding the myriad of complaints they’d get (and they would get them, trust me) if the show tried to push the boundaries even a little bit. Not to mention the fact that the show would air at 9pm in that time zone, and that’s frankly still pretty early for a show that included nudity clauses in their actor’s contracts.

    • SPOILERS! says:

      I thought they were upset about the twist, 1 bunny is gay & in a sham marriage with a gay guy.

    • Brent says:

      As far as SLC is concerned, the NBC affiliate is owned indirectly by the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. They’ve got a rep to protect and even if the show is as pure as the driven snow it isn’t going to get the Church’s approval with the word “Playboy” in there. As for the PTC, I seem to recall that one of their objections on this show was that the contracts had nudity clauses. “You see,” said the PTC, “evil Hollywood is trying to force us to see naked people. Won’t someone think of the children.” My take on the nudity clause is that there are some places in the world – like most of Europe – where nudity on TV isn’t a big deal. The producers would like to sell the show in those places. Still it’s a slightly more valid concern than their opposition to the use of the word “Bit ch” in the working titles of a couple of shows.

  16. Monica says:

    Its Castle for me, Can’t stand to watch Eddie Cibrian

  17. Kate says:

    I’ll probably be watching “Castle,” but might check this out. The 1960’s is an interesting era, one that gained popularity with AMC’s “Mad Men.” That series showcases the old boy’s club, sexism, the chain smoking that was largely evident at that time. If this series is showcasing the beginnings of the Playboy clubs, were there African American bunnies at that time? In the ’60’s the civil rights movement was in full swing, having its start around 1955. But would the clubs have hired women of color in a club for the highly influential men? “Mad Men” is an eye-opener for us now, to see how far we’ve come. Just wondered how authentic “The Playboy Club” will aim to be.

    • sashay says:

      Well, according to the photo they’ve included with this blog, the answer is yes.
      And I do believe it’s accurate, there WERE African American bunnies, Hefner was apparently open to appreciating women of every type, although his personal tastes (for wives & girlfriends) seems to run to large, fake boobies & extremely overdyed blondes.

    • Cara mia says:

      The incredible thing is that yes there were black bunnies as the well researched mad men showed last season. Ironically or unoriginally they have cast the exact same actress to play one here as on mad men. They have also brought over the same director that made the pilot. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they got much else. There’s some organized crime stuff that looks like really lame untouchables stuff. So NBC gave you not mad men and not the sopranos. I will watch. I think it’ll be their best comedy since 30 rock!!!

  18. Eli says:

    I download everything I watch anyways, so might as well try it, but I doubt it’ll be a stayer on my list.

  19. Jennifer says:

    I’m a big fan of Laura Benanti from her various Broadway projects, so I’ll definitely be watching. I’m a Castle fan as well but that’s very easy to catch up on 2 or 3 episodes at a time on Hulu.

  20. Kate says:

    I guess I answered my own question! There’s a book called, “I was a Negro Playboy Bunny” by Anna English which was published in 1964 by Novel Books. Plus, the first African American Playmate of the month was named Jennifer Jackson and she appeared in the March 1965 issue of Playboy. Cool!

  21. Vince says:

    I’ll watch all three anyway that why we have DVRs

  22. frosty says:

    Looks stupid.
    I won’t be watching.

  23. G says:

    I really want to watch this, but between Castle and Hawaii Five-0, I may not.

  24. Dark Side Panda says:

    The biggest problem with this show is who ever created it should have gone straight to HBO. Seriosuly, PLAYBOY!!! Bunnies, naked, boobs, sorry not going to work no matter who’s in it ….

    • Kat says:

      Why would you immediately assume there’s going to be nudity? Out in the open, Playboy Clubs were known for being tasteful and quality places to go for a drink and visual entertainment. These clubs weren’t burlesque or strip joints.

  25. unicornwasp says:

    i’m going to give this a shot, if only because the show is going to feature gay characters who are part of the mattachine society. gay history on network tv? awesome!

  26. Kathi says:

    Sorry, no can watch. I’m a die hard Castle and 5-0 fan and I can’t stand Cibrion.

  27. Kelly says:

    Now Crime Story remake I’d be interested in – this? NO

  28. Erin says:

    H50 all the way, then Castle, then… A blank screen or catching up on my many downloaded shows. I’ll stick with Pan Am for my dose of retro.

  29. Kevin says:

    Pan Am is even better than The Playboy Club but I have no interest to watch it so I rather watch Hawaii Five O still.

  30. Jimmy says:

    If this series actually presents life as a Playboy bunny in the 60s, not always a postive thing, but if this series is nothing but the sexy 60s gone wild, then I have no interest. Besides, Eddie Cibrian has zero talent as an actor.

  31. Amy says:

    I don’t watch “Hawaii 5-0” or “Castle,” but I still can’t see checking this out. Cibrian’s great eye candy, but not leading man material. Also, while “Pan Am” actually looks like it’s doing something fresh and different with the retro setting, this just looks like half-baked “Mad Men” without the brilliant writing, nuanced acting or office politics (which MM makes fascinating).

  32. Leigh says:

    As a die-hard Castle fan, I know that it will always be first on my Monday list. But this show doesn’t even look interesting. I’m going the SLC route and boycotting it. Looks dumb and is using the playboy name just to get attention to the show. And thank goodness to all the people who posted about Cibrian – he’s awful and can’t act.

  33. keira says:

    Watching Castle and dvr The PBC. I think it looks good, so I will watch it after Castle.

  34. Kaye says:

    I’ll probably watch a couple of episodes because I am curious but I’m far more interested in Pan Am. I won’t be watching live, that spot is reserved for Hawaii Five 0.

  35. Jake L says:

    Sticking with Castle.

  36. maggie says:

    Not interesting enough to get me to switch from Castle.

  37. Rachel says:

    Not only did it look off to me from the start, but now knowing that it’s up against H5-0 & Castle? I’ll pass, thanks.

  38. 4F says:

    Of the two new programs that are trying to cash-in on Mad Men’s 60’s period glory, this one looks less interesting to me. They both feel like cheap imitations, but I’m actually interested in checking out Pan Am, whereas I’d rather pop in my Mad Men Blu-rays while this show is on.

  39. Saun says:

    Can only tape 2 so it’s Castle and 5-0 for me

  40. Joe says:

    after seeing that preview i’m slightly more interested. but really Amber Heard was the only reason i considered this show. Love me some 5 0 and Castle though so i will pass

  41. missy says:

    What amazes me more than anything is there are so many here people that like “Castle”. My inlaws love that program. I’m not fond of it at all – the murders could be solved by Encyclopedia Brown. I do love Hawaii Five-O, though, and I’ll be watching that instead.

    • Tego Livi says:

      I think “Castle” is one of those shows that engender a disproportionate amount of loyalty among its audience. They post online and try to “increase the buzz” more than fans of other shows. That’s not to say its unpopular, just that fora like this one aren’t really a good gauge of their true popularity.

  42. Jaycee says:

    My sister is on the show, and it is her first big acting gig, so, yeah, I’ll be watching!

  43. BHM1304 says:

    This show seems like “Swingtown” but with a crappy cast. There is not a single actress in this cast as good as Molly Parker, Lana Parrilla, Brittany Robertson, or Miriam Shor in this cast nor actors as good as Grant Show (in what was his best role), Josh Hopkins, or Jack Davenport. “Swingtown” had a fantastic cast and didn’t get viewers, how is this garbage pail cast going to get viewers against two established dramas with loyal fan bases? This show doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in he!!.

  44. Tego Livi says:

    If you think Krumholtz is unrecognizable here, you should’ve seen the episode of SVU he did–a silly-looking beard plus he looked about 50 pounds heavier than he did on Numbthreers.

  45. karen says:

    NBC??? Are they still around?? H50 all the way.

  46. sarah says:

    I thought the concept will be lost after one episode. Mad Men is on cable and only gets 3 million viewers which is good for cable but not regular TV. I read that at the last minute they changed the male lead to Eddie Cibrian. Everything he does bombs. He was even on a hit show “CSI Miami” and provided no sizzle and they let him go after one season. And his personal life in the tabloids! Not a good actor, and he is clearly an aging hunk….yesterday’s mashed potatoes.

  47. TinLV says:

    I doubt this show will be any good, but even if it is, no one will be watching. With that time slot, it is bound to fail. I give it 2 weeks.

  48. sharkchik says:

    They really screwed the pooch casting Cibrian as the lead. I don’t find him the least bit attractive, he can’t act worth a damn and he just plain oozes smarmy. I can’t believe they thought he could carry this show. The number of people turned off solely because he’s in it has got to be staggering. This one won’t last, and I sure as hell won’t be watching, even if my tivo wasn’t already occupied with Castle + Five-0 (two more reasons it’s dead in the water).

  49. Heather says:

    I just have to say that TV shows are very unrealistic when they show women going to bed or waking up in FULL makeup! How is that realistic??? Also, it sends a bad message to women all over! It states that we must always look beautiful! Normal women are not always beautiful! C’mon, now! The Playboy TV show for the 2011 – 2012 season and the one about the “stewardesses” are so PASSE! Why ruin the images of MANY young women (teenagers, young twenties, and of course any other woman in the world!!!). Women should look how they feel comfortable and not be looked at as less of a woman. Same as WEIGHT, which our country is OBSESSED with! Why can’t we just love who we are and not worry about what others think? It took me a long time to feel that way but I still have that feeling from my younger days. I was ill with Anorexia and Bulimia and exercised 2 1/2 hours a day without even eating at the family dinner table! I was called the “poster girl for Anorexia.” Why hurt other women based on unrealistic examples????? PLEASE let this stop!