Bye Bye, Bunnies

- October 10, 2011

"...with that plot, those songs, and no skin, I'm so not there"

It does seem somewhat abrupt, but NBC has already pulled the plug on The Playboy Club.

Debuting Sept. 19, the Hef-approved serial produced by Fox TV promised a scintillating look behind the scenes at the pioneer Chicago key club, circa 1960. Presumably, it was aimed at adults as it aired at 9 p.m. (MDT).

The media made much of NBC's press release announcing the cast's contractual nudity clauses. Equally tantalizing was the June 2011 assertion from Salt Lake City's KSL-TV that it would not air the show, followed by an appeal from Morality in Media to boycott it, and a statement from onetime undercover Bunny Gloria Steinem that the real club was "the sleaziest place on earth."

 The original Playboy Club in Chicago around 1960.

So I had a look at the January 1960 issue of Playboy, where leading the "Playboy After Hours" section is the premiere announcement of the very first Club,  an "attempt to project the plush and romantic mood of the magazine into a private club of good fellows interested in the better, more pleasurable aspects of life."

Hugh Hefner's Vol. 7 #1, in which may be found the genesis of his innovative gentlemen's club.

For $50 lifetime dues, the member is assured of "the warmth, the intimacy and the fun of a private cocktail party, with fine food and drink and entertainment and, of course, numerous beautiful women..."

The same 50-cent, 88-page issue, which would have hit newsstands in early December 1959, has Stella Stevens bare and prone in the gatefold, and devotes five pages to a "Holiday Playmate Review." Overall, the skin quotient is quite, quite tame, hardly PG; in fact, cover to cover, there is only one pair of fully revealed mammaries (Audrey Daston, p. 64, and you're welcome).
Naively, this is what I expected of the TV show, though wags had described the creators' pitch as something like, "It'll have Playboy Bunnies! And, yes, there will be a plot. Say, did we mention it's got Playboy Bunnies?!?"

But it wasn't a joke, after all. The fully generic, reusable storyline on which the concept was hung concerned a Mob lawyer and his involvement with a couple of women at a nitery where the femmes coincidentally were cottontailed. Could not have been more B-O-R-I-N-G, padding and all.

Billboard exemplifies NBC's expansive and expensive promotion for a program that was shown only three times before it was shut down.

Anachronistic musical interludes didn't help either. Come on, people, Bette Midler's 1973 disco vocal of "In the Mood" cloned and lip-synced for 1960? Give me a break.

But by far the program's most egregious mistake: No naked. No bosomy yet nipple-less side view. No flash of heinie in the locker room No curvy silhouettes in the shadows. Even less than what was in the publication. Nuthin'.

Ingloriously, the third and final Monday night episode on Oct. 3 drew only a disappointing (and disappointed) 3.4 million viewers, alongside a dismal 1.2 Nielsen rating, dooming it to a dubious place in TV history as this fall season's first network cancellation.

However, there are two more unaired episodes in the can, and Fox is said to be finishing the incomplete sixth, so as to shop the package around to other networks for possible pickup.

Well, goody goody for them, I say, and lotsa luck, but with that plot, those songs, and no skin, I'm so not there.

Just for the record, I suspect the dour Charlie's Angels is next to go.