And now for another edition of “play by play review (opening scene). I’m your hostess, Kaylia, and the show tonight is The Playboy Club, a 60s era drama that is hoping to be the network answer to Mad Men.
We open to an upward look at the Chicago skyline at night. We know it is Chicago because eh sultry woman’s voice is singing “Chicago, Chicago…” before we pan down to a moderately busy street and a middle aged voice over tells us that though Chicago was full of corruption and wind, (seriously), he was still able to create a place of perfection. Quick flashes of drums, champagne, full glasses and someone getting out of a cab…
The voice continues telling us about how fantasy could become reality while we get shots of 60 era pin up posters and the music ratchets up a notch. The guy from the cab turns his playboy bunny key over to a playboy bunny who greets him as Mr. Dalton and we see the Play Boy Club sign. Mr Dalton checks his coat and is informed that Carol Lynne is on stage… perfect time for the voice over to tell us it wasn’t the fifties anymore and then there is Carol Lynne singing into a mic and a spotlight, her black bunny costume tight in all the right places, her lipstick dark enough to almost be trashy.
She sings and the voice over tells us that this is a place where “… anything could happen to anybody.. or any bunny.” as we watch a blond bunny in teal watch Carol Lynne sing and sashay herself around the stage.
Blond bunny is Maureen, we discover as red haired bunny, Alice, approaches and warns against her about just standing around. Maureen is quick to blame pretty Carol Lynne for being so distracting and then wonders why she alone gets to perform. Alice tells her that Carol Lynne was the first bunny and thus gets to do whatever she wants. An African American bunny in gold (Same actress as the Playboy Bunny from Mad Men!) approaches and riffs that Carol Lynne wouldn’t want to share the stage with Maureen seeing how Maureen has great legs and has already sold half her tray and it is only ten o’clock.
Case in point, a bald man approaches and asks Maureen to dance. He gets a little handsy (hands on her ass) on the dance floor and she spins away and dances with another guy. Carol Lynne watches from the stage with a look of slight displeasure as the spotlight follows Maureen around the dance floor. Mr. Dalton has also noticed her and he asks the short man next to him if she is new. The short man is apparently Billy and the manager because he swoops in on Maureen and, calling her “Miss”, tells her to get back to work. She corrects him on her name and then rushes off to pick up her tray.
Nick Dalton takes this opportunity to introduce himself to her and buy some of her cigarettes. She is out of his brand and asks him to wait while she runs to the back. He says he doesn’t mind and looks like he is rather enjoying watching her walk away. Carol Lynne finishes her song and the crowd claps. Nick meets her as she comes off the stage. She asks him if he won the case and he assures her that the victims will each get $50,000. She is happy to hear it and wonders how she too can be a victim. He tells he she couldn’t be a victim if she tried (gag) and she tells him she could be just about anything if the price was right. She is needed back on the stage and she points him to table three but he is waiting for cigarettes.
Speaking of cigarettes, Maureen is in the storeroom and as she turns around from the cigarette cupboard she comes face to face with leering bald handsy man. Back on stage, Carol Lynne is on to a new number and Nick is watching from the bar where the bartender, Max, knows his complicated drink order by heart.
In the storeroom, bald handsy man is telling Maureen she shouldn’t have pushed him away. She tries to leave and he stops her by pushing her up against the cupboard…. … Carol Lynne is still singing and her spotlight is red. I take a moment to guess at whether this is intentional symbolism or just a way to show that it was s different take. Nick is getting antsy waiting for his cigarettes and checks his watch.
Up against the cupboard, Maureen is getting felt up and creeped out by bald handsy man. He goes in for the kiss and she fights back ending up on the floor next to an overturned, something. Seeing the opportunity, he is quick to get on top of her and wedge himself between her legs as she struggles.
Nick, having decided that five minutes is too long to wait for nicotine, lets himself into the Employees Only section and comes to her rescue. Or.. he tries.
Bald handsy man knocks Nick down and then comes back for Maureen grabbing at her feet. I am unsure if he plans on raping her next to Nick (who wasn’t hit all that hard) or if he is going to try to kidnap her, but Nick recovers and attacks again. In the struggle Maureen and her (magically still on) high heels strikes out and bald handsy man gets a stiletto to the neck. Then, the blood, the wet raspy sounds, and the almost instant and not that messy death.
Maureen recovers quickly and offers to go call the police but Nick stops her, “Do you have any idea who you just killed?” Instead of a bitter or sarcastic “My would-be rapist?” Maureen looks worried… and Title Card!
Turns out the guy Maureen killed was a mob boss. Nick takes his money, she takes his Playboy key and together they dump the body in the river. As the show continues, Carol Lynne is too old to be a bunny and she goes above the head of Billy, the manager, to Hef who gives her a new job of Bunny Den Mother. (She is no Joan Halloway, but she is dynamic on the screen.)
The episode, in true pilot style, does a fair bit of exposition and character introduction while setting up at least three story arcs. Here are some good and some bad points from the pilot.
Bunny suits need a partner to unzip
Bunny territories shouldn’t be crossed! Rawr!
Secret bunny lesbian who is there for the money.
Nick Dalton does a decent Don Drapper impersonation… seriously there are a few times when he has the voice down pat!
Brenda (the Africal America, or Chocolate Bunny) is awesome. “Is it true what they say.. that he has a really big….. ? Oh honey, you got a dirty mind, I was going to say penis.”
The term “Chasing Bunny tail… hee!”
The Tina Turner and Ike stand ins are a lot of fun to watch.
Not just lesbians, but hot hunky gay men too!
And the Bad:
Rampant sexism… it can’t be authentic period piece unless they play up that angle, right?
The whole “We have to pretend to lust each other… let’s kiss.. for, umm, the sake of others.. yeah, for their sake we better make out.”
The voice over of Hugh. Who is he talking to? Why? We are a relatively adult and well read audience, we don’t need things spoon fed to us.
Almost too many stories and side stories. I worry that the show won’t be able to do them all justice while still keeping us entertained.
The whole tag line (from the voice over Hef) that in the Playboy Club you can “be whoever you want to be” rings decidedly false since the bunnies can’t be anything really other than waitresses and the men can’t really be their lovers.
In short, there is potential. I plan on watching a few more episodes to see where it is going… and will try to leave all Mad Men comparisons behind me while I do it. And… here is a trailer that pretty much shows you the entire first episode….