The Playboy Club is an unmitigated disaster. And I love it. And while I’m fairly certain that I can’t really explain my fascination with this show, I figured I might as well try. Hell, it might even help me understand it.
The very first thing that hit me in the very first minute of the very first episode was an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. I’ve seen this show before….but where?! And then it hit me. I was watching a bad imitation of Showgirls. Yes, THAT Showgirls. The Showgirls that is always front and center during anyone’s “What is the worst movie of all time?” debate.
(Editorial Sidebar: The following paragraph will get into a fairly substantial amount of detail about a movie probably 3.7% of you actually saw. For the other 96.3% of you, here’s all you need to know about Showgirls. When it came out, the buzz for this movie was huge (and this was pre-internet being the internet, and certainly pre-social media). And the reason there was so much buzz was because Jesse from Saved by the Bell was about to star in a movie about Vegas showgirls. The modern day equivalent of this would be something along the lines of Miranda Cosgrove from iCarly going into a Cinemax soft-core movie next year. Showgirls had excessive nudity, completely over-the-top and contrived sex scenes, and absolutely no script or story to speak of. To call this movie a bad would be an affront to all the bad movies that were ever made before this one. And now back into our Showgirls/The Playboy Club breakdown…)
Carol-Lynne is the Gina Gershon rip-off. She’s the old pro hanging on for dear life. A little bit wiser for having been in the game for as long as she has, but at the same time a bit too desperate to keep the party going as she realizes it’s all coming to an end real soon. This is only further provoked as she watches Maureen enter the club. Maureen is the Elizabeth Berkely rip-off. A doe-eyed starlet, whose innocence is magnetic to the other characters, but a complete threat to Carol-Lynne. And whereas Maureen is somehow in awe of Carol-Lynne’s singing/performing, Carol-Lynne is in full-on catfight mode as she watches her much younger boyfriend take a bit too much of an interest in the newbie. Now here’s where I would begin to state a case that the Nick character is a rip-off of the Kyle McLaughlin Showgirls character, but unfortunately, I can’t. You see, I was too distracted by Eddie Cibrian’s apparent obsession with Jon Hamm.
From the clothes, to the lighting, to the hair, to the controlled and deliberate speech pattern, it’s obvious that Eddie Cibrian is doing a very thinly veiled (yet miserable) imitation of Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. But this nod to Mad Men (and by nod, I mean thievery) seems as though as it’s woven into the DNA of the show. They do a magnificent job of taking bits and pieces of much more ambitious and thought-required TV shows, dumbing them down, and making them ready for mass consumption.
You want a mafia show with all sorts of political graft but Boardwalk Empire isn’t quite your speed? No problem, we killed the head of the Chicago mob in the first 10 minutes of the pilot and Nick is already paying kick backs to the corrupt Mayor of Chicago for an endorsement in his run for state’s attorney. Does a storyline where a closeted gay married man lives in an era where gays had little to no hope for mainstream acceptance sound interesting to you? But is Mad Men just too slow for you? We’ve got you covered, because one of the Playboy bunnies’ hubby is doing his own rendition of Sal from Mad Men. I would also call the unnecessarily mysterious presentation of Hef in all his scenes a direct rip-off of the Charlie scenes from Charlie’s Angels, but I think the new Charlie’s Angels probably has the “ripping off the original Charlie’s Angels” angle covered in spades.
So right about now, you’re probably asking yourself “why the hell do you watch this show?”, and it’s funny you should ask that, because after reading through this rant I find myself asking, “why the hell do I watch this show?”.
I think I watch it because it is so dumb. It takes me back to a time when TV was simple and I didn’t always have to think so Goddamn much. A time when Billy and Alison could start working at a small ad agency called D&D advertising with no background in the industry and, somehow, days later find themselves working on a Super Bowl spot. A time when there was no question that Valerie would be able to successfully manage The Peach Pit After Dark despite having absolutely no experience in seemingly anything even remotely related to running or even working at a club. I think I watch it for the exact reasons it is so bad. This show is the anti-J.J. Abrams, and you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.