The Parents Television Council has conspicuously attacked NBC's new show, The Playboy Club, which premieres Monday night, for being too scandalous for prime-time TV. Critics who've seen the first episode don't seem to agree, however: For them, the biggest shock is that the show's intriguing premise — the beginnings and sexual politics of Chicago's first Playboy club in the 1960s — has yielded such dull television. Do the bunnies really fail that badly at tantalizing viewers?
No one will be "watching The Playboy Club for the dialogue": That's because the script is "not only obvious but rather shallow," says Dave Wiegand at The San Francisco Chronicle. Result: An "appealing enough" cast comes off as "mostly wooden." The problem begins with the show's plucky lead bunny Maureen (Amber Heard), who — portrayed as both "ambitious" and "acquiescent" — lacks the character cohesion to engage the audience in her half-baked murder subplot. "Even as no-brainer entertainment," The Playboy Club "should be a lot better than it is."
"The Playboy Club review: A shallow bunny tale"
The murder plot, especially, takes the show off the rails: Early in the pilot, Maureen's character accidentally stabs a handsy customer in his jugular with her stiletto heel, "establishing a comfortably low bar for realism before the opening credits have rolled," says Troy Patterson at Slate. The rest of the episode laboriously revolves around her attempts to cover up the gaffe, with the help of a Don Draper-lite lawyer (played "wryly" and "dryly" by Eddie Cibrian). This new series is so busy being "dismal" that it never delivers on its rumored raciness.
"The Playboy Club"
Actually, the pilot surpasses (low) expectations: The episode offers "a bit more intrigue" than a show about Playboy might suggest, says Kelly West at Cinema Blend. More than just "bunny tails and perfectly styled hair," the show's characters are layered with an appealing amount of ambition. And while "the air is thick with sexual tension," the Parents Television Council should be happy to know that there is only "one brief but steamy" actual sex scene. Bottom line: A "sexy, fluffy tale."
"The Playboy Club review: A sexy, fluffy tale with some intriguing elements"