The Playboy Club, a show that never really stood a chance. Originally aired September 19th, cancelled on October 4th after just three episodes.
So, why talk about it here?
Because it was, in its own way, a lawyer drama. That is to say, the leading male character is a lawyer. Nick Dalton is a lawyer with political aspirations, planning to run for State's Attorney. He's also a former fixer for the Chicago mob.
That could have been the start of a successful show. There are lots of crime dramas from the point of view of the police, but many of the characters end up too black and white, or gray in very predictable ways (the cop roughs up bad guys to make them talk). Crime from the point of view of the criminals is often much more successful, The Godfather, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad.
Having Dalton deal with trying to get the mob support while not getting brought back in to the family, there's some potential for an interesting show there. Drop in the Playboy Club as simply one of the recurring locations, a place where the rich and powerful do whatever it is the rich and powerful do.
Instead we got a show about something not many people will really care about, the catty in fighting among scantily clad waitresses.
The only thing really interesting about the show as it was produced was all the negative publicity it got, even before the first show aired. Morality councils declared preemptive judgment and the show was denounced as both pornographic and sexist.
The show wasn't really either of these things though. The Ms. Magazine blog wrote a scathing review, but had little to say about the show other than the black girl referring to herself as the "chocolate bunny" and a lame scene where the girls start a sing along. The rest of the critique is actually a criticism of the 1960s magazine, not of the show. It'd be like criticizing Rome because of all the slaves the Romans took.
Are there a lot of revealing clothes? Sure. But, probably no worse than Glee, Gossip Girl, or Dancing With The Stars. And, nothing about it is particularly pornographic. The men in the club run the gamut from the idle rich, to the egomaniacal, to the lame office chumps who've never talked to a pretty girl before.
In the opening of the first episode, the new girl rejects the advances of a guest of the club. When she is in the back restocking her cigarette tray, the guest comes in and attacks her. She fights him off and during the melee kicks him in the neck, killing him. The message is pretty clear, no matter how she was dressed or what he job is, it's not okay to sexually assault her. There's no tone of moral ambiguity about her killing in self defense. Isn't this the exact type of message the anti-slut shaming crowd should be looking for in a show? (He happened to be the boss of the Chicago mob, and his death puts what would have been the main story arc into action.)
Would there have been an attempt to white wash Playboy's history with the show? Maybe. But, it's a shame the show wasn't even given a chance. Killed from the outset by speculation about its misdeeds.
[The show is still available on Hulu, for who knows how long.]