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Series / The Playboy Club

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"The steaming, corrupt, crime-filled Windy City may have been all those things, but I built a place in the toddlin' town where everything was perfect."
Hugh Hefner, opening narration in the pilot

"You ask, 'That's another show that's pushing feminist characters who have a job serving drinks to rich white men. Is that less sexist because they're not dressed in bunny costumes?' The answer to this question is 'yes.' Sure, there was a whole lot of sexism involved in being a 'stewardess,' but do I have to point out how dressing up in a skimpy rabbit costume is slightly more degrading than wearing a powder blue suit? Whether or not the bunnies were doing it voluntarily doesn't really matter. Women constantly consent to their own objectification; that doesn't make it not sexist. The point is that they're wearing almost no clothing and (worse, in my opinion) that they're dressed as baby animals. They're cute, cuddly and compliant 'playthings.' And yes, The Playboy Club is about 10 times worse because it's actually pretending that being a bunny was somehow a liberating experience."
Meredith Blake, The AV Club reviewer for The Playboy Clubnote 
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The Playboy Club was a very short-lived drama series on NBC most notable for how short-lived it was (given its promotion and production expenses) and its controversial portrayal of the eponymous nightclub as a backdrop for women's rights movements and changing gender attitudes during the 1960s (as shown in the quote above). The show started making headlines during pre-production when it was revealed a then-unnamed actress had to sign a waiver in order to allow her being filmed topless, something unheard of in primetime television in the U.S. (the actress turned out to be an extra and the waiver was never exercised). It was also notable for being a Dueling Show with ABC's Pan Am, also a 1960s period drama obstensibly dealing with the same issues (also addressed in the quote above), and it was clear both networks were trying to cash in on the success of Mad Men.

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Audiences never bought into the over-hyped and pseudo-sexy melodrama, and it was quietly canceled after only airing three episodes (in fact, it had the misfortune of being the first new show of the season to be axed).


This series provides examples of:

  • The '60s: The story is specifically set in 1961.
  • Based on a True Story: A fictionalized take on working at the flagship branch of the Playboy Club in Chicago.
  • The Beard: Alice and Sean, for each other.
  • Expy: Brenda is a fictionalized version of Jennifer Jackson, the first black Playmate.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Alice (because she's heavily closeted).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Pretty much every female character.
  • Shoe Slap: In the first episode, one of the new Playboy Bunnies is fending off the unwanted attentions of a mobster. During the struggle, they both fall to the floor. She kicks him in the head, and her high heel (the dress code specified three inches) penetrates his temple and goes into his brain, killing him.
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  • Straight Gay: Sean (also closeted), Alice's husband.
  • Straw Feminist: A pretty blatant Expy of Gloria Steinem shows up in one episode as an undercover reporter who basically wants to ruin the Playboy club out of spite.

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