It hasn’t hit the air yet, but already the premise of NBC’s fall drama, “The Playboy Club,” has its detractors, including one affiliate in Utah that’s vowed not to air the series, something show producers are already moving on from.
“We heard about that and that is certainly their right to air or not air the show and we’re just excited that another network in Salt Lake City has picked up the show,” Chad Hodge, Executive Producer of “The Playboy Club,” said on Monday as the cast and producers promoted the program at the NBC portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Session 2011 in Beverly Hills.
Beyond the one affiliate already boycotting the show, “The Playboy Club,” which has so far just produced a pilot, is already being compared to AMC’s “Mad Men, something else producers are shrugging off.
“The comparison to ‘Mad Men’ sort of ends at the era of the 60’s,” Executive Producer Ian Biederman said. “This is a much different show with a much different energy… It’s its own show.”
Television critics asked several questions about how far the show would go because of the connotations associated with Playboy. Producers said, however, it isn’t an extreme show.
“It’s mild compared to anything else on television,” Hodge said. “It really has nothing to do… with anything racy or trying to be exploitative, that’s not the purpose of the show or the spirit of the show.”
“It’s not the magazine, it’s based on the Playboy Club,” Biederman added, pointing out that the show is about the club workers, not the centerfolds.
“It’s empowering because these girls are smart, they’re going to school, they’re buying property,” Naturia Naughton, who plays Brenda, a woman who becomes one of the first African American bunnies, chimed in.
As more questions were asked about the nature of the show, Jennifer Lewis, who plays Pearl, the seamstress and mother hen of the club bunnies, said the show has sexual themes, but they were no more overt than other programs on television presently.
“People are having sex,” she laughed. “The sex will be there as it is everywhere in every show, but it’s about these women, it’s character driven and Chad Hodge has written a … multidimensional character for me… I just think that it’s gonna be fun and I think I’m gonna be fabulous in it.”
Former NBC show “American Dreams,” which aired several years ago on the network, spotlighted the 1950s “American Bandstand” era and featured actors coming on and playing roles of legendary entertainers, something “The Playboy Club” will also do. Producers confirmed actors will play younger versions of Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Ike and Tina Turner. “The Playboy Club” also utilizes Hugh Hefner’s voice – he does voiceovers on the pilot.
And, of course, the show features women in the classic bunny costumes, which Jenna Dewan Tatum, who plays Janie, said aren’t actually very comfortable to wear.
“It’s tight, it is constricting,” she laughed.
“You can’t be in the suit for more than a few seconds without feeling like you’re a part of the show,” Amber Heard, who plays Maureen, added. “You’re transported to this time… I think it’s special because these costumes are just as specific as the club days… and they exist nowhere else.”
Eddie Cibrian wears a lot of suits for his role as an attorney who has a key to the club, Nick, and the actor said it wasn’t hard to get into character.
“I looked at a lot of photos [from] around that time, I looked at books [from] around that time and got a sense of a visual aspect of what that [looked] like in the early 60’s,” he said. “It was definitely a time of social revolution going on … People smoke and drink and they didn’t think about the consequences… It was kind of about getting lost in a world and that’s what our series is trying to do.
“At the time, entertainers and politicians and mobsters just kind of all rubbed shoulders. Where do you get that now? You don’t,” he added.