So I have a confession about this “guilty pleasure” television show that turned out not to be such a “guilty” pleasure — it was called “The Playboy Club.” It premiered on NBC and my attraction to it was the 1960’s vintage setting. I watched the first episode online expecting to quickly and with much disgust turn it off, thinking it would be rife with sexual promiscuity and derogatory themes.
But the first episode introduces the primary conflict: the accidental murder of a mobster by the main heroine, Maureen, who was defending herself against the mobster’s sexual advances. So begins her complex relationship with the only other witness to the murder: an up-and-coming district attorney. These two do NOT immediately begin a sexual relationship. There is no sexual tension between them: they are simply and only co-conspirators.
The women who are the “bunnies” are headstrong, intelligent, and professional.
The show features an African American bunny who states once that she is saving her money to buy a house because “black girls ain’t ever supposed to own nothing.” The show features one bunny who is married to Sean Maher of Firefly fame. These two are homosexuals whose marriage is a sham because at that point in time, coming out of the closet would have been catastrophic on so many levels. Another one of the main characters, Caroline, is an older woman struggling with her age. She relies upon her position at the Playboy Club and it’s obvious she feels the pressure upon her as she’s getting older and being replaced by young, fresh women like Maureen.
In the last episode, as if the writers suspected the show’s fate before it was decided, the show features a spy — a new bunny hired who is actually a reporter from the local newspaper (for the first twenty minutes, you’re absolutely certain this woman was actually hired to uncover Maureen’s secret murder.) She meant to enter the Club and expose it as a harem and a cesspool for debauchery. When the truth comes out Caroline, the other leading lady of the show, confronts the spy and accuses her of trying to turn her hard-working, trusting, earnest girls into simple whores. The reporter is humbled and eventually issues a retraction to her story.
Caroline, who has been involved with the attorney and thus has antagonized Maureen thinking Maureen and him (Nick) were involved, is an interesting character herself. When Sean Maher’s character (a political man) suggests to Nick that he date some political man’s wealthy daughter for the sake of his campaign, Caroline begrudgingly allows Nick to do so. This brings up the issue to Caroline that to the public, Caroline isn’t good enough: she’s crude and dirty. She’s a proud woman and so begins to retaliate against Nick’s dating the wealthy daughter. You find out at the end of the last episode that the wealthy daughter is in fact in cahoots with Sean Maher’s character. She’s a lesbian who wants to finally be “the good little heterosexual girl her daddy always wanted.”
The main and nearly exclusive tension of the show rests in the possibility of Maureen and the attorney’s crime being uncovered. It’s not sex. Here’s what floors me:
THERE IS LESS SEXUAL CONTENT ON THIS TELEVISION SHOW THAN THERE IS ON ANY OTHER SHOW I CAN THINK OF. My favorite television show “Bones” is more rife with on-screen sexual encounters and sexual content than “The Playboy Club.”
This is a show about what it’s really like to be living within societal taboos. It shows that everyone is just trying to survive in their own way. It deals with a number of controversial topics intelligently.
Why does this floor me?
“The Playboy Club” was just cancelled. I found this out by searching for episode 4. Watching these episodes has been a highlight of my week for a month.
I also found out that the show was cancelled probably due mostly to the opposition it received from The Parent Television Council. Naturally enough, the council opposed the show — BEFORE IT EVEN AIRED — for its lewd content and derogatory display of females.
Never before have I found it so obvious that someone forming an argument like this had not ever looked into what it was they were opposing. I see more women put into derogatory positions all the time on shows that continue airing with extreme popularity. This did not put down women. It gave them intelligence and independent thinking and power. The main men on the show were unanimously respectful, if not subordinate, to the women.
It’s just sad that an intelligent show like this got all the heat just for having to do with Playboy, while sitcoms can reinforce gender stereotypes every single day and nobody questions it.