[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show:“The Playboy Club” (NBC)
The Pitch: “Mad Men” meets “American Dreams” meets “Playboy After Dark”
Quick Response: I was practically cringing in the corner after the opening monologue setting the historical/culture scene concluded with “Anything could happen to anybody… or any-bunny.” You have to build up a reserve of good faith to get away with a groaner like that and “The Playboy Club” hadn’t earned that level of capital. But having started at that low point, it’s a positive sign that I ended up liking “The Playboy Club” as much as I did. Thanks to director Alan Taylor and a crack production team, “The Playboy Club” looks stupendous and all of the period details — not just the bunny costumes — are lovingly and lavishly rendered. Chad Hodge’s script is all over the place, but it introduces a murder mystery, all manner of ’60s political upheaval and a burgeoning sense of decadence in short order. There are plenty of directions “The Playboy Club” could go from here and I’m intrigued by (interested in? amused by?) several of them. And even if the dialogue isn’t exactly smooth in its use of period slang and references, thematic over-articulation and foreshadowing, it also introduces the concept of “A Bunny Emergency,” which has become my favorite new excuse of 2011. For anything. Irrational advocacy group complaints aside, nothing in “The Playboy Club” is even vaguely exploitative. If “Hawaii Five-0” can give fans Alex O’Loughlin tearing off his shirt on a weekly basis, I see little reason why Amber Heard, Nauturi Naughton and Jenna Dewan Tatum in bunny suits will bring about the end of civilization. If anything, Heard seems like she’d rather be a good deal less covered and slightly empty line-deliveries aside, this is a good role for her, far more substantive than anything she’s gotten on the big screen in a long while. It remains to be seen if “The Playboy Club” will suffer from having human mannequin Eddie Cibrian as its leading man. His Nick Dalton is the sort of character whose name other characters are constantly repeating even when he isn’t around and Cibrian doesn’t do much to justify that aura of awe. But he looks good in his suits and wears the slicked-back hair well, which may be all that’s required. This could end up being a better leading vehicle for David Krumholtz, not that I’d expect to see Krumholtz on banner “Playboy Club” posters, but I liked him here.
Desire To Watch Again: I’m not instantly hooked, but I’m definitely curious. Of the two network attempts to reproduce “Mad Men,” I prefer ABC’s “Pan Am,” but there are plenty of reasons to want to see what “The Playboy Club” has in store.
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Grimm’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘New Girl’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: The CW’s ‘Hart of Dixie’
Take Me To The Pilots ‘ 11: ABC’s ‘Apartment 23’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘A Gifted Man’
All of last year’s Take Me To The Pilots installments.