TCA 2011: 'The Playboy Club' more 'fun' than racy, executive says
"The Playboy Club," NBC's new 1960s-era drama about Hugh Hefner's legendary Playboy Club in Chicago, is already one of the new season's more controversial series. The network's Salt Lake City affiliate has already announced it will not air the series, while some critics have speculated that the series will be sexist or a rip-off of "Mad Men."
But in an appearance at the NBC portion of the TCA press tour in Beverly Hills, the producers and the cast stressed that the emphasis of the show will be more fun than sexual. They also insisted that the Playboy Bunnies will be portrayed as intelligent, empowered young women who have aspirations to be successful in life.
"In terms of content, it will be mild," said executive producer Ian Biederman. "These are characters who are in a certain time and certain place. The show will be a lot of fun, it will have a ton of music and lots of energy."
Naturi Naughton, who plays an African American woman who is referred to as "the chocolate Bunny," said the perspective that the women working at the club were merely sexual objects is erroneous: "They went to school, they had houses, we show them using their resources."
Those assurances are unlikely to change the minds of executives at KSL-TV, NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate. Executives for KSL have informed NBC that it will not air the drama, which stars Eddie Cibrian and Amber Heard, citing objectionable content.
"The Playboy brand is known internationally," KSL President and Chief Executive Mark Willes said in a recent statement. "Everyone is clear what it stands for. We want to be sure everyone is clear what the KSL brand stands for, which is completely inconsistent with the Playboy brand."
KSL is owned by the Deseret Media Cos., which is controlled by the Mormon Church.
Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, said that all other NBC affiliates would air the show, and that he was not surprised by KSL's decision. "The brand name is polarizing. That station does not program 'Saturday Night Live.' But this show is not all that revealing." He added that the show is "a fun soap."
"The Playboy Club" will air on another Salt Lake City station.
And while the series takes place in the same era as "Mad Men," which is set in the advertising industry, producers said it will be distinctly different. "It will be a completely fresh world," said executive producer Francie Calfo.
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: Amber Heard, Nauri Naughton and Leah Renee in ''The Playboy Club." Credit: Matt Dineerstein / NBC