Playboy Club Gets Axed Because Men Don’t Like It

The Playboy Club, just as it was finally getting much better and much gayer, has been cancelled after only three episodes. Ratings were dismal and the team blames the fact that men don’t like it for the show’s lower-than-expected performance. Witness:

“… the guys who initially tuned in — thinking about Hef and hoping for some fun, sexy story lines — discovered a show that frankly appeals more to their wives, sisters or girlfriends.”

Furthermore, the show airs opposite Monday Night Football. However, women are, I believe, 51% of the population and clearly enough persons to carry a television program.

Speaking of women who watch this television program, despite the fact that I hate everything, I’d actually started to like The Playboy Club. The first episode was boring, cliche and often skeezy, but the last two episodes have revealed that the heart of the show isn’t heterosexual sex, men in suits and female objectification after all — it’s a (dare I say) feminist look at a group of smart, independent, talented women who aren’t afraid to be sexy and transgress societal norms. The fact that these women aren’t looking to get married is repeatedly drilled into our heads (much like Pan Am, which in my opinion on a scale of one to ten rates just above staring at a fish tank) — it’s all very “women are doin’ it for themselves.”

You wouldn’t know about the increasingly female-oriented tone of the show from any of the marketing materials, however. NBC promised endless sex, gangsters and bunny tails. And as aforementioned, you wouldn’t know this from watching the pilot. It seems the next logical step for NBC would be to revamp how the show is marketed to make it clear to women that this show is more about women’s relationships to themselves and each other than it is to Heffner’s fan club.

This week’s episode of The Playboy Club was safely Heff-voiceover-free (unless I missed a scene while standing in the kitchen eating Sesame Street Organic Letter of the Day Cookies) and blessed its audience with yet another lesbian! Frances Dunhill was introduced as Nick Dalton‘s new pretend girlfriend (his actual girlfriend, Carol-Lynne, works at The Playboy Club and therefore isn’t suited for an ambitious politician’s right arm) who is also involved in The Mattachine Society with lesbian Alice and Alice’s gay husband.

The episode also included a fairly obvious/inappropriate dig at Gloria Steinem by introducing Doris, a journalist who gets a job at the club in order to write an exposé on the club’s allegedly seedy underbelly. Her cover is eventually blown and she gets a strict talking to from Carol-Lynne, who accuses her of taking advantage of the Bunnies’ kindness and open arms when the explosive story she wanted to write wasn’t there for the taking.

We also got a few solid musical numbers including another from Carol-Lynne (played by Laura Benanti).

Also, NBC has ordered a full season of Whitney, which is so mind-numbingly terrible that I have to mute the Whitney ads that come on during The Playboy Club’s commercial breaks.

Ideally, the show could be purchased and revamped for cable, where it could get a little more edgy if it wanted to, though I doubt that will happen. There are presently no plans to air the remaining episodes in a different time slot.

I leave you with this animated gif from amberheard.tumblr.com and 50 pictures of Amber Heard.

 

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Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1734 articles for us.

56 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    I have to say, I was pretty pissed about the obvious portrayal of Gloria Steinem. It was like they rewrote history to make her seem a cruel and conniving idiot who ruins people’s lives just to “get a story” and in the end didn’t find anything anyways. Well, we all know that this wasn’t true and I’m rather curious to see what Gloria will say about all of this. BUT on the other hand, I don’t know why I was surprised… Of course this show is biased as all hell.

    Honestly, if I didn’t find Alice’s character so adorable and interesting, I would have stopped after the first episode. I’m sad that I won’t get to see this storyline play out.

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      yeah i agree, i thought that was really shitty. it just felt like heff was evening an old score.

      i knew about it happening already ’cause i’d read the script ahead of time, but seeing it played out was just tacky.

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    Well this man liked it. And only partially for straightmanreasonsI’membarrassedabout (gotta agree with chloe about ms. steinems [not]character though).

    I had a feeling it was going to get cut the second I heard the word “Mattachine” – everybody knows the only place for that is Smith College history courses.

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      This dude enjoyed it as well. And I knew when there was no “next week on…” after last night’s episode that it was done for. I mean, I guess one less show I have to remember to watch, but still…

      It obviously wasn’t perfect, but it was a fun show that wasn’t horribly written or acted. Plus the historical gay! I love historical gay! Stupid football. I blame football for all the world’s problems.

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        if they could just re-center the entire show on alice, and have the rest of it be peripheral while mainly focussing on the mattachine society except for occasional visits to alice’s workplace THEN i think it would be a REALLY awesome show. but of course i doubt anyone would do that. they could call it “the mattachine society.”

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          YYEEEEEESSSSSSS. Unfortunately, somehow I think even LESS people would watch that. But we would be more dedicated to it than Firefly fans. At least, I would be.

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          Word. From a writer’s standpoint, the Mattachine Subplot was the strongest because you had two compelling characters who’s entire life was built around a lie that protected them from society. If you know anything vaguely about the 60′s, you know how high the stakes are for them, and what they’re being denied. Also they’re in it together and there’s mutual respect/love between them, which, makes you want to root for them. They’re the underdog archtype to a T.

          Whereas whats her name is what? A runaway? Looking for her daddy? Trying to make it big? She accidentally killed a man? She wasn’t established as well, she’s pretty cookie cutter and you can’t connect to her or want to care about her plight as a smalltown jane in the big city.

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          yes EXACTLY ash, you are totally right about the way that looks from a writer’s standpoint. i could not agree more.

          maureen’s story seemed vague and i felt like any deeper probing would just turn up more cliche. even though she killed that guy, i still felt like Alice had much more at stake than Maureen did.

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          I was hoping the show would stay around long enough to drop Maureen’s plots altogether and focus on Alice. Didn’t think it would actually happen, but still. . .

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          Thanks, “out gay writer/producer Chad Hodge”. That’s telling the truth about the era. I especially loved your portrayal of Gloria Steinem. His biggest mistake was to use the Playboy platform to launch his “empowering” and “historical” subplots, which would have given our LGBT community some well deseved visibility. But instead, ultimately got percieved as a meaningless fairytale, thanks to his trying to blur everyone’s perception and insult our intelligence while pandering and glorifying Hefner. Again, thanks Chad Hodge.

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    Alice and her husband was the only storyline I enjoyed, and not just for obvious reasons. They were establishing a nice dynamic and the story was way better written than the overriding mob boss plotline and as much as I love Amber Heard I thought that whole thing was bland.

    I think they were only on ep 7 or 8 so we probably won’t see any DVDs, though I hope the eps are released somewhere.

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    Ya’ll. I’m bummed. Does anyone know the extent to which Playboy was backing the show? I feel like if they are behind it, it might have a chance of getting pushed to a cable.

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    Hm. Not sure I agree that this was a show made ‘for women’… but I am upset that a show fronted by a largely female cast has been taken off the air so quickly. Unfortunately it will probably be used as another ‘example’ by producers who don’t want to see women-centric shows on the air.

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      I think the show was suffering from an identity crisis. The concept and external appearance of the show was marketed towards men, while the plot lines and characters were marketed towards women. So men are going to tune in for the boobs, become bored and leave, and women are going to avoid it because they don’t know what it’s really about. Add in some creepy cliched Heff narratives and you’ll even further alienate your women viewers.

      I was also rather irked by the whole glorification of the playboy club. I might just be jaded because I’ve worked in similar establishments (strip clubs, cocktail bars geared towards men), but I never gained any sort of self esteem or otherwise “found myself” as a result of all of the male attention. I almost threw up in my mouth when one of the girls in the second episode (during the audition) said something to the effect of how the attention made her feel so beautiful. The whole show was geared around a male’s opinion of what a woman might feel like in that situation, not the reality.

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        Yes I can relate to this:

        I might just be jaded because I’ve worked in similar establishments (strip clubs, cocktail bars geared towards men), but I never gained any sort of self esteem or otherwise “found myself” as a result of all of the male attention. I almost threw up in my mouth when one of the girls in the second episode (during the audition) said something to the effect of how the attention made her feel so beautiful.

        When she said that my first thought was, “oh god, please run right now”/”just you wait!”

        I guess I imagined that because of the time period, maybe the men were more polite than they are now in similar establishments. Although I suppose that doesn’t necessarily make sense and might just be me justifying what was clearly a re-branding, but I wouldn’t have bought it in a contemporary environment.

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          One of the things that frustrated me was that Playboy’s involvement in the show meant that there was little chance they’d ever dig into that kind of stuff. They weren’t really allowed to show the company as anything but a big ball of awesomesexyfuntimes.

          They COULD have had an awesome subplot where waitresses realize their reactions to their jobs are more complex than, “men say I’m pretty YAY ME!”. There could have been storylines where Brenda or the unnamed Asian bunny find they’re treated differently than white bunnies (even if the company could be progressive, I’m certain plenty of the patrons were bigots). But any storylines that showed the club as less-than-perfect were going to be taboo. I really wish they’d just made up a clone of The Playboy Club to use for the show, so they could go into stuff like that.

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          I agree, MJ. I also feel like if they were gonna do that they’d have to do it on cable. I think in general network television will always be hesitant to get into anything complex in that area and mainstream media in general never wants to go that deep into those kinds of issues, gender or race politics especially within sex-related industries. It’d need more female writers, to begin with.

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    so basically the ratings were low because those who might watch because of the way it was advertised wouldn’t continue watching, and those who might continue watching were put off by the initial advertisements. seems so stupid.

    not to mention my personal opinion that the name of the show sucks – it’s too negatively connotated to warrant explaining to peeps/my mother why I might watch the show when I don’t like the entire brand.

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    I actually liked the show. Not just the Alice storyline, but of course that was great. To actually have gay history in a mainstream tv show was pretty awesome. Some gay people, let alone straight folks have never heard of the Mattachine Society. Way to go, NBC. You keep crap shows like Whitney (in the 30 Rock time slot, no less)and get rid of shows that seem a bit different than the norm.

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    OK let’s be real – the lesbian/women-focused entertainment sites either universally or at least sufficiently bashed the show for being anti-feminist, shallow, etc. Prominent women bashed the show. Then it didn’t appeal to the men.

    I mean, the show /sorta/ appeals to women – and it /sorta/ tries to appeal to men…it’s too focused on skimpy costumes/Playboy/things that women don’t like…too focused on friendships between women/stories about women/things that men apparently don’t like…you know. I think the I think it falls flat on both fronts. Creators of the show had an interesting idea but they hobbled it by feeling like it had to appeal to the “male gaze” – and I don’t think they just wrote the commercials to do so. I think there’s an underlying current of that in the show as well and I think that turns off the women it might appeal to (and by focusing on sex workers, the show was already taking a leap of faith by straying from the “sex appeal” aspect of it).

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    I haven’t watched the show, but wanted it to do well due to its unconventional take on an organization that (rightly so) gets a lot of flak.

    I love the mens, but SERIOUSLY, isn’t there enough sexist garbage on TV to pander to their Cro-Magnon needs?

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    No!!! I actually feel like I’m going to cry! I got really into this show and it’s amazing that it was showing gay history/adorable lesbian characters/beautiful, strong women/musical numbers and featuring an out-IRL actress. I can’t imagine how to justify canceling this show, it has so much going for it.

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      I was upset to and you know what dammit… I AM GOING TO BE A LESBIAN PLAYBOY BUNNY AND MY GAY BOYFRIEND (IT’S PLATONIC)WILL BE MY GLITTERY LAVAVDER-Y PARTNER ON HALLOWEEN! I WILL HAVE MY *OWN* MATTACHINE SOCIETY DAMMIT!!!

      I will be drunk, I will be merry and dammit my gay boyfriend will have a dapper costume.

      I will honor this show, it had so much potential, so much fucking potential. *tear*

  11. Thumb up 1

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    I feel like the show would have benefited from just using a Playboy expy instead of pretending to depict the actual Playboy club.

    Using a Playboy expy would not only have minimized the number of guys turning in for women in skimpy clothes. And being separate from Hef would have allowed them to portray the club as a less-than-perfect place to work. As it was, scenes at the club came off like a giant ad for Playboy.

    Women are smart enough to know when they’re being blatantly sold shit. And the frequent speeches on how empowering and awesome the Playboy Club was definitely qualified. The show constantly depicted an environment many female viewers could identify with, where women were expected to be glamorous and sexy at all times, judged in all aspects of their lives by their adherence to a narrow standard of beauty, and still try to balance the virgin/whore dichotomy. Telling them their situation is actually totally empowering is eyeroll-inducing.

    I’m reasonably convinced the pseudo-feminism came at the insistence of Playboy. The show only started to move into genuine feminist entertainment when the characters weren’t involved with the club.

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    I loved this pilot at script, for the very reason its being cancelled – empowering women in a world where they were likely victims of sexual harassment at every turn in reality. I never thought it might not succeed due to this very reason. I was enjoying this show :/ I wonder if it would’ve done differently on ABC or with different marketing campaign.

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    I was actually really starting to like this show. I like a bit of camp sometimes. And more importantly, now we have one less thing that Riese is recapping. I’m not sure if I can handle life without Riese’s recaps, to be honest.

    Also, no more bunnies? I’m getting choked up.

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    I’m shocked they’re actually pulling the show and replacing it with reruns of something else. You’d think they’d at least maximize viewers by showing the rest of the season they’ve already produced. Makes me wonder if advertisers were pulling because of the homos…

  15. Thumb up 0

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    This makes me so sad!!

    The lezzy storyline was about to unfold so beautifully. The rich demure socialite lady needed a Nick Don Draper Dalton beard and in the mean time her and Alison were going to tie the knot in Taiwan.

    Arghhh!!!

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    It looks like NBC is continuing to produce episodes, and it is trying to sell it to another network: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Playboy_Club

    Regardless, I didn’t watch this show. The fact that the show was supported by the Playboy brand and had the Hef voiceover in the first episode, along with Gloria Steinem’s comments, just made me feel like I couldn’t in good conscience support it. Also I had read on the A.V. Club recap of the first episode that the gay storyline seemed more like a way to paint the Playboy brand with this brush of progressivism that it didn’t deserve. It looks from here like it was better than I thought, but I still think they would have been better with coming up with a fake copy of Playboy so they wouldn’t have had to get the official company involved and then would have been able to be more critical.

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    I’ll never forget the time my cousin and I went shopping at the new opening of a mall in her town. It was “Playboy Night” and we walked in to see ogling men of all ages in a circle around 17-25 year old girls dressed in bunny outfits. The girls were heavily made up and cosmetics was part of the theme that they presented.
    It was dispiriting to hear the male comments…”I’ll take that one”…”Check out the brunette in pink…”, “Do you think she’d go home with me?”…”I’ve got a hutch in my backyard and will bring you all home and keep you there for my entertainment…” and on and on.
    It was if these girls were sex toys or female animals to these men. It didn’t bother my cousin as much (she was used to male attention anyway), but it was an affront to my sensibilities to see women and girls portrayed like that.

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