Comparisons between NBC's The Playboy Club, the new 1960s-set series that takes place at the first Playboy Club in Chicago, and Mad Men were perhaps inevitable, but the producers and cast of the period drama were on hand at the fall TV previews on Monday to downplay any similarities. "The comparison to Mad Men ends at the era," executive producer Ian Biederman said. "This is a much different show with a much different energy."
Before the series has even premiered, the show has drawn attention for its name alone, causing the Parents Television Council to question whether a show based on one of the largest adult entertainment industries would be suitable on primetime television. At least one NBC affiliate, Salt Lake City's KSL, has opted to not carry the program, which will be shown in that market by KMYU, the local My Network TV affiliate.
But the producers say it's practically family-friendly. "In terms of content and anything racy, it's mild compared to a lot of stuff on TV," Biderman said. "The intent of this show is to show characters at a certain time and a certain place trying to become something... It's not based on magazines, it's based on the Playboy Club."
Further, several members of the cast point out that becoming a Playboy Bunny was empowering for women of this time. "This is about choice, ultimately, it's a different generation with different opportunities and different expectations for women," said Amber Heard, who plays new new Bunny Maureen. "It's just as chauvinistic to deny a woman her sexuality. Every woman up here is an independent, self-sufficient intelligent woman... representing a group of women who were doing the same in a time where options were completely different."
The look-but-don't-touch atmosphere of the Club is exactly what makes this era so rich in storytelling. "The show is about fantasy; it's about what Hugh Hefner built... and at the end of the day, it's about these women," Biederman said. "The first thing Hugh Hefner said when we made this show is, 'It's about the bunnies; it's about the girls. None of the other stuff matters. These aren't Playmates; these are Bunnies... these were great, bright women who wanted to become something and I helped give them an opportunity, but really they did it themselves.'"
But let's not be too altruistic. "Look, yeah, people were having sex in the bathroom," star Jenifer Lewis exclaimed. "The sex will be there as it is everywhere in every show, but it's about these women. It's character-driven."
Still, Heard stressed: "I've yet to meet an ex-Bunny who is disgruntled about her experience."
The Playboy Club premieres Monday, Sept. 19 at 10/9c on NBC.