Playboy Clubbed

Deborah McAdams is the Executive Editor of TV Technology.

Oh, I get it, NBC! "The Playboy Club" was a ruse from the beginning, timed to coincide with the U.S. Supreme Court's review of federal broadcast indecency rules. Sweet.

So you put the show on the air, knowing full well it's a no-brainer for the Parents TV Council, and then kill it after three episodes to show the court, "hey, we can police ourselves, thank you very much."

Okay, so that's probably not what happened to "The Playboy Club," which was no more or less lame than a lot of other shows on TV. It didn't look like a cheap show, production-wise.

Predictably, the PTC whipped itself into a frenzy over this show, which depicted a glorified Chicago Playboy Club in the early '60s. The PTC likened it to "porn," a stretch if there ever was one, except perhaps for the show's marketing ties with what Hugh Hefner's publishing empire has devolved into.

The magazine, readers may recall, was for many years (also) renowned for its high-profile interviews. Now it's a showcase for the old geezer's high-school age girlfriends. The series may have fared a bit better without that imagery top-of-mind.

Maybe. Maybe not. It wasn't great, but it wasn't the most dismal thing on TV, nor was it by far the most sexist or degrading to women.

Night after night in primetime, women are kidnapped, beaten, raped and murdered in heinously new and creative ways. Brutality toward women is a central theme of nearly every crime drama on TV, broken only occasionally by an abducted kid or a massacred family. Why is that acceptable, while a few women wearing more than the cover models on fitness magazines calls for an all-out assault?

Television is said to reflect our social values. If so, I'd say they are morbidly misplaced.