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Premiere Thoughts: Up All Night, The Playboy Club

Note: This is yet another in a series of shorter, "seriously-off-the-top-of-his-head" posts (this time from Chris - thx to Qualler for allowing him to use his format!) on Fall premiere month for TV shows. These are not intended to be formal reviews and might not cover every show the day after they air. But, that's what blogs are for, amiright? 

Up All Night
Wednesdays, 8/7c on NBC

This one's a little late to the party, but is worth repeating much of what has already been said on the blawgs, because it really does have the potential to not suck, unlike so many other of the new fall shows. Yes, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have surprisingly great chemistry. Yes, it's great to see Arnett not play a caricature of Gob Bluth anymore. And yes, creator Emily Spivey of Parks & Recreation sure does know how to take an overly familiar concept and make it seem fresh just by doing some simple things like making it clear that despite the stresses of having a baby the couple is indeed happily married and ensuring the single-cam style is both reminiscent of many other newer-generation sitcoms but also exude a soft-hued quasi-cinematic tone. Oh and the jokes are pretty decent. Not knee-slapping, but endearingly entertaining. (Also, dig that sans serif title font!)

But there's something amiss in the pilot that keeps it from being truly a beacon of light in this abysmal fall TV season. Qualler distilled it pretty handily in his email to me when I asked him if I could steal his format: "Brig & I watched Up All Night last night - liked everything but Maya Rudolph's talk show/character." Yes, it is true. Maya Rudolph, who I actually tend to always give the benefit of the doubt, if only because Away We Go is cemented as one of my favorite movies of the 00s, is distractingly unfunny as Applegate's boss/family friend. You see, she has a daytime female-centric talk show and Applegate works on it. If you haven't heard, daytime talk shows are often parodies of themselves, so why not parody one inside of a realist narrative about child rearing? Anyway, it's fixable if Rudolph learns to subdue herself, which I already got the sense of during her non-bossing-people-around scenes, so let's hope it does, otherwise we'll be watching half of a great show and half of a terrible show, which is kind of like eating a Nutella and sauerkraut sandwich...unless you like sauerkraut.

Grade: B

The Playboy Club 
Mondays, 10/9c on NBC

Sigh. I honestly wouldn't have even watched this if I knew that Playboy and Hugh Hefner were actually involved in its production. Yes, I would have still watched it despite the universally awful reviews because maybe perhaps, I thought to myself, there would somehow be something at least entertainingly bad or even a sliver of hope buried deep within it just waiting to get out. Because really, I still believe that this is a great premise for a show, even in a post-Mad Men world. Even with the same actress playing the "chocolate bunny" from that awesome Pryce-centered episode of the lauded AMC show. It still could have worked - either for camp value or for straight character study drama. But alas, it's instead just a vehicle for Hef to make believe to the masses (and himself I'm sure) that what he began in the 60s was actually a feminist movement in disguise.

Yup, you read that right. There's actually a moment where Hef narrates (whether it's him or a vocal doppelganger I suppose we don't know, but it's the worst voice over since Dexter said "this donut box is empty...like my soul" - yup, never letting it go, Brigitte!) and straight up says that he thinks he was giving these girls a voice, a sense of independence and purpose even. That actually made it through various versions of the script and into the aired pilot. I guess this shouldn't be surprising, however, considering that the bathrobed creepster and his cohorts are the gatekeepers for the whole thing. So ultimately, while I may be oversimplifying my analysis, I truly do think that everything that is godawful about the show (with the exception of the wretched music, which is wretched completely on its own demerits) can be linked back to the fact that this is not a creative endeavor. It's a combination of advertisement and chauvinist guilt. Why have the soulless Eddie Cibrian as the protagonist attorney who helps the rookie bunny Amber Heard cover a murder? Because Playboy wants to show that good honest men visit the club. Why have a "keyholder" attempt to rape the rookie bunny? Wouldn't that show that also horrible people get in the club? Yes, but fret not, the nice ones like Cibrian will be there to save the damsel in distress. Don't even get me started on the subplot where the closeted bartender and bunny duo use their lavish tips to fund a clandestine pro-homosexual rights organization. Hef was helping the gays before anyone else, people! Maybe HE should be our next president!

Grade: F-

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