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Insider: Playboy Was In Bed With Producers of The Playboy Club

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Playboy's involvement in producing NBC's The Playboy Club has been absent in the controversy surrounding the now defunct TV series. On September 19, the show's writer and showrunner told The Hollywood Reporter that Playboy's production arm, Alta Loma Entertainment, was an executive producer on the series.

"Alta Loma Entertainment is Playboy's production arm and they're executive producers with us. We go to them for production design questions, accuracy and historical questions. They get all our outlines and scripts... They're very hands-off; they're not trying to steer the story or make Playboy look good."

Chad Hodge's contention that Playboy didn't try to "steer the story or make Playboy look good" strains credulity. Even the trailer smacked of commercial propaganda: They're your wildest dreams... The Club makes them come true... All you need is the key.

The trailer aired from May to September (one version was over three minutes long). But despite the foreplay, the series opened to dismal ratings; after episode three, NBC axed the show. Feminists, parents and anti-porn groups that boycotted the program are elated -- but arguably Playboy will come out on top for three reasons.

First, The Playboy Club trailer penetrated American households for three months, promoting Hefner's "grown-women-in-cottontails" concept to a mainstream audience. (Ask pornographer Larry Flynt if he'd like the same opportunity.)

Second, now that NBC has greased the skids, The Playboy Club will likely land on cable (NBC-owned Bravo?) with distribution in Europe and Asia (and graphic content added).

But the real coup was timing the series to the opening of a rash of new Playboy Clubs here and abroad. In June, the Club reopened in London after a 30-year exile. Last November, Playboy Club Macao opened, targeting the Asian market. In August, Playboy announced that the historic Chicago Club (setting of the TV show) will reopen after 25 years. Reportedly, Miami is next.

It is increasingly clear that Playboy was in bed with producers of the series at the highest levels. According to The Hollywood Reporter (9-27-11), former executive VP of Playboy Enterprises and senior adviser to Hugh Hefner, Richard Rosenzweig, was an executive producer on the show. In addition, financial ties between Playboy's Alta Loma Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Television (which co-produced the NBC drama) go way back. The two companies partnered on the Playboy-themed reality shows The Girls Next Door and Kendra.

Striking gold with young audiences on basic cable, the so-called "reality" shows offered peeks at nude photo shoots and upcoming Playmates of the Month, sorority-style fun that lures girls to the game, buxom Kendra undulating on a pole (the camera FINDS a copy of Playboy Magazine tossed on the sofa by her Jack Russell terrier).

As for NBC's The Playboy Club, the best evidence of a motive to advertise is the show's bias. As Nora Ephron remembers it, "A Bunny's life was essentially that of an underpaid waitress forced to wear a tight costume." That side of the Playboy story was conspicuously absent, robbing the show of its integrity (think Mad Men) and the 60's of its ironies. Instead, we got sappy soliloquies on how Playboy is a girl's path to money (true), self-esteem and redemption. Any more such tripe, and viewers would need an airsick bag.

Speaking of which, Pan Am, the season's other branded 60's drama, on ABC, also suffers from an intent to promote the brand. According to Advertising Age, the iconic airline is staging a comeback, with flights to Latin America scheduled in 2012.

Pan Am Systems of Dover New Hampshire is the business backer behind Pan Am's appearance in the new show...

(Memo to the FTC: infomercials must, under the law, be labeled "Paid Programming.")