Hugh Hefner: NBC's 'Playboy Club' should have been on cable


Playboy founder Hugh Hefner now says what TV insiders have been muttering for months: That NBC’s Playboy Club was better suited for a cable network than a broadcast channel.

NBC brass axed the show after three episodes yesterday, making Playboy Club the first canceled show of the fall. The publishing icon took to Twitter to give his brief postmortem: “I’m sorry NBC’s The Playboy Club didn’t find it’s audience,” he wrote, “It should have been on cable, aimed at a more adult audience.”

Even the PTC would agree with Hef on that one. There were a few reasons why the show didn’t work:

First, airing a series called Playboy Club — a brand synonymous with grown-up content — while maintaining family-friendly standards felt like an exercise in restraint and frustration for the show’s writers and fans alike. Second, a 1960s drama about a Chicago gentleman’s club is a concept that seemed likely to attract a niche audience, not a broad(cast) audience. Plus, the trouble with stories set decades in the past is they tend to (not always, but tend to… ) draw viewers who remember that era — older viewers, in other words. Broadcast needs to sell advertising to viewers 18-49 in order to thrive. And Playboy Club doubled down on that nostalgia hook by not only having a 1960s setting but by wrapping its story around a publishing brand most appreciated by Baby Boomers.

So what you had in Playboy Club was an idea that was likely to draw a niche audience, more likely to draw older viewers, yet saddled with content standards that made it so it couldn’t really deliver on the show’s premise to the grown-up viewers who were most likely to show up.

So if Playboy Club is better suited to cable, might it still find a home there?

The series will continue production through Oct. 10 and producers have said they hope to continue the show on cable. But Playboy Club is not Southland. You can see why a cable network like TNT would think a cop drama with a critical following could be retrofitted for cable, a place where repeats of CSI and Law & Order flourish.

It’s one thing to take a chance on a high-concept drama of your own making, or buy one with a proven track record (like Starz doing Torchwood). But Playboy Club never quite proved its format in the first place and, as always, it’s very tough to shrink the budget of a show made for broadcast for a cable network.

All this is a way of saying that Playboy Club was arguably the most interesting, if flawed, experiment of the fall, a truly feathered fish (or, in this case, a feathered bunny).

Read more:
Eddie Cibrian injured on set of canceled ‘Playboy Club’
‘The Playboy Club’ canceled: Our video condolences
‘Playboy Club’ star Sean Maher opens up about his sexuality: ‘This is my coming out ball’

Comments (127 total) Add your comment
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  • MWeyer

    Yeah, HBO might have been a better fit for it from the start, hard to see it jumping over now (especially as the first episodes can be seen as neutered by cable standards).

    • saline

      I think that girl looked fat.

      • Ali

        Seriously? She looks awesome!

      • Bex

        Can’t wait to know what your BMI is…

      • Samwell

        I think you’re an idiot.

      • wino

        typical troll comment, ignore

      • TC

        Lens Crafters is looking for you.

      • Greg

        The reason why this didn’t work is because Real Men don’t read Playboy for the articles. If you go to Europe they have nudity and adult situations on their tv channels. Europeans aren’t prudes about sex. As much as Americans love to brag about how far they have come, on shows like Oprah, and what-have-you, you are still prudes about sex, human sexuality, the dirty naughty bits, but horror blood extreme gore murder law and order gangs mafia shows 3 times a day, is acceptable, entertaining, and even admired.


      • Aaryan

        Hi any gril call me 918757046840

    • Ali

      I LIKED THIS SHOW!!!!!! I just wasnt exactly sure what night it was on. It should be on Cable! If True Blood can make it this show can! Sorry Hef.. I was a fan

      • Fearless


    • Lynda Langton

      Playboy Club cancelled:( Great show and I thought they did a great job keeping it clean in comparison to the really trashy things that are on TV already.

      • sofi

        so true

      • Greg

        Some prudes didn’t like the bunnygirls, what else is new? Some people didn’t like the sexism… What else is new? People have a hard time separating fantasy from reality, sometimes. I thought it was better than watching another reality show with the same catty stupid idiotic people. Oh well.

    • Katy

      I COMPLETELY AGREE!! It would have been perfect for HBO and I loved this show. I am so sad it is cancelled.

  • mikecane

    >>>Plus, the trouble with stories set decades in the past is they tend to (not always, but tend to…) draw viewers who remember that era — older viewers, in other words.

    So that leaves Pan Am where then?

    • James Hibberd

      Good question…. Of the fall high concept dramas (like Grimm, Once Upon, Playboy), I’ve been thinking Pan Am is most likely to succeed. It’s a sexy soap on a network that does sexy soaps better than anybody else, it’s SO on brand for ABC’s audience that the setting is sort of secondary if people connect to the characters ….

      • Tarc

        Though I really like Pan Am, I’m certain One UponA Time will be the big winner of the fall.

      • kate middleton

        I agree with you, James. I’ve enjoyed Pan Am so far, and I think it really is focusing on characters first. The setting/time period and the spy angle don’t seem like a huge deal, as weird as that might seem. I think they’ve done a great job of making the characters interesting so far.

        I saw the first episode of Playboy, and the whole murder/cover-up really seemed to take precedence to anything else. Not sure if that changed in Episodes 2 and 3.

    • Lisa

      And what does that say about Mad Men?

      • saline

        It stinks.

      • kate middleton

        Mad Men gets a VERY small audience on AMC. AMC has tried to further monetize it (adding commercials) but Matt Weiner resists. Mainly because he can bc it gets so many awards and so much attention. But it doesn’t translate to ratings.

        I actually think it seems like most Mad Men viewers are younger. I am 29 and all of my friends watch – but none of my mom’s friends do.

      • well

        MM is a cable show. It can take more risks plus it doesn’t need huge ratings to survive.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Yes as soon as I heard of this show I knew immediately it really belonged on HBO or Showtime. I don’t know why they tried to market it to family friendly networks anyways.

    • Tarc

      Because the show was completely appropriate for 9PM network programming. It was far more a female-friendly show than a male one.

      • jdr

        It didn’ t come up in advertising as a female-friendly show.

    • nicollette giada


  • jenny

    It may work on cable if they kill off Eddie Cibrian’s character. Who cares if Eddie’s character knows Daley or is in trouble with a mobster? It’s called “The Playboy Club” and not “Chicago City Hall” for a reason, right?

    • katie

      ITA! I thought one of the biggest problems was his total lack of charisma. Bad, bad casting.

    • Josh

      I’m with you. I would’ve loved the show without his character. Or even if they had a better actor playing him. His acting is flat, and even his good looks are generic. I find absolutely nothing interesting about him.

    • Brenda

      They had another actor cast in the role. And then they replaced him with Eddie. Probably because he was a bigger name. I can only imagine that the show would’ve been better with the original actor in the role.

    • Ann

      THIS! He’s incredibly generic and unlikeable. As soon as I heard he was part of the project, and then watched a clip of his obvious attempt at copying Jon Hamm’s Mad Men character Don Draper, I knew I wouldn’t be watching this show.

  • Kelsey

    Not sure the analysis is right that Playboy would have appealed to older baby boom viewers; maybe predominantly male BBers. (Yes, SOME older women would have viewed also). But among SOME women, there’s a hatred for Playboy that none are brave enough to talk about, because of internet backlash (the assumption by many that it’s repression & derogatory for women etc.) But I’m gonna put it out there and will duck! because expressing distaste for Playboy isn’t popular. It’s just true for some of us.

    • Eloise

      You bring up a very interesting point. It’s so fashionable for women to love Playboy and I’m not sure where it came from. I am not a prude when it comes to nudity. I have been on nude beaches in the Caribbean and Europe and I had zero problems with dropping my clothes. I happen to love French films where nudity is common. The difference lies in the distinction that the nudity in Playboy is meant only to titillate and the women are reduced to sex objects. Of course, women have been fed the twisted belief that objectification =empowerment (plus, guys think you’re really cool!). But if you have a problem with it, then you’re uptight. Why can’t I be an unrepressed non-prude who disagrees with Playboy’s purpose??

      • Tarc

        eloise – today, the men are now as objectified as the women. Of course, the Playboy was set in the 1960’s, and showed a lot of what was going on (complete with social settings). The focus on the ladies was *positive* – and honestly, all the hunky guys in the club in their slick suits can be seen as objectification as well. Humans are sexual creatures, after all.

      • Eloise

        Tarc, yes, there is a certain level of male objectification in our society but I don’t believe it is anywhere close to the level that women are objectified. This show may be set in the ’60s and it may have not have been the most demeaning portrayal of women, but the very name of ‘Playboy’ conjures up the idea that women will be depicted as sex objects and thus will repel a certain portion of potential viewers.

  • Tarc

    The honest truth about the Playboy club: it was a PG show that was a much better fit with the Lifetime channel viewership. It was a real bait and switch, which was much, much more of a problem than the rest – which was actually a solid 9PM piece of semi-historical fun. I laughed my fanny off after watching the show (after reading all the loonys at those fringe ‘family’ groups that clearly represent no family I know); the show was anything but overtly-sexy (I’d go as far as tame).

    • Juneau

      ITA. Lifetime is the best fit for this show. I honestly think it went off the rails because of the stupid murder mystery plot initiated in the pilot and Eddie so clearly trying to channel Don Draper. If it had been more of a character study of young women in the early 60s, it would’ve had a chance. It was a dumbing down of Mad Men.

      • Tarc

        Exactly. It was all about the ladies of the 1960’s (in a good way). Men tuned in and tuned back out, and a lot of women never tuned in. And that’s too bad.

  • Soap On A Rope

    It was canceled because no one was interested in watching it. Just the fact that so few people are commenting about it on this blog proves my point.

  • nicollette giada

    My favorite show of the new season gets cancelled. PLease Cable Network, pick this show up!!!!! I love it, great cast, and now I’m left not knowing what’s going to happen?? BUMMER!!

    • Cheri Beverly

      I am with you. This is our favorite show. Please bring it back!!!

      • gato

        Check out Revenge!!!

  • Kathy

    I loved this show! as did a number of my friends who I told they had to check it out – it reminds me of Mad Men and I think would do well on a cable network such as AMC. I don’t think it is gritty or shocking enough for HBO or Showtime.

  • JJ

    I thought the show was beautifully filmed and Eddie Cibrian looked and fit the part perfectly. What a shame.
    Charlie’s Angels bomb should have been the first to go!

    • Joy

      According to next weeks TV Guide-Charlies Angels already lost its time slot.

      • Greg

        The problem with CA is the monochromatic look isn’t happening. The ads were kind flat. They needed to make it more like the movie was. Funny, sexy, and use stars that people are familiar.

  • JH

    Yes, it should have been on cable. Too bad Hugh H. didn’t take a stronger hand in that decision. I hope the producer gives it a shot.
    I appreciate the nostalgia shows (even if they are not strong scripts/acting). I don’t watch most of the sitcom fluff on broadcast TV. I am of a generation that enjoys retro shows and I wish the network would understand that many of us have a lot more money to spend than a 21-49 year old. The advertising for retro shows could focus on higher end products like cruises, cosmetics (cosmetic surgery – LOL), health products, wines, food/dining, vacations, cars, etc.

  • Al

    Like Castle better

    • Voodoo

      So do I but that’s not the point.

      • Anna

        When it was on at the same time as Playboy Club, it kind of is.

  • Cheri Beverly

    I am with you! This is our favorite show. Please bring it back!

  • Hoodbury

    Playboy is aimed at men, duh right? What are men watching on Monday nights? Monday Night Football. Just pick a different night NBC and things would have been fine.

    • lacey

      I’ve never seen the show but based off what I’ve read about the show it appears to be aimed at women. It has a soapy plot and it was about more than just the club. Men probably don’t want to see those bunny costumes bad enough to sit through a soap opera.

      • jdr

        You can’t make a show with Playboy aimed at women or you are not going to get good ratings.

    • Valdez

      This is exactly why NBC is the worst rated TV network now…..very bad decision makings from the exec’s, all they should have done was put it on another night….DUH!!!!!!

  • Brian Wallace

    I eagerly await “Maxim Man Cave.”


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