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NBC defends 'The Playboy Club': 'It's the right kind of thing for us to try'

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Playboy Club
NBC

The Playboy Club isn’t too raunchy for broadcast — and it isn’t Mad Men.

That’s the message NBC’s entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt conveyed at the TV critics press tour in Beverly Hills on Monday as reporters asked about the upcoming series, which has been under fire by watchdog group like the Parents Television Council.

“What it has going for it is a recognizable brand that’s automatically going to draw attention to it, good or bad,” Greenblatt said. “It’s a really fun soap with a crime element and I think it’s the right kind of thing for us to try.”

The drama is set in 1960s Chicago and follows a lawyer who frequents Hugh Hefner’s famous club and becomes entangled with a Playboy bunny. NBC’s Salt Lake City affiliate — which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — dropped plans to air the show, but local MyNetworkTV affiliate picked it up.  “I wasn’t completely surprised,” Greenblatt said of the Utah station’s decision. That [Playboy] brand name is a little polarizing even though the show isn’t all that revealing. That station in Utah, they don’t program Saturday Night Live. They have decisions to make for their own audience. I think every other affiliate is on board.”

The Playboy Club has been under fire by parenting group PTC since it was first announced earlier this year. The organization sent letters to NBC affiliates warning they’ll possibly file Federal Communications Commission indecency complaints against them if they proceed with airing the show. They also stated that 200,000 Americans are “porn addicts.”

Critics wondered why NBC would opt for a show so much like Mad Men when the AMC critical darling draws a relatively small audience. “I have great respect for Mad Men, but apart from the setting and period being similar, I think Playboy Club is much more of an energized soap opera, which is a genre that works well,” Greenblatt said. “I don’t think it will feel like Mad Men.”

Later, The Playboy Club producers and cast took the TCA stage, where producer Ian Biederman defended the claim that the club was “empowering.”

“It was for the women who worked there,” he said.

“The women had the power,” agreed executive producer Chad Hodge.

Co-star Naturi Naughton added: “They’re smart, they’re going to school, they’re buying property — things they couldn’t do at the time. They’re using their resources.”

“The sex will be there,” said fellow actress Jenifer Lewis, “as it will be every where on every show.”

More to come…