The peacock network brings us the TV season's first cancellation. And whaddya know? It's their new show with the brightest plumage, "The Playboy Club". I've been soaking up the general response to this show and "Pan Am" with some interest since they're the two shows that Mad Men spawned, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and the most flattering form of theft.
It's unkind to speak ill of the dead so I want to thank The Playboy Club for shining such a bright spotlight on Broadway babe Laura Benanti as she sang onstage and bitched backstage. She was the show's indisputable MVP for its very short run so some other series would be smart to snatch her up. I normally don't wish "series regular" status on Broadway's headlining musical stars because it makes them vanish from the stage but my friends and I have held a comic grudge against Benanti for years since it took us four times of paying for her shows to actually see her perform. Maybe we had terrible luck but... well, let's just say it seems like her understudies go on... A LOT.
[Updated Editor's Note: There's a reasonable explanation in reader comments as to why Benanti was absent from shows so much in the Aughts. Terrible injury.]
Though Pan Am is appreciably better as reviews suggested, the emphatically polarized 'two thumbs up/all thumbs down' greeting is something I couldn't really get behind as they have/had some of the same strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: Great, sexy, and showy choice of milieu in that it's a potentially fine breeding ground for multiple stories and visual pizazz, a sassy leading brunette that's fun to watch (Laura Benanti / Christina Ricci), and super attractive men in suits.
Weaknesses: Period setting plays all cosmetic with no soul, depth, or nuance (don't get me started on the dialogue in either show... way too modern), beautiful leading blonde who is dull to watch (Amber Heard / Margot Robbie ... is the actress just not bringing it or are these characters too blank) and uneven acting.
So what's the decisive factor in one show winning instant fans and the other a speedy cancellation? I'm thinking confidence, both behind-the-scenes (who knows what executives are thinking) and onscreen. Pan Am struts through its airport like it owns the world and that dead bunny had something of a nervous twitching tail. Confidence in your own voice, even if you're still finding it, goes a long long way towards being heard.