It was very easy to look at the ads for both The Playboy Club and the upcoming Pan-Am and think they were both supposed to be network versions of Mad Men, looking at 1960s worlds which involved putting a polished, friendly surface over the darker world within.
But in the case of The Playboy Club, that assumption would be wrong. Well, not quite wrong – it does want to be Mad Men, or at least to have its Don Draper, the dark-haired slick respected voracious ladies man whose surface hides the truth. But it doesn’t just want to be Mad Men. It also wants to be some more tawdry drama; it opens with a Bunny (i.e., one of the costumed female staff of the Playboy Club, for those to young to know the terminology) killing an attacker, who turns out to be the head of an organized crime family, who turn out to have strong political ties to… oh it doesn’t matter, you get the picture. That ain’t Mad Men, it’s some nighttime soap. And then there’s the links to social and political issues that would really come into full thrust in the following decade or so, seen in scenes about the Mattachine Society, which makes it seem like they want to do Homefront, and it’s all too much of everything and not enough of anything, and the characters are given complexity of situation rather than signs of depth of character, and even with pretty gals in revealing outfits I’m not left wanting to see more of it.
(It does have David Krumholtz in it… but for a minute or two, I had to make sure that my brain was clear, that it really was David Krumholtz and not Max Casella, who seems to mainly exist in period pieces.)