Friday, June 17, 2011

Much moral adieu about nothing?

I can’t help but wonder if KSL-TV, the NBC affiliate out of Salt Lake City that sends the network’s programming to all those Utah-based Mormons, is going to regret their decision to refuse to air a particular new program meant for the fall line-up.

Because I can’t help but think that the television station has just given national attention to a program that might otherwise have withered away in a few weeks.

THE PROGRAM IN question is called “The Playboy Club.” It is set in the early 1960s, and is supposed to take place in Chicago. It is meant to be crime drama in which much of the action takes place at Hugh Hefner’s original attempt in Chicago at creating an elegant, yet sexy, nightclub.

Some of the characters, according to the storyline, will even be employees of the old Playboy Club.

Now some of the previews I have read try to claim this will be a serious drama – something similar to the AMC channel program “Mad Men.” That show is set in the early ‘60’s in New York’s advertising community.

Could NBC be giving us Chicagoans an equivalent program to the New York-based drama of that particular show?

KSL DOESN’T SEEM to think so. They say they won’t air the program because they don’t want to promote a company (as in Playboy Enterprises, which publishes the magazine and operates a batch of other soft-core porn and businesses that feed off that image) they find morally offensive.

They want to have more “family-oriented” programming on the air.

So now, KSL is getting national attention. Some are criticizing them for being willing to air violent programming while getting all high-and-mighty about sex, while others are claiming the station has every right to air what it wants.

Considering this is a station that does not air “Saturday Night Live” because it finds it too offensive, it may well be that the local television station’s management is too uptight.

WHICH IS WHY it would be so appropriate if people in other television markets wound up tuning in to the show just to see what the big deal is. Will “The Playboy Club” wind up doing better for an episode or two, because someone was more interested in pandering to what they perceived as Mormon beliefs?

What if this show turns out to be a clunker, quality-wise?

It is something that would not surprise me in the least, and not just because of the high-number of television shows that wind up amounting to little. Remember actor Samuel L. Jackson’s “Jules” character from “Pulp Fiction,” talking about television pilots and programs that “become nothing.”

For I still remember the program “Swingtown,” which was supposed to be a television series set in Chicago and its wealthy North Shore suburbs that was supposed to show us all about “swingers” and sex, set in the 1970s with an overbearing disco music soundtrack.

THAT SHOW LASTED all of half a season. Once one got beyond an episode or two, the PG-equivalent depictions of wild ‘70s sex just weren’t enough to hold one’s attention, and the drama, characters and quality of writing were nothing exceptional.

Is “The Playboy Club” going to be the latest version of “Swingtown,” only set one decade earlier? In fact, if I recall, one episode of that latter show was set partially at the Playboy Club in Chicago – and looked like any other generic disco scene. Will this show make Playboy look boring to a 21st Century audience?

Definitely not something worth getting all worked up over on moral issues. It wasn’t worth the time. Who’s to say this new show will be any different?

Now a part of me hopes I’m wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t seen anything of this new program except for a trailer that is available on the Internet. The key image literally seems to be girls in those old Playboy bunny costumes – the ones that make every woman put Dolly Parton in her physical prime to shame.

BUT A PART of me thinks there could be potential for such a show set in those early ‘60s days when the Chicago “Machine” of old tried scoring political points for itself by harassing Hefner.

Who’s to say that Hefner himself couldn’t have some sort of cameo role in such a show? Perhaps he could play the part of a political hack who tries to single out Playboy and Hefner for abuse – in the process revealing the moral hypocrisy of that era.

Think I’m kidding? Consider that Larry Flynt himself had a cameo role in that film about his life starring actor Woody Harrelson (Flynt played the part of the overbearing, arrogant and pompous judge in Cincinnati who sentenced the Hustler magazine publisher to a 25-year prison term – later overturned).

Hefner definitely has more time on his hands, considering that he’s NOT getting married anytime soon. And thanks to the efforts of KSL, the nation would be watching – at least for an episode or two.


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