You may or may not have heard the news, but the Mad Men-esque show The Playboy Club has been cancelled by NBC after something like 3 episodes. This was no surprise at all to me. Don’t misunderstand me–I never watched an episode of the show or even saw a promo for it. I knew we’d be seeing “Playboy Club cancelled” headlines after seeing a single promotional still from the series.
Was this because of the efforts of parents’ groups protesting the show? Absolutely not. It was ratings and the inevitable result of a bad decision by network executives. A show like that could probably survive on a sleazy network like Showtime where unnecessary nudity and profanity seem to flow from the tap, but did the network bosses really think anyone would watch a “Playboy” show on network TV (which guaranteed it wouldn’t have the nudity and explicit sexuality the Playboy brand was known for)?
Why The Playboy Club Couldn’t Ever Have Worked
Here are some basic reasons why it never would have worked as a show on network TV:
- -It had to appeal to a broad audience of men and women–how many women would be interested in watching something branded by Playboy?
- -The artistic value of the show would have needed to be transcendent with regards to writing and acting in order to appeal to the large network TV audience needed for any show to survive (being a rip-off of a much better show didn’t help, either)
- -Since it had the Playboy branding, it had to stay away from crossing any decency lines; in fact, it had to stay far away from any controversial content because Playboy is a very loud and obvious target
Again, I’ve never seen the show, but I’m guessing it was a watered down version of Mad Men and probably contained sexist references and general misogyny which would attempt to justify itself as a self-aware look back at the period. Here’s why this matters, though. Those parents’ groups that protested the show? They didn’t need to. They should have been protesting against something that wasn’t so obvious.
Evil Doesn’t Want You Focusing at It
You see, I believe in evil, and I believe evil is clever and subtle. The Playboy Club? That’s just a diversion from something else happening that’s actually going to harm society. How many people would actually watch The Playbloy Club even if it hadn’t been cancelled after 3 episodes? I’m guessing not too many. That concept had possibly a season and a half worth of ideas, tops. It never could have become a cultural institution, and therefore its affect on families, children, etc. never could have been significant (and indeed, as we see, the Playboy brand retreats to crawl back into its gutter after seeing that it can’t exist out in the open with normal society).
There is evil in the world, though, and activist groups should be focusing their efforts on combating those things. How about shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad? The first glorifies murder and works to desensitize audiences to sex, violence and profanity. The former glorifies drug dealing. “But Dexter’s wife/friend/etc. got killed! That shows consequences!” “But Malcolm in the Middle’s dad totally had his drug deal go wrong!” someone might say to justify those shows.
Actually, there aren’t any consequences on those shows. Even if Dexter’s family gets killed, he’s going to find another woman in his life. The writers will allow him to continue without any realistic or lasting consequences until maybe the series finale when everything has to be wrapped up. Brian Cranston’s character (what’s his name? Baldy?) will have every drug deal go a little bit wrong just to increase the drama (and viewership) of the show, but he’ll still earn the money he needs to pay for his family, lifestyle, etc. The point is both of them will get away with it. That isn’t showing real consequences for actions, creating a fantasy that inherently glorifies evil behavior.
I’m currently working on a series of articles about drug withdrawal. Man, that (blank) will (blank) you up. You want to show real consequences? Show Dexter being tracked down and arrested after the first few murders because that’s what happens to modern serial killers. Show Baldy being murdered in a drug deal and having his body thrown in a gutter, his widow and children now left without a father. Or even better, show the hellish existence meth creates for anyone who uses it more than once or twice. Additionally, they desensitize people. Hiding those consequences masks Truth–things as they are and as they were and as they are to come–and is therefore inherently evil.
Except we’re too focused on obvious targets like The Playboy Club to hit the things that really matter. We should be standing up against the evil in entertainment–just the right evils that aren’t so easy to spot.