Okay, I’ve been caning free-to-air television in this blog for months. Finally, I discovered some entertainment on the telly. An alleged reality series called Girls of the Playboy Mansion (aka The Girls Next Door).
Yeah, okay, settle down ZGs, If I were interested in Playboy Magazine or the Playmates, I’d be checking it all out on-line, not watching a ‘documentary’.
The joke used to be, “I only read Playboy for the articles”. But if you are a Gen X-er like myself, the truth is that you probably haven’t read Playboy at all for more than twenty years. Why? Even twenty years ago the publication and its 1960s ethos and ideas seemed quaint and ridiculous. Two decades later and that situation has not improved. This series doesn’t help.
However, if you’re Hugh Hefner, the founder and owner of the Playboy Empire, then you can continue living your life guided by the notion that what a man wants most is a buxom Playmate, a perfectly chilled martini and some top of the line stereo equipment. (Don’t leave – seriously, where did I lose you?)
The series is about the lives of three of Hef’s girlfriends, who live at the mansion: Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson.
In the first episode you will be flat out telling them apart. They are uncompromisingly blonde and say stunning things like how aspiring to be a Playmate is the highest thing one could achieve in body and mind. Sure, you could be an Olympian or a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, but that would only be half as good; being a Playboy Playmate is the full-package.
One of the three has a Masters degree in Communication. She uses it to tell us that she’s all about fun. Another is an occupational therapist. I was still having some difficulty picking them apart so it might not have been her who said – “Hef saved my life. Apart from my mom, my dad, my grandmother and my dog – he is my hero.”
Unfortunately this life saving isn’t investigated in any great detail in the episode I saw. The whole thing is covered in a style very similar to The Osbournes (fast cuts, lots of sound effects and music) and therefore the aim is lightweight entertainment.
There was a guy called JD who seemed like some sort of driver, butler guy; JD seems to have lots of small jobs in his life, some of which involve dealing with the many, many dogs that run around the mansion (another Osbournes-like feature).
JD also has to listen to a lot of complaining. One of the girlfriends says she’s tired. JD points out he started work at 6am and that they can wake up late if they want. Of course his job description doesn’t involve having sex with an employer that is 50 years his senior. So maybe the girlfriends do have something to complain about.
The issue of whether they are employed or not is kinda dealt with head on, then avoided. One girlfriend says, “I’m not a ho. I never thought I’d have a millionaire for a boyfriend.” Another echoes the much-asked questions. “Do we have sex with him – does he pay you?” Then she says that everything is normal. “I’m his girlfriend and here’s where I’m going to stay.” So the answers remain hidden in the the general non-specificity of their answers.
How this arrangement works between the three women is the most interesting thing about the show. It is reminiscent of the series Big Love – that show has polygamy and religion as its central premise. Although Hef isn’t following the dictates of a church. He too is about fun, although in reality he looks dazed and vague.
The girlfriends have to go to an AFI tribute to George Lucas. They will be three of a group of eight women, accompanying party-guy Hef. Why eight? Because three women are not enough, I guess. The other five women drift into the mansion in the early afternoon and then a time-consuming hair and makeup session takes place. One woman thinks it would be cool if they made themselves look as similar as possible. There is no irony in this statement. The fact that only one of the eight is not already extremely blonde is not raised. One of the original three yells, “We’re going to be identical. YEAH!”
At the gala event some old bullshitter approaches the Boss and says, “You’ve still got it Hef – no question about it.” If by “it” the guy means a creepy and meaningless lifestyle, then he is right on the money. (Judgemental, much?)
One of the girlfriends says, “People assume that we are all skanks. Are you sleeping with them? What do you think?” To which the answer is sort of yes, but Hef looks like your Great Uncle Stan after Christmas lunch- incapacitated and possibly in need of medical assistance. Maybe sleeping is all that Hef can manage.
Holly is clearly the chief girlfriend. She talks about being with Hef long-term and having his kids. The fact that the old feller did all this with another Playmate, Kimberly Conrads, back in the 1990s and they are separated, but not divorced, is not raised in this episode.
Holly says, “Kendra got lucky and she isn’t as careful as Bridget and I”. She is referring to the youngest girlfriend’s over-the-top personality. Kendra doesn’t have Holly’s sense of decorum.Holly says things like “My role is to stand there and smile and look like a first lady, astronaut’s wife.” Bizarre, but partly true.
It seems that all of us younger men (which is pretty much three quarters of all men, at this point in Hef’s life) are supposed to be envious of the guy. But if you’re a weirdo like me, neither he nor the girlfriends seem to be having that great a time.
They have a really pointless existence that they have shot, edited and put into a television show format. Hef is the executive producer, so this enterprise must have his complete approval. Clearly, to him, the series doesn’t come-off as the home movies of a chronically bored octogenarian millionaire.
It is sad and compelling stuff that has just been green-lit for a fourth season on the E! Network.
Elevate the Insignificant,