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Save It or Sink It: The Playboy Club Exec Speaks Out on Controversy and Mad Men Comparisons

The Playboy Club, Amber Heard, Eddie Cibrian John Russo/NBC

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anya said sang it best: "Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes."

Granted, she was talking about actual bunnies, but the same sentiment can be applied to the Bunnies on NBC's new drama The Playboy Club, which premiered tonight. Sure, they're cute, but these Bunnies are also smart, independent and some of them are in deep trouble. Like Maureen (Amber Heard), who killed a mob boss with her high heel in the pilot. Lucky for her that club hot shot Nick (Eddie Cibrian) was close by to help her cover it up.

We recently chatted with executive producer Chad Hodge about the show's gay themes, comparisons to Mad Men and the controversy (what up, Parents Television Council?!) surrounding the show before it even aired. Plus, we want to hear what you thought of The Playboy Club!

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There was a lot of controversy surrounding the show before it even aired. Were you surprised by that?
Chad Hodge: No, because I know what the show is, so I didn't expect there to be so much controversy, but I do think it died down. The controversy was about Playboy itself, and certain publications looking for their own publicity, but it helped us out.

Did you think about toning down the storyline or the costumes?
No, not at all.

What do you think the reaction is going to be toward the gay themes in the show?
I hope people really like it. Homosexuality is great. Playboy was a big part of the sexual revolution; some would say it was part of the beginning of the sexual revolution. Sexuality is a big part of it and homosexuality is a part of the discussion when you're talking about sexuality, so I think that fits into the wheelhouse of the show. The design of that storyline didn't come from me wanting to tell a story about the history of the gay movement; it came from the character of Alice (Leah Renee Cudmore), who I wanted to be a closet lesbian and married to a gay man—a sort of marriage of convenience—and the story came from that.

Early reviews have compared the show to AMC's Mad Men. How would you compare it?
The only thing that you could compare is the time period; the rest of it is completely different.  I love Mad Men, but when I set out to create the show it didn't even really occur to me that it would be so compared to Mad Men, and I think it's an easy and obvious comparison to make when you look on the surface of it all—the time period and the other '60s shows that are coming out this year—but other than the time period, I think it's so different. Once people see the pilot, I don't think there will be many comparisons to Mad Men. My goal with this from the beginning was for it to be ultra entertaining. This is the kind of show I like to watch, and I didn't see anything like it on television so I wanted to bring it to other people.

With shows like Mad Men, Pan Am and The Playboy Club on the air, how do you explain the popularity of the retro programming right now?
If Hef had started the Playboy Club in 1953, this would have been set in 1953. If he had started it in 1980, this would have been set in 1980. The reason the show is set in 1961 is because that's when Hef started the Playboy Club. So it didn't come so much from, "Let's do a show about the '60s," as it did, "Let's do a show about the Playboy Club."

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How involved is Hugh Hefner, who provided the voice-over in the pilot, going to be in the show?
There won't be a voice-over going forward past the pilot. Every now and then he is in the show as a presence. He is spoken about, and the idea of Hef is in the world of the show offscreen, and sometimes we seem him from the back or from the side. He's not a character, per se, with a storyline of his own.

Can you tease a little and give fans an idea of what's going to happen with the characters?
The murder plot continues, and people start to find out things; the screws are tightened on Nick and Maureen. There's great storylines coming out for Janie (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) where you find out her secret from the pilot where she tells Max (Wes Ramsey) that she can't marry him and she can't tell him why, and that sort of comes to a head really quickly. We learn about each of the character's lives outside of the club more as we go forward and get really deep into who these people really are. Alice and her husband and the society is really interesting and is one of my favorite storylines. That is a big part of the show, and is in almost every episode.

How much research did you do on the Mattachine Society?
I've been writing for HBO on a movie about Anita Bryant. So that is steep in gay history, and one of the things I came across while doing research for that movie was the Mattachine Society. I'm gay, and the earliest history I was really aware of was Stonewall, and this is way before that. This is an underground political organization of gay people in the '50s and '60s who were trying to figure out how their voice could be heard, and find other people like them.

Your turn, WWK readers! Vote in the latest Save It or Sink It poll and then head on over to the comments to defend your opinion and duke it out with over TV fans!

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