'Playboy Club': NBC Says New Show Is A 'Fun Soap Opera'

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC executives on Monday defended the network's controversial new drama "The Playboy Club", describing it as a "fun soap opera" and saying that its sexual content would be mild.

Stars of the drama -- set in the 1960s in the first Playboy Club -- also rejected criticism that the show will glamorize the porn industry and depict the club's Bunnie employees as exploited women.

"In terms of content, it will be mild," executive producer Ian Biederman told television reporters. "These are characters who are in a certain time and certain place. The show will be a lot of fun, it will have a ton of music and lots of energy."

Even before it begins airing in September, "The Playboy Club" has been targeted by the Parents Television Council, which last week said it "glorifies and glamorizes this insidious (porn) industry" and urged NBC affiliates not to broadcast it.

NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate has already announced it will not air the show when it starts on September 19.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said he wasn't surprised by that decision but said he thought every other affiliate will be airing the show.

"What it has going for it is a recognizable brand that's automatically going to draw attention to it, good or bad," Greenblatt said.

African American actress Naturi Naughton, whose character is referred to as "the chocolate Bunny," rejected the notion that the women working at the club in the early 1960s were merely sex objects.

"They went to school, they had houses, we show them using their resources," Naughton said.

Actor and comedian Joel McHale joked earlier on Monday that "The Playboy Club" was "'Mad Men' with boobs", referring to the Emmy-award winning drama on cable network AMC that is set in the advertising world in the early 1960s.

But Greenblatt said the era was all that the two dramas have in common.

"I don't think it will be like 'Mad Men'," he said. "I think it is a really fun soap. it has a mob element and a crime element and I think it is the right thing for us to try."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)