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Controversial "Playboy Club" first victim of TV season

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Controversial new drama “The Playboy Club” was axed on Tuesday by NBC after just three episodes, making it the first victim of the new fall TV season.

Cast member Amber Heard speaks as co-stars Eddie Cibrian (L), David Krumholtz (L back), Leah Renee Cudmore and Naturi Naughton watch during the NBC Universal session for "The Playboy Club" at the 2011 Summer Television Critics Association Cable Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

NBC announced that its new, news magazine show “Rock Center with Brian Williams”, will take the place of the 1960s era show on Monday evening, starting on October 31. New police drama “Prime Suspect” will fill the slot in the meantime.

“The Playboy Club”, set in the early 1960s in the legendary men’s nightclub, centers around the lives of Playboy Bunnies and customers, drew controversy even before it aired.

Leading U.S. feminist Gloria Steinem told Reuters in August that she hoped viewers would boycott the TV series. Steinem, who wrote an expose in the 1960s of the New York City Playboy Club, said the clubs were “the tackiest place on earth”.

The Parents Television Council, which had called it a “degrading and sexualizing program”, said on Tuesday it was pleased at the cancellation.

The small but vociferous TV watchdog took much of the credit for the show’s demise, noting in a statement that it had called on its members and “other concerned citizens to contact local NBC affiliates, and (asked) advertisers whether the Playboy brand aligns with their corporate image.”

Seven advertisers pulled commercials from the second episode although it was not clear whether it was a direct result of the PTC campaign.

But the show, which was produced in conjunction with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises, also suffered from weak ratings and generally poor reviews.

Claims in August by producers that the show was empowering for women also ruffled feathers. The Hollywood Reporter in a September review said “The Playboy Club” had “neither the ambition, writing nor acting to make such a comparison (to TV show “Mad Men”) anything more than a chuckle-heavy notion.”

Starring Amber Heard and Eddie Cibrian, it drew just 4.1 million viewers in its third outing on Monday, according to ratings data.

“The Playboy Club” was one of 12 new scripted shows for NBC under its new majority owner, Comcast Corp, in a bid to pull the network up from its long-time bottom place among the four leading U.S. broadcasters.

On a brighter note, NBC announced on Tuesday that it had ordered full seasons of its new comedies “Up All Night”, starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, and “Whitney” which is written by, and stars, stand-up comic Whitney Cummings.

“We made comedy an important goal for us this season and I’m very pleased to be making full season commitments to both ‘Whitney’ and ‘Up All Night’,” said NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Christine Kearney

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