Ever since the magazine went on sale in 1954 (and since the Playboy mansion was bought in '71), there's been a lot of fantasizing about Playboy's Playmates. However, for all the fantasizing that's been done about them, these women who live at the mansion have never been explored (well, in terms of who they are) in much depth.
Enter "E!"'s "Girls Next Door", which takes viewers into the secretive mansion in order to follow the lives of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his three main women: Holly (#1, Hef's girlfriend for 3-1/2 years), Bridget (#2, my favorite as she's the least slick, reminding me of a character from the beauty pageant spoof, "Drop Dead Gorgeous") and athletic newcomer Kendra (#3). They're all blonde and blonder, but one's sorta sporty, one's the smart one and one's the one the head girl who wants the other ones out of the picture. Holly brings out the claws in episode 1, stating to the camera about her competition: "I think he needs to get rid of the extra girls." Despite the fact that the girls are always civil and even friendly to one another, there's occasionally a slight hint of a potential catfight.
Lording over it all is Hef, who is occasionally seen in the background of the series. While Hef is 80 at this point, he's still seen in the series working intensely, taking meetings and approving elements of the latest issue. He'll also hit the town with the girls, and we see the group heading out to events (an AFI event in one episode, a boxing match, etc.) There's also a series of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Hef enforces a 9pm curfew, is the only private owner in LA with a fireworks permit and doesn't like to travel.
"Girls" is as lightweight as you'd probably expect. In fact, this is the show's main issue: while it generally manages to create enough situations for these women, there are stretches of the series that mainly revolve around the ladies goofing around in the mansion, chasing after their yappy little dogs (and one uppity kitty) and trying to figure out what to do. When the series throws the women into an actual situation (they head to Vegas in one episode without Hef and turn a surprise cake presentation into "Mission: Impossible") is when it works best. Trips to New York City and Chicago (Chicago especially, given Hefner's history in the city) are also highlights.
There's also some enjoyable moments in the mansion, as well, such as an awkward moment when one of Hef's long-ago exes comes to visit for lunch. One of the girls has her little sister to visit for the Summer and an entire episode has the girls deciding to make the "frumpy" (read: pretty by any sane standards) little sister over before the "Midsummer Nights' Dream" ball at the mansion.
Overall, this was a fun series that offered an enjoyable look behind-the-scenes at the mansion. It does sometimes seem to strain to find enough things to do to fill the time, but it works as fluffy reality TV with the bonus of the occasional flash of nudity.
1 Meet the Girls 8/7/2005 101
2 The New Girls in Town 8/7/2005 102
3 Happy Birthday, Kendra! 8/14/2005 103
4 What Happens in Vegas 8/21/2005 104
5 Fight Night 8/28/2005 105
6 Operation Playmate 9/11/2005 106
7 Just Shoot Me 9/25/2005 107
8 Midsummer Night's Dream 10/2/2005 108
9 Under the Covers 10/23/2005 109
11 Grape Expectations 11/6/2005 111
12 I'll Take Manhattan 11/13/2005 112
13 My Kind of Town 11/20/2005 113
14 Clue-less 11/27/2005 114
15 It's Vegas, Baby! 12/4/2005 115
VIDEO: "Girls Next Door" is presented by Fox in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The presentation quality is generally terrific, although there are some moments where sharpness varied slightly. Still, the majority of the episodes looked crisp and detailed. Some minor shimmering and a few slight artifacts are spotted, but the picture largely appeared clean and clear. Colors remained bright and vibrant throughout, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Girls Next Door" is presented in stereo and the audio offers clear dialogue, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Kendra, Holly and Bridget offer audio commentary for all of the episodes. Their commentary offers some fun behind-the-scenes tidbits, jokes about the episode and general chit-chat. Fans will enjoy the discussions, but there are certainly some stretches of silence at times.
There's 29 additional scenes (a mixture of extended or deleted scenes), as well. Although a fair amount of these rightly hit the cutting room floor, some offer entertaining moments that should be fun for fans. There's also an alternate (although much of it offered footage that ended up in the final show) pilot presentation, featurettes on the three ladies and a photo gallery from the show.
Final Thoughts: This is a light, fun reality series that takes viewers behind-the-scenes at the legendary mansion, with Hef's three "leading ladies" as the guides. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a very nice set of supplements. Recommended for fans.