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), whose attitude isn't as irritating as her laugh. They're all blonde and blonder, but one's sporty and a tomboy and one's the smart one (who acts like a ditz) and one's the one the head girl who - at least early on - wanted the other ones out of the picture.
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. "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 while they try to fill their days.
The fourth season proves that "Girls Next Door" is still the least-dressed show about nothing, but the series at least at least gets somewhat more involving, due to a few factors, such as the potential realization that - as irritating as Kendra is, she's at least not - dare I say it? - as bland as Holly is and manages a few laughs from some of her more "naive" comments. Bridget tries everything from getting her dog work to her radio show to being a trapeze artist to movie producer, retaining an almost unnaturally sunny attitude all the while. Meanwhile, Holly continues her "Mission: Impossible" - getting Hef to agree to give up his lifestyle and marry her.
I found the fourth and fifth seasons of the series more enjoyable, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why - and I have to believe it's because Holly has gradually become a supporting player instead of the lead. This season, Holly gets her "hometown" show ("Half-Baked Alaska") and has a few other episodes where she is the focus ("Heavy Lifting"), but Bridget (who has her radio show on Sirius - I hope she wasn't paid in Sirius stock) and Kendra (who exists largely to make goofy comments on what's occuring and being the set-up for scenes like having a dog psychic come over.)
Some of the highlights of this season include: "The Full Monte Carlo" (the girls head to Monte Carlo for a TV conference, only to have Kendra and Bridget get in trouble for trespassing), "House Bunnies" (the girls appear in "House Bunny"), "Hot Chocolate" (the girls get some intimate deserts made for Hef's birthday) and the 2-part "Jamaican Me Crazy"/"Wedding Belles" (the girls head to Jamaica for Holly's sister's wedding.)
The series is uncensored (there's more than a bit of nudity and Kendra curses on the series more than I'd realized) on this set.
47. 4- 1 9 Dec 07 Patriot Dames
48. 4- 2 16 Dec 07 Heavy Lifting
49. 4- 3 23 Dec 07 Half-Baked Alaska
50. 4- 4 30 Dec 07 Unveilings
51. 4- 5 6 Jan 08 There's Something About Mary O'Connor
52. 4- 6 13 Jan 08 The Full Monte Carlo
53. 4- 7 20 Jan 08 Every Day is Wednesday
54. 4- 8 27 Jan 08 Go West, Young Girl
55. 4- 9 10 Feb 08 Jamaican Me Crazy
56. 4-10 17 Feb 08 Wedding Belles
57. 4-11 24 Feb 08 It's My Party And I'll Die If I Want To
58. 4-12 2 Mar 08 Surf's Up
59. House Bunnies
60. Hot Chocolate
61. She Got Game
62. Scream Test
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. This was clearly recorded after the girls had left the mansion (during "Jamaican Me Crazy", the girls briefly talk about things (ATMs, grocery stores) they haven't used in years that they are now faced with after leaving the mansion), and the three seem to be having a great time getting back together to recall some of their adventures together.
There's also plenty of deleted scenes, which are paired with the episodes they were dropped from. Finally, episode promos are also included.
Final Thoughts: "Girls Next Door" doesn't change the formula too much, but a few tweaks and a few more engaging plots give the show a boost for this mostly enjoyable fourth season of the blonde and blonder reality show. Recommended for fans.