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. 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.
The fifth (and apparently final) season of the series as it's been known since the beginning is another mildly entertaining set of episodes, with a couple of enjoyable two-parters, including "Girl Crazy", where Holly and Bridget head across the country to find girls for the 55th Anniversary Edition magazine - oddly enough, this search winds up revealing a few girls who turn out to be Hefner's new girlfriends, including twins Karissa and Kristina.
The breakup with Hefner and the original trio is the subject that's largely avoided during the season - the three talk about it occasionally or hint at it in the episodes, but it's only Hefner who seems genuinely upset at the split - whether or not that's all for show can be debated, but there are scenes where Hefner discusses the possibility of ending it with Holly where the sadness seems at least moderately genuine (well, at least until the twins appear on the scene.)
Although future seasons of the series are going to feature the twins, there's a problem - while they certainly have the look of Playboy playmates, the two do not appear to have a personality between them - or at least in their blandly blonde appearances during this season, where they don't say much (crickets are played during their introduction at the mansion.)
Another playmate (and Hefner's other new girlfriend), Crystal Harris - whose mother is a former playmate - gets an awkward introduction to the mansion when Kendra suggests they go look up her mother's issue ("Hey, lets all look at your mom naked!") and then Hefner shares some of his er, memories of the woman's mother. If Harris is going to be another new star of this series, at least she seems a little more interesting.
The rest of the season does continue to see the series coming up with some amusing plots for the girls to get into, including a New Orleans visit that doesn't go exactly as hoped ("The Big Easy Does It") to a visit to former playmate Barbie Benton's insane Xanadu-like palace in Aspen ("Kickin' Aspen") to getting "special" chocolate gifts for Hef based on their body parts ("Hot Chocolate"). I'm very surprised and rather disappointed that this set does not include "Transitions", the two-part season finale.
As indifferent as I was to the earlier seasons of the series, this trio admittedly had a nice chemistry with one another and was a likable set of characters - it's unfortunate that the series has to go on with new women.
60. 5- 1 5 Oct 08 Hot Chocolate
61. 5- 2 12 Oct 08 She Got Game
62. 5- 3 19 Oct 08 Scream Test
63. 5- 4 26 Oct 08 Change Of Undress
64. 5- 5 9 Nov 08 Girl Crazy(Part 1)
65. 5- 6 16 Nov 08 Girl Crazy (Part 2)
66. 5- 7 23 Nov 08 Kentucky Fried
67. 5- 8 30 Nov 08 Pleading The 55th (Part 1)
68. 5- 9 7 Dec 08 Pleading The 55th (Part 2)
69. 5-12 28 Dec 08 Kickin' Aspen
70. 5-13 21 Dec 08 Glued To Their Sets
73. 5-15 18 Jan 09 Tying The Naughty
74. 5-16 18 Jan 09 Fangs For The Mammaries
75. 5-17 8 Feb 09 The Big Easy Does It
76. 5-18 8 Feb 09 The Spa Who Loved Me
77. 5-19 15 Feb 09 Third Time's The Charming
78. 5-20 15 Feb 09 Scuba, Scuba, Do!
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. Of course, this was recorded after the girls had left the mansion (so was the season four commentary), but the girls certainly still seem to be having a great deal of fun getting back together again (Kendra drinking Red Bull and spilling it in the recording booth during one track) to chat about their times together.
Deleted scenes are also offered on each disc, as well.
Final Thoughts: As indifferent as I was to the earlier seasons of the series, this trio admittedly had a nice chemistry with one another and was a likable set of characters - it's unfortunate that the series has to go on with new women. It's disappointing that this set does not include the two-part finale, however, and it's a little difficult to give the set a recommendation without the inclusion of those two episodes. The DVD set provides very good audio/video quality, as well as entertaining extras.