I know. At first glance you’re probably thinking “Eh, I know everything I need to know about Playboy magazine”. It was certainly my first thought. Then I noticed this was a docuseries done by Amazon Prime and I have really been into their content lately. Looking into it a little further I noticed it is a ten episode series with each episode roughly just under an hour-long. Now I’m no expert but I don’t think that large amount of screen time would be needed to tell me how some magazine that shows boobies got started. So I jumped in and decided to watch. I can easily say now that I am very happy I did, and I promise it has very little to do with the amount of boobies shown during the series either.
The series is filmed in a reenactment style. Matt Whelan plays a young Hugh Hefner starting out in 1953. The storyline then follows Hefner throughout his life from college to present day. Intermittent during each episode are real life interviews from plenty of people involved in Hugh’s life included Victor Lownes, Barbie Benton, Millie and Christie Hefner, Brett Ratner and of course Hugh himself.
What became the more interesting theme throughout this series was just how involved Hugh was in the creation and building of the entire Playboy empire. He himself was the orchestrator of almost every element of the Playboy brand. From the article topics of the magazine to the club openings around the world to the cartoons drawn in each issue; Hugh did it all. His meticulous planning of everything branded him a control freak and a perfectionist, but in a good way. He admits a lot of decisions were pure rolls of the dice. Yet in the beginning, every one he made turned to gold. From refusing to use any of the hundreds of beautiful women he looked at as his first cover girl until he found the perfect one to spending insane amounts of money renovating every property he bought so they fit the brand just right, Hugh was always involved. That first cover girl by the way just turned out to be the most famous woman in the world at the time – Marilyn Monroe. How Hefner was able to get her into the very first issue is worth watching the series alone.
Watching how Hefner grew his brand into an empire will keep your attention peaked. The clubs, the tv shows, the airplane and of course the magazine itself all grew the Playboy brand more and more each year. Certainly more than Hefner even imagined. He recognized early on that he himself needed to change. He essentially created the character of a bachelor and after his first divorce, he became that character. The robe, the pipe, the casual yet sophisticated way he dressed was all part of a persona that Hefner had to become.
Finally the part of Hefner and Playboy that I really enjoyed learning was just how involved they were in the social climate. They were one of the first clubs to feature black singers and acts. They regularly promoted articles about abortion, birth control, civil rights and racial inequalities. They never shied away from any social issue and dove head first in almost every one of them throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Not only did Hefner create the sexual revolution but he and Playboy stood right at the front of the line for societies revolution.
Sure, Hefner created a magazine that showed topless women. Yet he was so much more than that. I honestly feel he never saw his magazine or his brand in that way. He wanted to create a magazine for men and quite simply; men like to look at women.
Hefner was an entrepreneur, a visionary, a socialite and a marketing genius. He set out to create something he himself would enjoy. It turned out his tastes were the same as millions and millions of other people as well.
I really recommend this series. Even being filmed in a style i usually do not enjoy, I really learned a lot from this show. Ten episodes currently on Amazon Prime that you are sure to get hooked on.
8.5 outta 10