For his part, Hefner immediately went back to work promoting his massive ego (and his accompanying 4,000-plus scrapbooks celebrating himself) around Hollywood. "There is renewed studio interest in a major motion picture on my life and the start of the Sexual Revolution," he tweeted.
"Playboy Club" anything-goes defenders insisted the show wasn't really that explicit or offensive. But NBC made actors sign a nudity clause before filming. "Nudity as defined above and/or simulated sex acts may be required in connection with player's services in the pilot and/or series," according to Variety. Sexual "liberation" was clearly on the agenda.
One of the final scenes of the first episode featured two married characters - in a "lavender marriage," hiding each other's homosexuality. They were running a meeting of the Chicago chapter of the radical-left Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group. The male actor in that pairing, Sean Maher, came out of the closet in the real world at the same time.
Amber Heard, the female lead in "The Playboy Club," was also openly gay, and as the show collapsed, she was starring in the New York fashion magazine Vs. in racy black-and-white photos that promised "some edgy girl-on-girl action with a sado-masochistic theme." Who knows what would have been cooked up for NBC in the months to come?
Before the third and final episode, cast member David Krumholtz lashed out on Twitter at the Parents Television Council, the leading opponent of the show, for threatening his paycheck. He attacked the PTC on Twitter for "randomly" choosing the Playboy show, and then claimed Playboy is less offensive than the Mormons and Catholics, who have "a long history of degrading women."
When someone asked how Catholics degrade women, he snapped back "My bad. I should have said little children instead of women." (He later apologized.)
The show's cancellation is a victory for foes of pornified TV shows. But the push-the-envelope instincts of network executives like Greenblatt do not inspire much comfort. For those in love with trying the edgy shows all over prime time, there's always a new low around the corner. There's no telling what will be the right kind of thing for them to try next.