New Series 'The Playboy Club' Making Waves

PHOTO: Amber Heard, left, and Leah Renee star in the new NBC series "The Playboy Club." Scheduled to air this fall, it is already generating controversy.
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NBC's new series "The Playboy Club" is generating controversy even before the first episode airs this fall.

Several anti-pornography groups are trying to stop the peacock network from airing the series this fall. The stylized drama set in the 1960s at Hugh Hefner's original Playboy Club in Chicago mimics the feel of "Mad Men."

Though the groups are focused on the Playboy connection and presumed content, the show's stars, Eddie Cibrian and Amber Heard, could be adding fuel to the fire. Neither one is a stranger to controversy.

Cibrian, who plays a lawyer in the new series, had an affair with his "Northern Lights" co-star LeAnn Rimes before divorcing his first wife, model Brandi Glanville, to marry the country singer this spring.

Last November, the 38-year-old actor told Robin Roberts on ABC News' "Good Morning America," "We make mistakes and we learn from them, but we're human. We fell in love."

"You had two couples whose marriages didn't work who really stumbled upon each other and fell in love," Rimes added, saying she had no regrets.

But recently, the country singer owned up to mistakes she made.

"I know I didn't do it the right way," Rimes said in a 90-minute special broadcast on the Great American Country cable network.

The newlyweds recently looked at condos in Chicago, where Cibrian will continue shooting "The Playboy Club" over the next few months.

"Long day in Chicago house hunting!" Rimes tweeted last week. "Think we found something. Now, I just need to add our little touches for it to be our home."

Heard, who plays a newly hired Playboy bunny in the NBC series and will play Johnny Depp's love interest in "The Rum Diary" later this year, made headlines last December when she walked the red carpet of GLAAD's 25th anniversary celebration with her girlfriend of two years, artist and photographer Tasya van Ree.

Afterward, speaking to the gay-focused entertainment site AfterEllen.com, Heard, 24, said she felt a responsibility to publicly discuss her sexuality.

"I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question, 'Am I part of the problem?'" she said. "I think that the injustice of people staying in the closet is more than I can bear with a clear conscience, and I couldn't sleep at night if I was a part of that problem, if I was part of the lies."

Asked about van Ree, Heard said, "She's so beautiful. I mean, you'd have to be crazy not to want to go out with her!"

Morality in Media president Patrick Trueman said he's less concerned with the personal lives of Heard and Cibrian than he is with the connection of the show to Playboy.

"Our main fight is against pornography," Patrick Trueman, president of Morality in Media, told ABCNews.com. "This show glorifies Hugh Hefner and the Playboy philosophy toward women -- use them, abuse them and discard them -- and that's enough to upset people."

Trueman, who is leading a coalition of 10 organizations under the umbrella, War on Illegal Pornography, acknowledged that he and others haven't seen much material from the show but are relying on reports that the show's actresses were required to sign agreements saying they would appear nude and participate in simulated sex acts.

Variety, which first reported the show's nudity clauses, said the envelope-pushing scenes may not appear on NBC but instead be used in R-rated versions of the show overseas or on cable.

During NBC's annual upfront presentation to prospective advertisers in May, Heard downplayed the controversy, saying the show is driven less by sex than it is character.

"It's a group of friends who become family within this interesting, rich setting," she said. "I think the plot and stars can't help but take center stage. The racy material, you'll find, is not all that racy.

"I think it's a story about the time, the setting, the movement, the people behind it," she added. "It's a story about a group of girls taking over Chicago, and I think that's what will come through."

Though only a few clips from the pilot have surfaced on the Internet, several people are already up in arms.

Trueman, the former chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section, said depictions of sex could violate federal indecency laws.

"I can't say definitively say what the content will be," he said. "Let's say it's not a violation. Millions of people are still opposed to it because of the of Playboy brand."

Trueman is encouraging citizens to sign a pledge at CloseTheClubOnNBC.com. The website also encourages people to complain to their local affiliates.

KSL, a Salt Lake City affiliate owned by the Church of Latter Day Saints, has already refused to air the show. It was eventually picked up by a MyNetworkTV affiliate in the city.

Shelly Lubben, a former adult star who now is an anti-porn crusader, is also leading a fight against the show through her Pink Cross Foundation.

"NBC is appearing to defy FCC laws, while contributing to sexualization/victimization of women, which results in trafficking, rape and prostitution," Lubben wrote on her blog, encouraging people to sign a petition to halt the show.

The show also stars Jenna Dewan, wife of Channing Tatum, Naturi Naughton and David Krumholtz.

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