Mormon Station Refuses NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’

Second time church-owned affiliate dumps a series

NBC won’t take the wraps off The Playboy Club until September, but the stylish drama has already been dumped by one affiliate.

According to Mark Willes, the president and CEO of KSL-TV, NBC’s Salt Lake City affiliate, the station will not air The Playboy Club this fall. The reluctance to carry the show has less to do with concerns about any explicit content than the associations inherent in the Playboy brand itself.

“The Playboy brand is known internationally,” Willes said in a statement. “Everyone is clear what it stands for. We want to be sure everyone is clear what the KSL brand stands for, which is completely inconsistent with the Playboy brand.”

KSL-TV is owned by the Deseret Media Companies, a division of a for-profit corporation owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church).

Salt Lake City is the nation’s 32nd largest DMA.

NBC on Monday said it would look into securing an alternate TV platform for the show in Salt Lake City. “While we are disappointed with KSL’s decision, we are confident that the show will find another home in the Salt Lake City market,” the network said in a statement.

Starring Amber Heard (Pineapple Express) and Eddie Cibrian (CSI: Miami), The Playboy Club is a period piece that unfolds in and around Hugh Hefner’s flagship Chicago nightclub, circa 1963.

While the pilot is no more salacious than any other broadcast drama, the show left one watchdog fumbling for the Valium even before the pilot was released to the press. After a report surfaced suggesting that producers had added a nudity clause to the actors’ contracts, the Parents Television Council sprung into action, condemning Comcast and NBC Universal for their “blatant attempt to obliterate any remaining standards of broadcast decency.”

The PTC went on to accuse Comcast of conspiring to traffic in pornographic material.

Naturally, any nudity captured by The Playboy Club’s cameras would be salted away for a possible DVD release and not aired on prime-time broadcast television. And while the pilot sees Heard and her fellow cast mates decked out in full Bunny regalia, the only real “adult” moment has to do with the inadvertent introduction of a stiletto heel into a mobster’s braincase.

If the Foley artist went above and beyond the call of duty with the squishy sound effects, this bit of devilry is fairly tame stuff when compared to the sort of gruesome material that regularly leads off crime procedurals like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Bones.

This isn’t the first time KSL-TV has opted against airing certain NBC programs. In 2003, the affiliate passed on the short-lived remake of the U.K. sitcom Coupling. (WNDU-TV in South Bend, Ind., also refused to carry the show, which was canceled after four episodes. (No less an authority than Jeff Zucker later admitted that Coupling, like many of the shows in NBC’s 2003-04 lineup, “just sucked.”)

For the most part, affiliates almost never outright refuse to carry a network series. When it has happened on a large scale, ad dollars will ultimately decide the show’s fate. In 1993, 57 ABC affiliates refused to air the premiere episode of NYPD Blue

The abstaining stations were quick to air the series once it had established itself as a sure-fire hit. Despite the brief flashes of buttocks and the occasional rude word, the first season of NYPD Blue garnered a record 26 Emmy nominations.

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