Judge Gordon Sullivan is now grateful that he lives alone in the woods.
Our reviews of The Girls Next Door: Season One (published August 9th, 2006), The Girls Next Door: Season Two (published May 9th, 2007), The Girls Next Door: Season Three (published January 28th, 2008), The Girls Next Door: Season Five (published July 13th, 2009), and The Girls Next Door: Season Six (published July 19th, 2011) are also available.
We call it fantasy. They call it home.
Here we have The Girls Next Door: Season Four, the reality series that follows Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner's girlfriends (note the plural) as they gallivant around the globe and lounge around the Playboy mansion representing Hef and the brand. These girlfriends are Holly (the alpha female of the pack), Bridget (the smart one, with multiple graduate degrees), and Kendra (the bratty athletic one). In this fourth season, the girls engage in all kinds of adventures, from helping send off a troop of marines to visiting Jamaica for Holly's sister's wedding. The show's sixteen episodes are spread over three discs:
As of this release I've written almost two hundred reviews for Verdict, and that run has included such gems as Cloak and Shag Her and Cannibal Taboo. However, I don't think I've felt more useless as a reviewer than I do when faced with The Girls Next Door: Season Four. The fact that the show has made it this far demonstrates that some people enjoy it, but I can't for the life of me figure out the attraction. Loyal readers will know that I'm against gratuitous exploitation, but amazingly that's not why I'm against The Girls Next Door. Instead, I don't see the attraction because the show doesn't fulfill any of the basic demands of the reality genre.
If we can speak broadly for a moment, reality shows as a genre have three basic appeals. One is documentary; by watching a documentary reality show we hope to learn more about someone interesting or important. Another is voyeuristic; we want to see behind the scenes at some exclusive or exotic operation. The final is best described as "train wreck"; these are the shows we watch hoping for massive catfights, illicit sex, or excessive drug use. The Girls Next Door seems to promise all three, but ultimately can't deliver. The show purports to give us the skinny on Hef's girlfriends, satisfying our documentary desires (because if Hef tolerates them, they must be interesting, right?). However, the show shoehorns girls into stereotypes, so while we learn personal details throughout the show, I never felt like I knew the girls any better. With its reference to "fantasy" in the tagline, the show knows the audience wants a peek into the exotic world of Playboy and its mansion. We certainly get a glimpse of what goes on at the mansion, but it's obviously whitewashed. I don't think it's orgies, orgies, orgies at the mansion, but I couldn't help but feel like this isn't a clear picture of life with Hef. That leaves the audience hoping for a catfight or a nice heroin addiction to liven things up. Sadly, we get none of that. There's some unsurprising tension between the girls, but it doesn't get the centerstage treatment that train-wreck fans are looking for.
Ultimately, I think my antipathy to The Girls Next Door stems from my preference for a reality that is presented "warts and all," something which is antithetical to the airbrushed-and-implanted aesthetic of Playboy.
The show's sixteen episodes are on three discs, plus extras, so the set's video transfers are its weakest point. The video has a cheap quality to it. It's not unwatchable, but it's also not that pretty. The audio is simple, which serves the dialogue and music that drive the show well. There's also an option to listen to the show's audio uncensored for the occasional F-bomb. For extras we get an audio commentary on each episode by all three of the girls. Although I can't claim that all their insights are worth listening to, the commentaries do give them a chance to present themselves outside of the stereotypical place the show puts them in. There are also deleted scenes for most of the episodes. They don't add a whole lot to the experience, but fans are going to be pleased to get more of the trio. Finally, you can choose to watch each episode with its promos.
My only complaint about the presentation is that all three discs are in a single-width case in a tray that was broken upon arrival at my doorstep. The whole case feels a little flimsy, so fans are warned.
The Girls Next Door: Season Four is obviously not my cup of tea, but fans should be pleased with this release.
The Girls Next Door is guilty of not showing us much of a fantasy.
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