Ever since the magazine went on sale in 1954 (and since the Playboy mansion was bought in '71), there's been a lot of fantasizing about Playboy's Playmates. However, for all the fantasizing that's been done about them, these women who live at the mansion have never been explored (well, in terms of who they are) in much depth.
Enter "E!"'s "Girls Next Door", which takes viewers into the secretive mansion in order to follow the lives of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his three main women: Holly (#1, Hef's girlfriend for 3-1/2 years), Bridget (#2, my favorite as she's the least slick, reminding me of a character from the beauty pageant spoof, "Drop Dead Gorgeous") and athletic newcomer Kendra (#3), whose attitude isn't as irritating as her laugh. They're all blonde and blonder, but one's sporty and a tomboy, one's the smart one (who acts like a ditz) and one's the one the head girl who wants the other ones out of the picture. Holly brought out the claws in the first episode, with: "I think he needs to get rid of the extra girls." Despite the fact that the girls are always civil and even friendly to one another, there's occasionally a slight hint of a potential catfight.
Lording over it all is Hef, who is occasionally seen in the background of the series. While Hef is 80 at this point, he's still seen in the series working intensely, taking meetings and approving elements of the latest issue. He'll also hit the town with the girls, and we see the group heading out to events. There was also a series of interesting tidbits tossed out in the intro season, such as the fact that Hef enforces a 9pm curfew, is the only private owner in LA with a fireworks permit and doesn't like to travel.
"Girls" is as lightweight as you'd probably expect. In fact, this is the show's main issue: while it generally manages to create enough situations for these women, there are stretches of the series that mainly revolve around the ladies goofing around in the mansion, chasing after their yappy little dogs and one uppity kitty while they try to fill their days. If the series continues beyond the fourth season, they are really going to have to find a way to change things up.
I noted in my review of the first and second seasons that the series sometimes seems to be scrambling to put together things to do. Once again, the majority of the episodes focus on day-to-day events (Christmas at the mansion, the Playmate of the Year awards, Holly trying to learn the business side) of the mansion. Only occasionally does the group really venture out into the world this season, once to Colorado and the other time to Vegas. Seemingly in an attempt to add some more spice to the series, more nudity has been added since the first season.
Overall, this is a light, fun series that offered an enjoyable look behind-the-scenes at the mansion. It does sometimes seem to strain to find enough things to do to fill the time, but it works as fluffy reality TV and eye candy. The third series is, once again, basically entertaining, but I can't see this series going too much longer - the series has really started to feel rather repetitive at this point.
VIDEO: "Girls Next Door" is presented by Fox in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The presentation quality is generally terrific, although there are some moments where sharpness varied slightly. Still, the majority of the episodes looked crisp and detailed. Some minor shimmering and a few slight artifacts are spotted, but the picture largely appeared clean and clear. Colors remained bright and vibrant throughout, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Girls Next Door" is presented in stereo and the audio offers clear dialogue, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Kendra, Holly and Bridget offer audio commentary for all of the episodes. Their commentary offers some fun behind-the-scenes tidbits, jokes about the episode and general chit-chat. Fans will enjoy the discussions, but there are certainly some stretches of silence at times.
Each disc offers plenty of deleted scenes for the episodes, as well. Although a fair amount of these rightly hit the cutting room floor, some offer entertaining moments that should be fun for fans. We also get episode promos and "Bedtime Stories", where Hef and the girls look back at their favorite moments.
Final Thoughts: This is a light, fun reality series that takes viewers behind-the-scenes at the legendary mansion, with Hef's three "leading ladies" as the guides. The series is still mildly entertaining, but by this third season, the show has really started to get rather repetitive. While I don't dislike this series, I'm thinking the current fourth season should probably close the mansion doors on this series. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a very nice set of supplements. Recommended for fans.