The first of two “Mad Men”-inspired network shows this fall, “The Playboy Club” (9 p.m., NBC) arrives with a resounding thud. It begins with a long, lingering shot of an older bunny, Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti), singing “Chicago,” a Frank Sinatra standard of the period, rumored to be his homage to the gangsters from “that toddlin’ town.”
The frisky waitresses cavort and mingle with a largely male crowd. Things get ugly when a rather thuggish sort breaks the look-but-don’t-touch rule with the new hire, Maureen (Amber Heard). Lucky for Maureen, she’s rescued by up-and-coming attorney Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian). Together, they clean up a dangerous mess that leaves them both compromised and all but intimately connected. This does not sit too well with Nick’s girlfriend, Carol-Lynne.
Way back in 2002, NBC trotted out a series named “American Dreams,” produced by Dick Clark and a tribute to the role “American Bandstand” had on popular culture. It was a handsomely produced series, but except for showing off period songs, costumes and hairdos, it did a fairly poor job of evoking the 1960s. Substitute Hugh Hefner for Dick Clark, and “Playboy Club” is basically “American Dreams” with more cleavage and a noirish soap opera plot. It’s not exactly horrible, but it’s nowhere near good.
• The new comedy “2 Broke Girls” (8:30 p.m., CBS) is both predictable and a bit startling. As plots go, this tale of sassy working-class waitress Max Black (Kat Dennings) befriending the suddenly destitute rich-girl- turned-waitress Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs) is pretty standard stuff. Despite contributions from a “Sex and the City” producer, the show’s depiction of New York and Brooklyn seem both generic and about 25 years out of date.
But what stunned me was this show’s strenuous attempts at dirty talk. The sight, sound and smells of a prostitute doing her business in the kitchen closet are described in depressingly witless detail. Clearly, the success of “Two and a Half Men” has had its impact. CBS has become the go-to place for a rather stupid brand of sleaze.
Tonight’s other premieres
• On two episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS): a glance back (7 p.m.), video evidence (7:30 p.m.).
• “The Sing-Off” (7 p.m., NBC) looks for new a cappella champions.
• “Dancing With the Stars” (7 p.m., ABC) puts its plastic gears in motion.
• Ashton Kutcher joins the cast of “Two and a Half Men” (8 p.m., CBS).
• McGarrett’s trial begins on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Beckett on the brink on “Castle” (90 p.m., ABC).
Tonight’s other highlights
• “Hell’s Kitchen” (7 p.m., Fox) ends another season.
• All heck breaks loose on the season finale of “Eureka” (7 p.m., Syfy).
• “The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen” (9 p.m.) will also pre-empt “The Daily Show” and “Colbert.”