Playboy Playmates Rewatching ‘Girls Next Door’ Is Art


These days, it seems like every former television star has a podcast that sums up their glory days in a hit show. The genre feels already played out, with every announcement of a new rewatch podcast looking like a blatant money grab or a desperate attempt for the actors to wriggle their way back into the zeitgeist.

Usually you listen to one of these rewatch podcasts, like Welcome to the OC, bitches!, Pod meets world; and even the most successful example of the form, Office Ladiesdoesn’t achieve what the bare minimum goal of any of these efforts should be: to inspire me to re-watch one of my favorite TV series from the past. Instead, the podcasts I feel depressed that the actors are clinging to the past, their one-hit wonder status fully displayed. That is, until I turned it on Girls Next Level.

In Girls Next Level, Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt relive their time on the E! reality series The Girls Next Dooras well as their exciting, fun, difficult and traumatic experiences as Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends.

In case you don’t remember — but how could you forget? —The Girls Next Door ran from 2005 to 2010 and followed the lives of Hefner’s girlfriends at the Playboy house. Madison, Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson took center stage in the series’ first five seasons, but after the three ended their relationship with the Playboy founder and left the mansion, the show turned to focus on Crystal Harris and twins Kristina. and Karissa Shannon, Hef’s new girlfriends, in his final season.

While all reality shows by their very nature offer some level of voyeurism, The Girls Next Door had an extra layer of tantalizing scandal, as it all involved multiple women dating the octogenarian who was responsible for the most iconic pornographic magazines in history. Viewers were invited to the grounds of a mansion, known to many for its exclusive parties, where inhibitions were checked at the door.

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However, despite the inherent voluptuousness of the show’s subject matter, it also managed to be sweet. As a tween viewer who secretly checked if the show went on when my parents left me home alone, I naively believed that Holly and Hef really had a deep love for each other, and even somehow convinced myself that’ girlfriend’ just a symbolic title the 80-year-old gave to women he really cared about.

In my mind, there was absolutely no consensual sex in that mansion – to be honest, as a high school student, I’m not sure I was even familiar with the concept of consent. After reading Madison’s memoirsDown the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Warning Stories of a Former Playboy Bunny and watched the recent A&E documentaries Secrets of Playboyand just being an adult – I now know that the picture painted by the show was incomplete.

While The Girls Next Door plagued access to the Playboy house and real life of Hefner and his girlfriends, in the years since many fans have come to see the series only lead to more unanswered questions about what that world really was like. In Girls Next LevelMadison and Marquardt finally give answers.

In the first five episodes, the co-hosts and real-life friends share essential context about how they first became interested in Playboy as young women, how they became official girlfriends – spoiler alert! the is doing relate to sex with Hefner – and how they entered the mansion. Rather than join the pilot, like many podcasts that are revisited, Madison and Marquardt acknowledged that the story of The Girls Next Door is much bigger than the 92 episodes. Both women lived in the Playboy house for several years before the series started, and according to their story, many of those early years were very difficult, mainly because of the drama between the girlfriends and Hefner’s emotional manipulation.

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Listening to episode one, you immediately get the sense that both Madison and Marquardt have done an incredible amount of preparation for the podcast. This wasn’t a project that came out of nowhere so they could join the podcast rewatch trend and earn some advertising money – in fact, there isn’t even a single ad in the first four episodes. At first I couldn’t believe the extreme level of detail both women could provide about events that happened more than two decades ago, but it soon became apparent that they had spent weeks reliving that period of their lives, which was emotional. . work.

It turns out that Hefner’s penchant for taking pictures of everything and his hoarding tendencies got across to the women. Even then, they even recognized and appreciated what a unique life they led. All of that was reflected in many scrapbooking sessions at the mansion, which provided material to revisit prior to the podcast. Their thorough accounts satisfy that same morbid curiosity that drew so many of us to it The Girls Next Door in the first place. But it also offers much more.

The podcast appears to be a real processing mechanism for the hosts. While Madison and Marquardt often talk about being nervous about certain topics, there’s little padding and none of the chatter often present in celebrity-hosted podcasts. (Looking at you Busy Philipps, with your weekly three-hour episodes that I definitely still listen to all the time.) As true friends for over 20 years, they support each other as they share, even as their perspectives on specific aspects of life in a mansion differ .

In addition to their association with Hefner, thanks to The Girls Next DoorMadison, Marquardt and Wilkinson became icons in their own right, each embracing a specific archetype of the different types of women existing in the world at the time. Marquardt was the studious and quirky who loved animals and all things Halloween, while Wilkinson was the tomboy, obsessed with sports and rough around the edges. Madison was the public entrance, a still glamorous but much more serious woman.

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As a young person watching, I soon began to identify most with Bridget – although I was probably more of a Holly – but had respect and love for all three stars and their individual personalities and interests. In today’s popular terms, I guess I’d say I saw myself as a Bridget sun, Holly moon, Kendra rising. Listen to Girls Next Level now is like visiting old friends.

Still bubbly and cheerful, Marquardt often tries to give figures from their past the benefit of the doubt and sometimes even defends Hef, in the name of fairness. Yet she never disproves Madison’s more negative view of events.

In Episode 3, “Rules of the House,” the co-hosts go back and forth about what motivated so many women to agree to be friends and move into the mansion. Madison says everyone was there for some economic benefit, but Marquardt pushes back, insisting that some people, including herself, were there for the experience. At the end of their polite but in-depth discussion, they settle for the fact that Hef’s relationships with his girlfriends have always been transactional.

Like all rewatch podcasts, Girls Next Level fuels the nostalgia of listeners. It allows us to revisit the early reality TV and culture of the time: the fun parts, like Juicy Couture tracksuits and dazzlingly shiny silk dresses, and the ugly parts, like the rampant misogyny that the women of the Playboy mansion was visited by Hefner and even each other. But it hits differently than any other podcast of this kind because what happened on it The Girls Next Door and behind the scenes is so much more complicated than your average television series. That makes it so much more worth it.



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