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On TV Today's Date:

The Girls Next Door:
I Want Candy...

"Come on -a my house and I will give you candy."

The theme song to The Girls Next Door playfully taunts us. Visually, the three Hefner girlfriends frolic in animated cut-out form. You'll probably want their candy.

For the most part, in fact, The Girls Next Door is surprisingly sweet, though the real meat of it doesn't come up until the second episode. Though most male watchers (and let's face it - the initial demographic is likely to be male) might come in wanting to experience Hef's world, producer Kevin Burns shifts the focus to those that work hardest to maintain that world. They work hard emotionally, anyway.

At first glance, the triumvirate of titillation do lead the empty lives that you might think. Each one spends her day fairly leisurely, pursuing whatever her personal interests might be. Dubbed Girlfriend #1, Holly Madison's main interest seems to be Hugh Hefner. Once part of his infamous entourage of seven girlfriends, she expresses relief that it has been pared down to three. But really, she wishes he would just have one - her.

To be fair, she does it well, going above and beyond what many women would do. It may be shocking to you that Holly oversees the other two girlfriends and makes sure they keep Hef happy, but for her, it's just the way things are. Hence many men's envy of Hef.

Yet it's never quite what you think. Holly may be the least conventionally ambitious of the three, but even she is pursuing an education. The oldest at 31, Bridget Marquardt holds a bachelors', one masters' and is pursuing a second. However, her real dream (and what brought her to the Mansion) is to be a Playmate.

In the second episode, Bridget's dream heats up. Likely to never see it happen for herself, she subconsciously sabotages the would-bes that arrive for their test shoots. Justifying it as proof that "...they just don't want it enough," this Gidget-meets-Lady Macbeth buddies up and pushes them into wild partying the night before their big chance. Perhaps she sees it as purifying the pool, and damn if she isn't so cute that we end up forgiving her for it. Maybe it's just me, but that's why I need therapy.

The real innocent, athletic Kendra Wilkinson, spends a lot of time at the gym. She also works hardest at debunking our pre-conceived notions; though she did meet Hef while being a "painted lady" at a Mansion party, it was just a gig, not a dream. Becoming his girlfriend wasn't the plan, and she wants us to know that these women aren't skanks.

In fact, it's kind of strange that Hef purposely picks girls that aren't Playmates. He may create an idealization on the page, but goes for something more human for his life. And their humanity comes through on the screen. Kendra, for example, just may work out excessively due to a sad insecurity; that's left for the viewer to decide. Somehow, though, it's reassuring that Hugh Hefner does have these three truly caring for him in his ...well, let's not call it dotage, but if it is, it's exactly the kind of dotage I really really really want to have.

I know. More therapy.

If you want to know about Hef, this really won't tell you much you don't already know. The show treats him very respectfully and not particularly distantly, and though it shows how insular his world really is, it never lets him come into focus.

Why should it? It's not really his candy we want.

When and Where:
Thanks to E!, we can gorge on The Girls Next Door Sunday nights at 9, starting on August 7, with the first two episodes being shown back to back.

Derek McCaw

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