An Elegant, Exclusive Atmosphere
In Welcome to Chippendales Episode 1, Somen “Steve” Banerjee quits his job at a gas station to pursue the dream of opening his own business. After saving nearly every penny of his income for seven years, Somen opens a backgammon club in LA and dubs it “Destiny II.”
When Paul Snider and his wife Dorothy Stratten stroll into his club four months after its opening, the place is dead. Somen is impressed by Paul, who claims to know his role model, Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy magazine).
When Paul claims business expertise and celebrity connections, Somen offers him a 25 percent stake in the club to help him get it to succeed. Paul accepts, but the club remains dead.
Somen eventually realizes Paul was lying to him. He doesn’t know Hefner; he barely has connections at all. He was paranoid that Dorothy would leave him, so he tricked Somen into giving him a stake in the company so he could impress Dorothy.
Somen reduces his stake to 5 percent, and they continue to brainstorm ways to help the club. When their ideas continue to fail, they take a break with Dorothy at a gay club–which gives Somen an idea: a strip club for women. It would be the first in Los Angeles.
Paul hates the idea at first (Dorothy has to explain to him that women can get horny too). But once they get enough male strippers hired on, women come streaming into the place, which Somen has newly titled Chippendales.
Soon enough, the club garners the interest of choreographer Nick de Noia’s interest. For a price, he claims he can turn their strip show into something truly worth watching. Somen puts him to work.
Nick’s presence stokes Paul’s jealousy. He pulls Dorothy away as she watches him train the employees and brings her to a fancy lunch establishment.
There, director Peter Bogdanovich takes Dorothy aside to ask her to audition for a role in his new movie. Dorothy excitedly shares the news with Paul, who suggests Peter only asked her because he wants to sleep with her. When Paul yells at her in front of everyone, Dorothy leaves.
Paul returns to Chippendales, yelling about Dorothy’s “betrayal” and disrupting Nick’s rehearsals. Nick then tells him he’s fired. Frankly, he’s a creepy MC and the club doesn’t need him. Somen backs him up, having given the choreographer full privileges.
Nick’s cowboy-themed choreography is a hit with the customers, but not with Paul. He grabs Dorothy and drags her out of Chippendales while she’s enjoying the show.
After the show, Somen pays Nick and thanks him for his service to the club. Nick pauses, as if waiting for Somen to request that he stay on, but the owner simply sends him on his way.
That night, Somen leaves a voice message for Paul, who will never receive it. Paul and Dorothy lie unmoving and covered in blood in their shared room. A shotgun can be seen on the floor, presumably used by Paul to end both of their lives.
The Episode Review
From Pam & Tommy creator Robert Siegel, Welcome to Chippendales has a lot going for it. Drama, intrigue, eroticism, a strong cast led by Kumail Nanjiani (it took me a while to recognize Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens and The White Lotus’ Murray Bartlett; both are utterly transformed).
Somen is a compelling protagonist, even if the premiere drifts away from its initial tight focus on his character. His success in the business/entertainment in the industry is a tough ladder to climb, given the discrimination and obstacles he’s had to face, in addition to the expectation for him to assimilate.
With the series’ bells-and-whistles approach, however, I don’t foresee it making anything other than surface-level commentary about the inequity in the industry. But also like the industry, it promises to be endlessly entertaining.