Welcome to Chippendales Season 1 Review – A trite display of scandalous history

Season 1

Episode Guide

An Elegant, Exclusive Atmosphere -| Review Score – 4/5
Four Geniuses -|Review Score – 3/5
Velveeta -|Review Score – 2/5
Just Business -|Review Score – 3/5
Leeches -|Review Score – 4/5
February 31st -|Review Score – 2.5/5
Paper is Paper -|Review Score – 2/5
Switzerland -|Review Score – 1.5/5


In 1979, Somen “Steve” Banerjee founded the famous strip-club Chippendales. Over 10 years later, the establishment became his demise. The Hulu Original series Welcome to Chippendales chronicles Banerjee’s rise and fall–drama, intrigue, murder, and all.

In the true-crime series, the strip club gets its start as a backgammon club. This may have never happened in the true story, but it’s an amusing creative liberty to usher in the first of many difficulties Steve Banerjee (played by Kumail Nanjiani) must stumble through to realize his dream. That is, to become rich, and to lord his success over all who ever stood in his way.

But even in finding that success in turning an empty backgammon club into the thriving Chippendales, Banerjee’s hunger for prestige never ceases. The prideful clash between himself and the strip club’s choreographer Nick de Noia (Murray Bartlett) not only threatens the downfall of Chippendales, but also catches several innocent people in the crossfires–including Banerjee’s wife and accountant Irene (Annaleigh Ashford).

What Welcome to Chippendales attempts to do is create a dynamic adaptation considering intersectional themes of power, racial bias, and pride in Chippendales’ origin story–and it’s poised to succeed after a compelling premier episode, which sets up Banerjee as a sympathetic character facing a complex journey ahead of him.

When the first episode paid special attention to his name change from Somen to Steve in an attempt to assimilate into the Whiteness of the industry, the show appeared as if it was going to further wrestle with the duality of Banerjee’s identity and immigrant experience. And when Banerjee first pursued a groundbreaking business model that centered female pleasure–for the monetization’s sake only–it felt like the show understood the tension between female empowerment and corporate gain it was setting up.

But as the series progressed, it became clear these setups were going nowhere–the compelling themes to be brought up occasionally, and only to serve as bells and whistles to pad a lackluster crime drama. Ultimately, the show deals in “checkpoint themes,” inserting at certain intervals in the series indicators that it at least recognizes the discrimination and power dynamics at play in Chippendales’ history, but remaining unwilling to analyze these in any significant way. 

Where are the stories, I wonder, of the employees and patrons Banerjee discriminated against? There’s a racial discrimination lawsuit in Chippendales’ sordid history that serves only as a blip in the Hulu series’ overarching story, and just another contributing factor to Banerjee’s fall from grace–whenever an expanded storyline could have played a significant part in fleshing out the show’s under-baked themes.

The oversight is typical for the rest of the series, which draws out its mediocre material only to rush the most important and intriguing parts of Chippendales’ history. One has to wonder: What was the point of adapting this story in the first place? The true story behind Somen “Steve” Banerjee and the beginnings of Chippendales is a scandalously shocking tale, and yet Welcome to Chippendales manages to be only scandalously trite and boring.

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  • Verdict - 4/10

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