Speaking of true crime, the teaser for Welcome to Chippendales dropped yesterday. The Hulu limited series stars Kumail Nanjiani as Steve Banerjee, the founder of Chippendale’s who gets into a murder plot involving the club’s choreographer, Nick De Noia. Murray Bartlett, fresh off his Emmy win for The White Lotus, plays De Noia. In fact, Chippendales comes with a prestigious lineage: besides Emmy winner Bartlett and Oscar nominee Nanjiani, Robert Siegel, part of the team behind Pam & Tommy, Hulu’s other limited series about tawdry events surrounding a sexualized subject which earned a boatload of Emmy nominations, including one for Siegel, is the co-showrunner. The other showrunner is Jenni Konner, herself a double-Emmy nominee for Girls. So, lots of trophy talent floating around this project.
The teaser certainly reflects that. Matt Shakman is the series director—after Ramin Bahrani dropped out, still a little bummed about that—and Chippendales somehow looks simultaneously seedy and glossy. It’s the lighting, I think. Some of the color choices scream “1980s nightclub sh-tshow”, yet there’s a warm patina that makes everything look polished, even the blood-splattered shotgun. And the emphasis on luxury goods—cool cars, nice suits, big houses—certainly adds to the shine. That part makes sense, the story of the Chippendales murder is an American dream gone horribly awry, which the teaser acknowledges.
I’m intrigued by the look of this. Pam & Tommy is not aesthetically distinguished. The 1990s were an ugly time—generally speaking, everything Gianni Versace, Tom Ford, and Mona May, the costume designer of Clueless, touched are exempt—and Pam & Tommy went for verisimilitude over aesthetic amplification. The result is a series that looks right but boring. (Still, the decision paid off, their one Emmy win was for non-prosthetic makeup.) But the 1980s? The Eighties is a mishmash of styles and aesthetics, with Seventies holdovers glam and punk coexisting with the burgeoning New Wave look and structured fashions that peaked in the latter part of the decade. There were plenty of hideous aesthetics in the Eighties, but that entire decade is so devoted to conspicuous consumption and overt displays of wealth that tacky gets a huge pass. Eighties tacky is maximalism at its best, 1980s fashion ran so that Fran Fine could fly.
Big hair, big lapels, slick cars and slicker players. Kumail Nanjiani and Murray Bartlett having an intensity-off, super into that. Juliette Lewis, always here for her. This is a story that takes all the maximalism and wealth-worship of the Eighties and blows it out in the worst way possible, and that is coming through in this teaser. The Eighties vibes are very good.