Where to stream it? Hulu (Episodes added weekly beginning November 22nd, 2022)
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Murray Bartlett, Annaleigh Ashford, Dan Stevens, Juliette Lewis, Quinten Plair, Andrew Rannells, Robin de Jesús, Spencer Boldman, Nicola Peltz
Created By: Robert Siegel
All eight episodes of the limited series were screened in advance for this review.
Intro: ‘Welcome to Chippendales' Review
If there’s one niche that Hulu has carved out for itself, it’s limited series based on true events. It should come as no surprise, then, that the tale of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, who founded the male-stripping troupe Chippendales, is now getting the Hulu treatment.
Let’s face it- this story was just begging for a limited series adaptation.
As the character Stefon from Saturday Night Live might say, this has EVERYTHING: disgruntled gas station workers, crime, male strippers, Juliette Lewis inventing men’s breakaway pants, more crime.
Suffice to say, this show kept my interest from start to finish. From it’s neon-lit kaleidoscope opening credit sequence to the totally rad 80s soundtrack, this show transports you into the cocaine-fueled world of an 80s night club. As we find out, though, this club has some sinister things just waiting to happen.
The Other Hugh Hefner
Welcome to Chippendales is created by Robert Siegel, known for writing the screenplays for The Wrestler and The Founder, as well as creating 2021’s Hulu series Pam & Tommy.
The show stars Kumail Nanjiani as the main character, Somen Banerjee. When the series starts we see him as a humble gas station manager with dreams of gaining power and status like his idol Hugh Hefner. As an immigrant from India, he faces racism in his daly life and eventually takes up the name “Steve” to assimilate.
Eventually Steve uses money he saves from managing the gas station to purchase a night club, which he turns into a lounge for people to play backgammon.
The backgammon concept doesn’t take off, so after some rebranding attempts he settles on a new idea: a club for women to watch male strippers.
Along the way, he is joined by business associates including a nightclub promoter (Paul Snider), creative director (Nick De Nova), accountant (Annaleigh Ashford), and costume designer (Juliette Lewis).
The team sees their business prosper but at a cost: constant behind-the-scenes conflict that will challenge their loyalties with some unsettling consequences.
It's Raining Men… and Murder!
As with most shows based on real events, if you’ve watched one of the various documentaries or listened to any of the podcasts that cover the Chippendales saga, there may be less incentive to stick around for all eight episodes.
I had the advantage this time of knowing very little about Steve Banerjee, save for a quick skim on Wikipedia, and I believe that enhanced my experience watching this series. For those unfamiliar with the story, that is reason enough to give it a binge- it’s a pulpy, scandalous, series of events.
Nanjiani does a superb job of selling the subtleties of his character. While not always a highly expressive figure, Steve Banerjee’s transformation from gas station manager to business mogul is shown in the nuances of Nanjiani’s mannerisms. This highlights the talent of the multifaceted actor once known primarily for comedy.
What struck me about how Banerjee is framed in this show, however, is that he seems to be more of a tragic figure than villain. Considering some of the dark choices he made in real life, some may object to this framing.
The show also has some pacing issues, too. The first episode zooms past some of the more important character building of Steve’s origin. Yet by the latter half of the series, things pick up just in time for an effective closing.
Final Thoughts: ‘Welcome to Chippendales' Review
This might not be the best limited series to come from Hulu, but it’s still worth a watch. The stylish 80s atmosphere, fantastic performances, and engaging true crime story should be enough to hook in viewers.
Plus… you know… there’s a certain Magic Mike-style appeal, too.