It’s been 16 years since the premiere of The Girls Next Door — and we still have a lot of questions. The E! series about the women who lived as Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends in the Playboy Mansion gave viewers a look at life behind those hallowed walls, as have memoirs from former Playboy bunnies. But soon we’ll learn all the tea, thanks to a new A+E documentary series called Secrets of Playboy, which premieres in early 2020, according to Deadline.
A+E released a trailer for the 10-hour series today that shows interviews with former Playmates and Hefner’s former girlfriends, including Holly Madison of The Girls Next Door. Sound bytes from the trailer touch on the contradictions that make Hefner such an interesting — and flawed — character: He was a staunch advocate for sexual freedom and First Amendment rights, but he also believes he owned these women. “I didn’t realize that getting into the Playboy world was a dangerous choice,” Madison says in the trailer. Whew.
The trailer also shows a wall of TV screens and a clip of Hefner talking about how he has extensive video equipment that he’d use to film, presumably sexual acts, in the bedroom.
Along with Madison, Bridget Marquardt of The Girls Next Door was interviewed, along with Hefner’s former valet, bodyguard, butler other past girlfriends, past Playboy execs and someone called a “Bunny Mother.” Again, we have questions!
The docuseries won’t be the first piece of media to be critical of Hefner, but when he died, media coverage was largely positive, praising the publishing mogul’s protection of First Amendment rights. Similarly, a 2017 documentary called American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner series largely painted Hefner as a trailblazer. The series will grapple will some of the more uncomfortable and darker sides of the Playboy empire, a reckoning that is long overdue.
“The fantasy world of Playboy has been shrouded in secrecy for decades and we are proud to lift the veil on these long-hidden stories,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming for A&E in a statement. “Breaking down barriers and exposing the truth, Secrets of Playboy is a masterful example of brave storytelling that takes an unflinching look at the personal effects of Hugh Hefner’s empire, while also exploring his legacy’s larger influence on our society and modern-day views of sexuality.”
In the meantime, you can read about all the ghosts of the Playboy mansion, as told by Marquardt and Madison.