We’ll do a debrief for you… Welcome to Chippendales, Thongs and Murders in Los Angeles
The true-crime version of Magic Mike or vice versa, Welcome to Chippendales unveils the history (true or almost) of the famous strip club.
C’est quoi, welcome to Chippendales? Somen “Steve” Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), an Indian immigrant employed at a gas station, has managed through sacrifice to save enough money to open a backgammon hall in Los Angeles – but to no avail. Until he came up with the then unknown idea of converting his establishment into a strip club for women. He hires dancers, recruits choreographer Nick De Noia (Murray Bartlett), and since opening in 1979, the Chippendales have been a triumph. The club is always packed, guys fidget with hysterical women who stuff tons of cash in their thongs, costume designer Denise (Juliette Lewis) has brilliant ideas, and Steve even marries club accountant Irene (Annaleigh Ashford). A success story that is coming to an end. Sex, drugs, racism, arson and murder: welcome to Chippendales!
Robert Siegel clearly has a penchant for sulphurous stories. After pam and tommy Dedicated to the Pamela Anderson sex tape scandal, the showrunner takes a look at the Chippendales’ underwear (and not just their thongs) and the turbulent and even criminal gang of club founder Somen “Steve” Banerjee.
Taking a lot of liberties with the facts Welcome to Chippendales is a mixture of true crime, frivolity and drama. If you don’t know the true story of Steve Banerjee, if you think the Chippendales are all about half-naked dancers delighting a female audience, expect to be surprised, even shocked. Perhaps the best way to sum up the series is by quoting a tweet from lead actor and co-producer Kumail Nanjiani: “Murder! Conspiracy! Criminal Fire! Thongs! More Murders! Attempted Murders! » And that’s a teaser!
The story is hard to believe, but the series uses it in a very classic way with staging and a somewhat methodical chronological structure. The final episode is also a bit disappointing – shorter, rushing to the end and not up to par with the rest. Despite everything, with its eight episodes of about 45 minutes ending with good cliffhangers, Welcome to Chippendales plays with an atmosphere where the darkness smolders beneath the sequins and where the suspense and drama grow in strength. If tragedy explodes at the end of the first episode, the story accelerates especially in the third, the trajectory of the characters becomes uncontrollable, relentless and unpredictable (for those who do not know the facts).
The series benefits from a good reconstruction of the era. Both atmospherically and production-wise, you’re immediately immersed in 1980s Los Angeles. Vintage credits, image patina, familiar staging… but also and above all the sets, the outfits, the hairstyles, the make-up and the music. The soundtrack is also cheering, the series aligns the tubes of Queen, Abba or Blondie. And in this period, which directly follows the sexual liberation of the previous decade, the context is also one of de-tabooing and female emancipation… through male striptease. Girls just want to have fun and, as the character played by Juliette Lewis explains in one episode, they want to take control of their sexuality by reversing the power dynamic. That’s one of the reasons the male stripper idea works: it’s a form of exploiting female fantasies, where female clients can watch (and touch) muscular men stripping to the beat of the music in a place reserved just for them .
The news itself is shocking, full of sulfur and scandal, but it also says something about social issues. Banerjee, an Indian immigrant recently settled in Los Angeles, is an ambition-eaten man who faces racism on a daily basis but refuses to allow black people into the club and excludes his only African-American dancer from the Chippendales calendar he dreams of Hugh Hefner loves meeting celebrities, even if he doesn’t know who they are, and is trying to make a fortune in order to gain some kind of social revenge and his family’s approval in India. A family rightly appalled at the nature of their business. But the other characters aren’t necessarily more commendable, like De Noia (the formidable Murray Bartlett), devious and manipulative, willing to do anything to grab the limelight… and the millions of dollars raised by the shows of Chippendales were generated.
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If you’re looking for guys wiggling in panties on Disney+, you’ve been served: loads of scenes from shows, hot choreography, pairs of muscular male buttocks. But that’s not the main thing. The actual theme of the series is the criminal gang of the club’s founder, that famous Steve Banerjee. Played by an excellent Kumail Nanjiani, the character is almost comical at first glance, pathetic and ridiculous. But actually, this guy is not funny at all. A sneaky and ruthless control freak, he’s capable of anything to achieve an American dream… which will turn into a nightmare. From petty pettiness and petty jealousies to setting fire to a rival club, murdering a partner and then more attempted murder, it’s a descent into hell, a kind of breaking Bad with sequins and strings. To the end – which of course we won’t reveal.
Strings, sequins… trials, tragedies and murders. Behind the strip club’s dazzling outline and despite an unsurprising approach, Welcome to Chippendales surprises with dirty news. True crime drama and portrait of a man who destroys his life because of his all-consuming ambition, this is an American crime story that may have inspired Ryan Murphy.
Welcome to Chippendales
8 episodes of 36′ to 48′ minutes.
Available on Disney+.