Same Hefner, new blondes on “Girls Next Door” premiere

The Shannon Twins, Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris at the Palms Place pool.

Hugh Hefner is back and he’s brought three new bunnies with him: The hit reality series set in and around the Playboy Mansion, The Girls Next Door, returned Sunday with an all-new episode and a mostly-new cast.

It’s a particularly Vegas-y season premiere, too, as Hef and his new girls come to Sin City to mix a little business with pleasure.

Scenes included in tonight’s show were shot at a few locations around town earlier this summer: At the Playboy Store at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace; at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum at the Venetian; at Planet Hollywood; and in and around the Palms.

What’s more, a handful of local headliners are also featured, including Carrot Top and former Girl Next Door/current Peepshow star Holly Madison.

Crystal Harris, Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner and friends Melissa Taylor and Ana Berglund.

Crystal Harris, Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner and friends Melissa Taylor and Ana Berglund.

Criss Angel also gets a nod or two – or rather, suffers a few jabs – in the episode. (Madison dated the Mindfreak magician after she and Hefner parted ways lat fall.)

And while she isn’t mentioned by name and the connection is a stretch at best, viewers might also be surprised to find a loose connection to Madison’s new co-star, former Playboy Playmate Aubrey O’Day, in the premiere. (Hint: it involves a furry four-legged friend and some food coloring.)

One thing is certain: It’s out with the old and in with the new as the fifth season gets underway. Gone are the old(er) girlfriends of seasons past, Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt. Unless you’re living in a hole out on North Jones Boulevard, there is no need to explain what Madison is up to these days. Wilkinson has also lived a high-profile post-Mansion life and has an E! reality series of her own, along with basketball player hubby Hank Baskett. The two are expecting their first child in December. Marquardt, meanwhile, has kept a relatively low profile, hosting a show on the Travel Channel called Bridget’s Beaches.

Hefner’s former flames have moved on, while three newer, younger, but equally blonde ambitions have moved in.

Viewers will meet the Playboy mogul’s new main squeeze, 23-year-old Crystal Harris, tonight, along with his twin young women-in-waiting, 19-year-olds Karissa and Kristina Shannon.

While Wilkinson and Marquardt are hardly mentioned, Madison, still plays a significant part in the show – even though she moved out of the iconic Holmby Hills estate last year and now calls Planet Hollywood home.

Former <em>Girls Next Door</em> stars Bridget Marquardt, left, and Holly Madison at the Creative Recreation/Hudson Jeans party at XS in the Encore.

Former Girls Next Door stars Bridget Marquardt, left, and Holly Madison at the Creative Recreation/Hudson Jeans party at XS in the Encore.

After four years of Madison, Wilkinson and Marquardt, the three new girlfriends have considerable shoes to fill when it comes to winning over the show’s loyal viewers.

“I’m not the new Holly, Holly’s the old me,” Harris has mused.

We’ll see about that.

This season of The Girls Next Door also presents the challenge of learning to tell the twins apart – and that’s no simple task, since they look the same, talk the same, sound the same, dress the same and act the same, too. Heck, they even finish each other’s sentences (which makes interviewing them and accurately quoting them particularly difficult).

While they’re virtually inseparable, the Shannon sisters aren’t totally indistinguishable. The trick, they say, involves eyeing a few strategically-placed freckles.

As far as cast comparisons go, the twins seem most like sporty Wilkinson. While they don’t seem to be especially athletic, the sisters share Wilkinson’s naïve, playfully immature air and come off appearing unpolished, slightly obnoxious and, at times, crude.

Perhaps it has something to do with their age: The Shannon girls are about the same age Wilkinson was when she first moved in with the now 83-year-old Hefner.

While Hef has welcomed the new girls into his home, it remains to be seen if audiences will do the same. Will viewers embrace the new trio and accept them into their living rooms, or will they sit on their couches, unimpressed, longing to have the old girls back? Only time will tell.

Coincidentally enough, Madison starts work on a new reality project of her own tomorrow.


Melissa Arseniuk

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