This image is from the official press kit for “Welcome to Chippendales,” distributed by Hulu.

Content warning: Mentions of murder and death

Welcome to Chippendales! More specifically, welcome to the rivers of alcohol, mountains of cocaine and wonderfully vulgar club scenes of LA in the ’80s. Inspired by the book “Deadly Dance: The Chippendales Murders,” screenwriter Robert Siegal’s (“Pam & Tommy”) “Welcome to Chippendales” series follows Somen “Steve” Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani, “Eternals”), founder and owner of the iconic male strip club known as Chippendales.

Despite much of the public already being privy to the fate of Banerjee and his business partners, “Welcome to Chippendales” manages to build suspense around its titular character slowly and effectively. The first episode opens with Steve (at first going by his real name, Somen) running a gas station and catching a couple of teenagers shoplifting. They read his nametag and laugh at him, mocking his Indian accent before running off with the stolen goods. Somen picks up a souvenir license plate and stares at the name: Steve. From there, we follow him on his quest to live out his American dream. It’s a heart-wrenching scene — the humble immigrant living off of scraps has to fend off poverty and racism to realize his dreams in a world that seems to thrive off of keeping him down. This opening sequence is vital in creating the sympathy that viewers feel for Steve in subsequent scenes.

The show quickly changes its tune from there. Somen turns down a promotion from his manager and instead embarks on making his dreams a reality. Somen — now going by Steve — buys a failing club named “Destiny II” and invests all of his savings to turn it into a backgammon club. After Steve brings in self-promoter Paul Snider (Dan Stevens, “Beauty and the Beast”) and his Playboy playmate wife Dorothy (Nicola Peltz, “Bates Motel”), the three of them hit LA’s club scene together. Steve finds exactly what he’s wanted for his own business at a gay club: strippers. Specifically, male strippers. After his “Eureka!” moment, Steve and Paul rebrand “Destiny II” to “Chippendales.” From there, Steve begins building his business, bringing in choreographer Nick de Noia (Murray Bartlett, “The White Lotus”), accountant (and future wife) Irene (Annaleigh Ashford, “American Crime Story”) and fashion designer Denise (Juliette Lewis, “Yellowjackets”). The pace at which the first and second episodes move gives the impression of a quickly booming business. Steve has so many talented people practically begging to work for him, and the fruits of their labor clearly pay off. It’s so easy to enjoy everyone’s on-screen delight that you almost forget that this business is about to go south real soon. Viewers are shocked back to reality when tragedy strikes at the end of the second episode, setting up a succinct transition into Chippendales’ dark days.

Paul and Dorothy’s death is just the first set of deaths associated with Banerjee and his business. Banerjee was eventually arrested and pled guilty to racketeering, which included orchestrating the murder of Nick de Noia. The viewer learns that Banerjee is capable of some of the most unspeakable acts in the name of bolstering his business. The question is, how can the meek unassuming man we met in the gas station turn into someone responsible for murder? Nanjiani seems to be gearing up to answer that very same question. His performance as Steve is calculated, and he delivers as an extremely business-oriented man with nothing behind the eyes. In an interview, Nanjiani even said that Banerjee was “emotionally immature.” Couple this lack of emotional maturity with a growing cache of money and power, and it isn’t tough to see how Banerjee grew to be a convicted murderer.

As for the culture of the era, “Welcome to Chippendales” sufficiently captures the decadence of the period while still commenting on the issues of the times. From the retro ’80s-style glasses to the classic mustaches to ABBA playing in the club, the show really committed to the bit. While auditioning dancers for Chippendales, Steve comments on one of the men, telling de Noia, “But he’s Black.” When de Noia asks him if that’s a problem, Steve responds after a long pause with a simple, “No.” In these respects, the show seems committed to sticking close to reality with regards to the true story of Chippendales.

“Welcome to Chippendales” effectively introduces the story of the kitschy male striptease show that plays on the sexual dynamic in LA’s club scene. It’s flashy and fast-paced, and most excitingly, it’s (more or less) realistic. With much of Steve’s evolution yet to play out, “Welcome to Chippendales” is on its way to capturing viewers’ attention as it navigates the relationships between flawed people and their innovative ideas.

Daily Arts Writer Swara Ramaswamy can be reached at