Swingtown Promises to Show Us the Dirty Secrets of 1970s Suburbia

Are you tired of reality shows and looking for a way to pass the summer nights? How about a big dose of spouse swapping and 70s fashion? Tonight, CBS debuts Swingtown, a new scripted drama set in the 1970s, just as the sexual revolution reached suburbia.

Swingtown focuses on the Miller family, Susan (Molly Parker), Bruce (Jack Davenport), and teens Laurie (Shanna Collins) and Bruce Jr, or B.J. (Aaron Howles), who move to a Chicago suburb to find that their new neighbors are interested in sharing much more than cups of sugar. The ringleaders of the swinging suburbanites are Tom and Trina Decker (Grant Show, sporting the sweetest mustache since Magnum P.I., and Lana Parrilla). Since the Millers haven't moved far, their old, conservative neighbors, the Thompsons, are still in the picture. Susan Thompson is particularly outraged by the swinger lifestyle, but her husband Roger would kind of like to check it out.

Mike Kelley, Swingtown's creator and executive producer is no stranger to sexy soaps; he has director/producer credits on The O.C. and One Tree Hill, as well as Jericho. He was hoping to take his racy new series to HBO or Showtime, but when those networks passed, CBS said yes. Although there won't be any swearing or nudity, they will still be able to show plenty to illustrate the more risqué plot points (such as four adults in bed together). Although the Millers have teenage children, so far there are no plans for the sexcapades to involve anyone but the parents.

Although Swingtown is getting a big promotional push from CBS (it doesn't hurt that it is the only scripted show premiering this week in a sea of summer reality fare), I have to wonder why the network waited so long to bring it to air; it was developed during the 2007 pilot season. On one hand, the WGA strike has made it hard to predict the networks' motives. On the other, this is the network that gave Viva Laughlin a big fall promotional push. It's hard to believe they had something better in the can all along. Is CBS giving Swingtown a leg-up on the fall season, or using the summer doldrums to burn off the episodes they have?

Well, I, for one, am looking forward to seeing if there's anything to all the hype. Swingtown looks like a slightly campier, serialized version of The Ice Storm, a movie that taught me there was much more to the '70s than Sesame Street Fever. Also, I can't help but think back to last year, when Mad Men, a period drama series, was the most pleasant surprise of the summer. (More about Mad Men next week!) If Swingtown can bring the same style and great storytelling to 1970s suburbia that Mad Men brought to 1960s Madison Avenue, we're all in for a treat.

* * *

Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.