Should Swingtown Have Been a One Night Stand?

Two weeks ago, I was pretty excited about Swingtown, CBS's new show set in a swinging suburban Chicago neighborhood in 1976. I was excited to hear about a new, high concept scripted drama. This seems to be the kind of risk typically taken by the cable networks. There's a reason for that. Although Swingtown is by no means a disaster, I don't think it's a keeper for me, and I'm not sure it will pull in enough viewers to make it out of the summer schedule.

I am not a prude by anyone's standards. Unlike Janet, the "uptight" character, watching the revelry did not fill me with a overwhelming desire to compulsively scrub my oven. It's not necessarily the partner-sharing that is skeeving me out, although I do think there is a creepy intensity to Trina's interest in Susan that may or may not be intentional.

There was a single moment when I started to wonder about Swingtown, and that was in the pilot episode: Susan and Bruce's junior high-aged son, B.J. (one does wonder about the wisdom of giving that particular moniker to a character on a show that's basically about sex) returned home in the evening, started to undress, and was interrupted by Samantha, the neighbor's daughter, who had been sneaking in to the house when it was empty. As he reached into his jeans to give her back the necklace she'd lost, the camera lingered on his bare torso in a way that absolutely made me cringe. Now, I think the camera was acting as a proxy for Samantha here. The director was trying to show us what she was looking at, and those characters are of an appropriate age to be starting to pay notice to the opposite sex. Nevertheless, it was still creepy. Am I reading too much into it? Did anybody else even notice?

The Millers' daughter, Laurie, is of a more appropriate age to have a story line involving sex. Unfortunately, her plot line has revolved around a fairly predictable crush on her philosophy teacher. The information I read prior to seeing Swingtown said that the sexual themes of the show wouldn't involve the kids. I do wish that had turned out to be true. There's plenty going on with the grown-ups.

The real reason I'm planning to abandon Swingtown in favor of Fear Itself (good thing it's an anthology; I can just jump right in), is more simple: the show has failed to grab me. I don't care that much what happens to any of the characters. Bruce is one-dimensional and Susan is a doormat. Janet is shrill and her husband Roger is a typical suburban-dad stereotype. The most compelling characters are Tom and Trina, whose closeness is threatened by his upcoming promotion to a Tokyo flight. I wonder if their marriage can handle the strain of polyamory combined with so much time apart. Unfortunately, I'm not curious enough to keep watching.

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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.