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Night Is Falling And The Music’s Calling!! But Does Hercules Think Viewers Got To Get Down To CBS’ SWINGTOWN??

Published at: June 5, 2008, 12:12 p.m. CST by hercules

I am – Hercules!!
An hourlong from writer-producer Mike Kelley (“The O.C.,” “Jericho”), “Swingtown” looks at wife swapping, coke snorting and Penthouse reading in the suburbs of 1976 Chicago. (Recall that in 1976, CBS’ hourlong nostalgic look at life three decades earlier was “The Waltons.”) Its cast includes “Deadwood” vet Molly Parker (not to be confused with “Rome’s” Polly Walker) and Grant Show, who I think was on “Melrose Place” or some other show I could never stand watching. “Ice Storm: The Series” was presumably the pitch. The adults – some randy, others repressed – have offspring in various stages of teendom, and the smallfry are also busily pushing their sexual envelopes, as it were. (Interesting that network standards departments allow depictions of consequence-free drug abuse when the setting is 1970s America! The cannabis-saturated “That ‘70s Show” got the same kind of pass.) The pilot is watchable, mostly because it’s unusual, sexually-charged fare with an attractive cast and the music is agreeable (Fleetwood Mac’s “Go You Own Way” is among the super sounds of the seventies lending cameos). A veteran TV watcher can remain curious as to where it’s all going, and remain curious even after the pilot ends, so I’m adding “Swingtown” to my season-pass list. We’ll see how long that relationship lasts. TV Guide says:
… I just wish Swingtown gave us some fresh dramatic meat. … in the pilot episode, no one is more than skin-deep, so there’s little in the way of irony or metaphor to disguise the fact that Swingtown is so determined to be shocking it seems a little quaint. …
The Associated Press says:
… an entertaining drama populated by likable, relatable people sharing modern life experiences, few of which require taking off their clothes. … What you see on "Swingtown" isn't risque behavior but the issues underlying the choices made, along with their consequences. Assuming you weren't there for real, "Swingtown" opens you up so you might ask yourself: What would I have done?
USA Today gives it two and a half stars (out of four) and says:
… The show itself, sad to say, is not done well enough to work. But it's not dull, and it's worth watching if only to try to figure out what CBS could have been thinking — beyond, "No one's going to confuse this with NCIS." …
The New York Times says:
… The show is not so much written as curated, with all the salient artifacts — mustaches, bell-bottom jeans, the hustle, Quiana halter dresses, Tab, quaaludes and wife swapping parties — tenderly laid out like an exhibition in a social anthropology museum. … “Swingtown” is not as wryly tender as the sitcom “The Wonder Years,” set roughly during the same period, but it’s also not as bleak a look back as Ang Lee’s movie about suburban angst in the ’70s, “The Ice Storm.” It is, however, highly familiar. … has ’70s mystique, but not much mystery.
The Los Angeles Times says:
… If only the pilot were a little less contrived. … That a fairly conservative, moderately happy couple would suddenly throw monogamy to the wind is a bit hard to believe, but "Swingtown" is clearly not interested in wondering whether Susan and Bruce will become swingers but rather what happens after they do. One can only hope that the narrative jury-rigging of the pilot is a one-time thing, because "Swingtown," like any other fantasy, will work only if the characters are as believable as the circumstances are extraordinary.
The Washington Post says:
… "Swingtown" obviously belongs to the tabloid tradition that has given us many other fabricated communities, going back at least to that lively little hot spot "Peyton Place." The formula is almost foolproof: Pull back the drapes and reveal the lustiness going on in private little homes protected by electronic security systems. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… It looks like an HBO series. It compels fans of boundary-pushing basic cable channels like FX and AMC to sit up and take notice. And one hour later - despite a few lapses into network-y caricature - it leaves you wanting more. …
The Milwaukee Journal says:
… such a triumph of saucy style over slender substance that an hour after it ended, what I remembered best was one character's divine wraparound dress and another's luxuriant porn-star mustache. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… CBS's recent experiments outside its all-crime prime-time lineup have failed. "Viva Laughlin" was an embarrassment while "Cane" and "Moonlight" just never got traction with enough viewers to stay on the air. The final piece of its 2007-08 schedule, "Swingtown" (10 p.m. EDT Thursday), is unlikely to fare any better, but at least it's a more interesting misstep. …
The Boston Globe says:
… Kelley's fascinating concept - the personal and sexual politics of an open marriage - is stifled by CBS prime-time superficiality and an inability to intimately explore intimate subject matter. Instead of looking back with the insight and frankness of AMC's fine 1960's ad-men drama "Mad Men," "Swingtown" is more trapped in the shallow retrospect of the cancelled NBC 1960s nostalgia drama "American Dreams." … Too bad the show doesn't have the freedom to go more than skin deep.
Variety says:
… an absorbing glimpse into a not-so-long-ago period … Like "Mad Men," the timeframe also proves extremely relevant, holding a mirror against current social mores, including casual use of drugs rarely seen on network television in this pre-"Just Say No" era. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… style is one thing and substance is another. Even skillful performances by its largely unknown cast aren't able to hide the lack of character development and the sense that the people in this series are almost self-parodies. Their dialogue is shallow, and their lives even shallower. Nor does it help that "Swingtown," which is very much about sexual exploration and experience, is presented on a broadcast network instead of premium cable, where it originally was pitched. The producers talk a good game about how this challenge made "Swingtown" a better show, but the reality is that, with so much restraint imposed here, steamy scenes become, at best, lukewarm. …
10 p.m. Thursday. CBS.

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Readers Talkback

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  • June 5, 2008, 1:08 a.m. CST

    Hahahaaha

    by Series7

    I thought this was about voting, like that dumb looking Kevin Costner movie Swing Vote.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:12 a.m. CST

    Hmmmmmmm

    by Series7

    Is this the only new real show coming out this summer? Everything else seems like its more reality TV. Man all that talk about Mad Men, when does that start back up.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:16 a.m. CST

    Mad Men returns

    by Hercules

    July 27

  • June 5, 2008, 1:23 a.m. CST

    No way will this have a Season 2

    by Mullah Omar

    In fact I wonder whether it will last until midseason. UNHAPPY SLIMEBALLS: THE SERIES does not sound like the sort of thing that advertisers want to associate themselves with or that audiences really want to watch.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:30 a.m. CST

    I guess Americas Next Top Dog

    by Series7

    Will have till due till then. Actually the reality shows this summer look mildly entertaining and are getting us one step closer to OW MY BALLS! I wonder how the American version of Tashiki's castle will be? Can't be worse then the Mole.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:51 a.m. CST

    Lemme guess.

    by gotilk

    It's the NEW 70s.<br> <br> Tube tops with wonderbras.

  • June 5, 2008, 4:08 a.m. CST

    So it's up against "Fear Itself"?

    by tonagan

    Isn't that the show that Moriarty is involved with?

  • June 5, 2008, 5:34 a.m. CST

    Why then?

    by The StarWolf

    If they HAD to do a show in the seventies, why get it wrong and focus on the latter part, when fashions were horribly bland compared to the earlier half of the decade?

  • June 5, 2008, 5:34 a.m. CST

    Maybe they give it to showtime if it runs decent.

    by ev1ldead

    The stuff has potential ...but not on a network.

  • June 5, 2008, 6:16 a.m. CST

    ill turn the tv back on,on july 27th then

    by bacci40

    cuz madmen is must see tv...the above show sounds like shit...

  • June 5, 2008, 6:18 a.m. CST

    StarWolf...early part of the 70s is still 60's ish

    by bacci40

    it wasnt till after nixon was ousted from office and disco came into being, did the 70s really become the 70s

  • June 5, 2008, 7:18 a.m. CST

    bacci40, SOL 68,JJ/JM/JH Dead early 70's

    by EvilWizardGlick

    People forget that the Summer of Love was 1968. That was pretty late in the sixties. <p> The big three, Joplin/Morrison/Hendrix all died by 1971. <p> Vietnam war ended in 1975. <p> So all the real hippy shit was in the early 70's. <p> Musically you had a great punk undertone with Lou Reed/David Bowie/iggy Pop. The Ramones were founded in 1974. <p> Disco didn't happen until 73 or 74.

  • June 5, 2008, 7:44 a.m. CST

    Sounds really lame. Sex! Drugs! But not really!

    by Yeti

    Although you know the fuckwits in the Family Television Counsel (or whatever it's called) will be glued to their sets to keep an eye on all the immorality so they can bitch about it.

  • June 5, 2008, 7:55 a.m. CST

    If you're gonna use Chicago, make it present day

    by terry1978

    There's only a handful of shows on now that utilize my hometown, and they usually get the culture so wrong it's sad...basically making it out to be NYC, only a little more culturally stunted.

  • June 5, 2008, 9:29 a.m. CST

    good job ny slimes

    by ZO

    Swingtown” is not as wryly tender as the sitcom “The Wonder Years,” set roughly during the same period, considering the wonder years was a classic 60's sitcom

  • June 5, 2008, 9:33 a.m. CST

    Winnetka

    by Funketeer

    I grew up in the town where this takes place. If they'd actually filmed it there I might be interested.

  • June 5, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Molly Parker

    by optimus122

    is still smoking hot..id love to bang her longtime. I really miss Deadwood :(

  • June 5, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST

    70's are played out

    by jimmy rabbitte

    ...just let them go...

  • June 5, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST

    No Naked Molly Parker, no need to watch

    by MGTHEDJ

    I hope Les has shut down his e-mail and forwarded his voice-mails to a dead extention, because he is going to catch so much shit from the conservatives tonight. And yes, why is this on CBS and not their sister channel Showtime?-----later-----m

  • June 5, 2008, 2:59 p.m. CST

    As someone said about Rodriguez's prison show...

    by Mo_Green

    ...if I want to watch porn, I'll watch porn. Who exactly is this show supposed to appeal to? Everyone has HBO and Showtime today so putting a show with no actual nudity and limited sexual content on network television is not going to titillate anyone. BAD IDEA.

  • June 5, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST

    EvilWizardGlick....no need to educate me

    by bacci40

    i was there...i remember seeing the first girl in hip huggers and elephant bells...i cringed at the first notes of disco and rejoiced at the onrush of punk...i still remember spending summer camp listening to yes and frampton comes alive....i am fucking old...and the reason i wont watch this show is because its not realistic...my parents (all of our parents) were like the parents of that 70s show...they werent swingers...some tried to be hip, but they were kids of the depression and the war...and thats why i love madmen...cuz those are the people our parents became...

  • June 5, 2008, 6:25 p.m. CST

    Wonder Years

    by oisin5199

    um, that was the mid to late 60s, this is late 70s, so not so much the same period there, New York Times. Get it right. Oh and this writer was from Winnetka (Chicago suburb) and based it on his childhood, and one of the actors is the woman who was phenomenal as the male singer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I remember when she was an undergraduate acting major at University of Michigan...

  • June 5, 2008, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Only way it'll work is

    by estacado1

    if it has nudity. Being on network, it will be a 1 season show.

  • June 5, 2008, 10:46 p.m. CST

    The swinging neighbor woman....

    by Smerdyakov

    Looks almost exactly like porn atar Kelly Nichols who'd be like 48-49 now. Who could forget her bathtub masturbation scene in "The Toolbox Murders."

  • June 5, 2008, 11:03 p.m. CST

    Is it -- as they blat on ET -- "sexy hot"?

    by kabong

    Hubba hubba. Going back another twenty years. They should reimagine Dobie Gillis. But make it sexy hot.

  • June 5, 2008, 11:34 p.m. CST

    Molly Parker got really raunchy in other films

    by JackRabbitSlim

    The one that pops to mind is The Center of the World - a shitty DV movie that features Miss Parker certainly seeming to rub one off on camera. Not the greatest career move.

  • June 6, 2008, 7:27 a.m. CST

    I like the one where she fucks a corpse.

    by Andre the Frog

    Talk about Stiff.

  • June 6, 2008, 7:39 a.m. CST

    And your point is?

    by The StarWolf

    Bacci40 - I'm not sure what your point has to do with my comment that, if one MUST set a show in the 70s (which is defined chronologically as 1970-1979 - check the calendar), why not do it in the earlier part when at least clothes and music were more interesting than in the bland, dull mid-late 70s?

  • June 6, 2008, 2:32 p.m. CST

    I, 4 1, love

    by Napoleon Park

    that their dope dealer is named Bud Green.

  • June 6, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST

    "allow depictions of consequence-free drug abuse"

    by jim

    That's not bad, it's depictions of drug USE that's a no-no. 70's Show never showed them getting high, just being high. It's the same for sex: pre & post coitus is ok, but the actual "gettin' it on" is very carefully controlled.<p>gotham_night, I think it is set in '76 (will they have an episode dealing with a big swinger bi-centenial blowout bash?). The Star Wars references will have to be put on hold until Season 2. Unless one of the kids is a sci-fi fan and has read about "this cool looking movie that's being released next year".

  • June 6, 2008, 7:42 p.m. CST

    And they shot it in Austin!

    by John Maddening

    When the kids are leaving the movie theater, it's the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar!<br> <br> ...and that was the most interesting part of the show.

  • June 7, 2008, 10:18 a.m. CST

    Might have been good if...

    by drumking94

    it was on Showtime. F-bombs, drug use, and titties galore!!!

  • June 7, 2008, 1:42 p.m. CST

    Depiction of drug use

    by Napoleon Park

    I did notice that the neighbor developing a cocaine dependency was out of it and looking to score, not shown snorting.<p>Also, they only show rolling papers, no weed or buds or folks cleaning stems and seeds on a double fold album cover.

  • June 7, 2008, 1:45 p.m. CST

    Just because the disco meat-market era

    by Napoleon Park

    was pre-Aids... we still had clap, syph, crabs and... what's that other thing people use condoms to avoid... oh, yeah, PREGNANCY.<p>They should do an episode where Susan finds her big-toothed daughter's birth control Pills.

  • June 7, 2008, 1:48 p.m. CST

    Anyone think one of the boys is gay?

    by Napoleon Park

    It's pretty normal for boys that age to hang out together and talk about how horny they are - there's nothing wrong with that, right? Just 'cause someone calls you "the other F-word", that doesn't make you one.<p.(Unless they call you that in an online media talk-back, because those people are always so astute.)[whatever a "stute" is.]

  • June 7, 2008, 1:50 p.m. CST

    HBO, Showtime... yawn

    by Napoleon Park

    Only testosterone-poisoned adolescents think the nudie shows on pay cable are tittilating. "Life is too short for softcore porn".

  • June 7, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Molly Parker reminds me of

    by Napoleon Park

    a cross between Laura Prepon and Dana Delany without being as pretty as either... but somehow that makes her sexier.

  • June 7, 2008, 1:55 p.m. CST

    Lana Parilla (Trina)

    by Napoleon Park

    was Greta on LOST. From the underwater Looking glass Station. That's where you know her from. I love her feathered Holly McCall hair-do on this. And I love the character's Bi-vibe. If only they could get Tracy Mitteldorf (Bonnie from Lost) for a hot Greta on Bonnie action reunion.

  • June 7, 2008, 2:56 p.m. CST

    People do we really wanna remeber 1970's titties

    by ChocolateJesusMan

    Fried eggs on a nail & bush like like a burmese jungle indeed

  • June 7, 2008, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Lana Parilla

    by jim

    She was also on 24. She was a CTU agent in season 4. But I remember her best from Boomtown ("the best show you've never seen").

  • June 7, 2008, 6:14 p.m. CST

    Yes, CJM. People want to remember real beasts.

    by Napoleon Park

    It's that awful shot-on-video crap with the silicone overinflated beach ball boobs that people want to forget.<p>And shaved was cool when Linda Lovelace did in in Deep Throat, but all this nonsense about trimming it into exCLAMations points and wedges and little boxes is just rediculous.<p>Over trimming, waxing, silicone boobs, collagen lips, tattoos and any body piercing not in the nipples or labia are what's wrong with modern porn. and don't start me on the atrocity of women paying to have their wings clipped to look "neat." Those meat curtains are there for a reason.<p>And chicks in their mid-twenties wearing braces on theri teeth and claiming that they've been teenagers for ten years is killing internet porn.<p>Seventies porn - "porno Chic" shot on film, with pretensions of quality and artistry - that's the ONLY porn that matters.<p>Well, that and Raven Riley and Liz Vicious together, that's good too. Google if you don't believe me.

  • June 8, 2008, 10:57 a.m. CST

    I support real breats (like a bra, I suppose)

    by Smerdyakov

    Maggie Gyllenhaal rings my chimes way more than Julie Strain.

  • June 8, 2008, 5:32 p.m. CST

    Breats vs. Beasts

    by Napoleon Park

    the slapdown of the stupid typos.<p>and Maggie Gyllenhaal was awesome in "Secretary". I only get basic cable but a few higher advanced basic channels leak through. I used to get Oxygen betwork but after they aired "Secretary" enough people complainled that Comcast had to fix that little problem. (More recently they did the same over the adult lauguage on G4.)

  • June 9, 2008, 4:26 p.m. CST

    433

    by MonkeyAngst

    Yeah, I just watched the pilot, and was floored to see the Drafthouse South there. I can't believe they paid all that money to recreate it brick-by-brick in the Chicago suburbs where the show is set. :) It did kinda sit wrong with me though, since I know that Drafthouse is only about five(?) years old, and looks nothing like a 70s movie theater (as best I can remember from my childhood, anyway). I recall multiplexes being pretty rare back then...

  • June 11, 2008, 4:09 a.m. CST

    multiplexus

    by Napoleon Park

    the studio 28 on 28th street in Wyomeing, a suburb of Grand Rapids Michigan was a two-theater construction as far back as the late '60s when it was built. the big theatre and the "little studio" which was basically the forerunner of what most modern theatres are like now. I'm sure that by 1977 "the Movies Ar Woodland" was a six-screen bulding - that's where I saw Star Wars. Things kept getting larger - they tore down the Beltline Drive-In next to the Studio 28 aand expanded the buillding and the parking lot to fill up the entire space. Last I heard it actually has 28 screens in several wings of a mall-like building and briefly laid claim to being the world's largest indoor theatre.