Tonight was the premiere of CBS's summer show Swingtown. My hopes were high as I sat down to watch what could potentially be a salute to open relationships and the "free love" of The Seventies. Unfortunately, I don't feel like the show delivered.
Perhaps it was the fact that we all knew the inevitable was going to happen, so the show felt rushed. Or maybe it was the fact that the characters were insanely predictable from the minute we met them. Or could it be the fact that they packed almost EVERY seventies cliche into one mere hour-long episode? It could just be that the acting was mediocre at best. But I would bet it's a combination thereof. Hey, at least the music was good! (And I'd hope it would be, since they promoted it at the bottom of the screen every time a song was playing. Hellooooo advertising!)
OK, so I'm probably being a little harsh, since it's only the pilot episode, but although my wise friend cautioned me that she was worried even the best intentions might be ruined if they got too corny with it, I was still let down by what could be a potentially really fun-loving farout show! (Well, at least they haven't overpowered us with the seventies vernacular... yet.)
Here's the thing: If you're going to have a show like Swingtown, you're going to have to go all the way. (Pun totally intended!) Swingtown has enormous potential to really show the struggles of couples trying to discover for themselves how the 'free love' concept fits in their own lives. You're going to need more provocative scenes to make it believable, and you're going to have to show the scope of emotions that the characters go through trying to reshape their relationship. At this point, America is still too puritanical to accept that kind of unconventionality on primetime TV. And I'm not saying that's a problem, I'm just saying that the creators of Swingtown need to accept that, and take their show to a more fitting outlet. HBO, for example.
I felt like the major part of what was lacking in this pilot episode was character development. Most pilot episodes take the time to really introduce you to your characters. They give you some time to get to know these people, so when a big change occurs you're able to really empathize and understand the gravity of the situation.
Because we knew that new-to-the-neighborhood Susan & Bruce Miller were inevitably going to be tempted by the swinger lifestyle of their new neighbors Tom & Trina, it seemed like the character development was skipped over to jump directly into the plot. Besides a quick quibble between Susan & Bruce which hinted at their less than perfect sex life, we didn't really know what was going on with their marriage before they jumped right into a foursome! Sure the quaalude and marijuana helped, but I just felt like the whole thing was hasty.
I was also slightly puzzled by the attempt to create profound storylines for other characters, such as Susan & Bruce's teenage daughter Laurie having a less than professional relationship with her teacher, and a sex-only relationship with her stoner boyfriend. Also, runaway Samantha's breaking and entering and what will be an inevitable blossoming relationship with Susan & Bruce's son, B.J.. And even prudish neighbors Janet & Roger's son getting beat up by a girl for spreading rumors about them "going all the way". To me, it was an overzealous attempt to fit more into an hour than is possible. It just left all the storylines feeling inadequate & a feeling of predictability that makes me wonder if it's even worth it to see these stories play out. I think it would have been much better suited to introduce these storylines later on in the season to allow for proper progression.
I'm probably being a bit ruthless here, but I was really hoping CBS could deliver an intellectual view of alternative lifestyles without cheesing it up.