Summer time on CBS has traditionally been good for exactly two things…round-the-clock repeats of “CSI”, and three weekly episodes of “Big Brother”. And though “Big Brother 10” is still a few weeks off — we’re counting the days, Chenbot! — the “Tiffany network” has really shaken things up this summer by airing the shockingly- good original series, “Swingtown”.
Set in the candy-colored world of key-party-loving 70’s suburbia, the show seemed destined to fail from the outset. I mean, whoa…that title alone sounds a little more HBO or SHOWTIME than CBS. But for whatever reason, stodgy old CBS is airing this show and we could not be more thrilled about it!
I know it sounds like a one-note concept — “The Ice Storm” lite, if you will — but “Swingtown” is packed full of fresh, funny, and richly-imagined characters and enough complex subplots and drama to sustain the show through at least three or four seasons. And surprisingly, the best stuff on “Swingtown” has little or nothing to do with the swinging!
Sure, the sexy title got you in the door for the first episode — or at least it did us! — but three episodes in, “Swingtown” has revealed itself to be a pretty kick-ass TV show. Calling to mind some of the more nuanced, character-driven series of the past like “My So-Called Life” and “Freaks and Geeks”, “Swingtown” is, at its core, a beautifully crafted, often hilarious, show about people and relationships. I know, a good show airing in the summer? Shocking!
But maybe a slot on the CBS summer schedule is just what this show needed. With other networks churning out crap like “America’s Got Talent” and “Celebrity Circus”, ‘Swingtown” has the cool adult dramedy category pretty much all to themselves. So rock on, Swingers!
Centered around a trio of vastly different families — two of which have teenage children — the show spends just as much time developing the relationships between the kids as it does the adults, and the payoff is spectacular. I am not exaggerating when I say that there has not been a family drama this good since the late, great “Once & Again” left the airwaves.
Another thing “Swingtown” has going for it is humor. Like “Freaks and Geeks”, the show’s sly, deadpan humor is sometimes so painfully realistic that you’ll find yourself wincing through the laughter. There was a subplot recently about the boys selling their father’s Penthouse magazines to their friends that I swear could have been lifted directly from my childhood. Although, if memory serves, my Dad was more of a Playboy man…and, trust me, my brother and I would have never sold those gems to anyone!
Anyway, um…back to “Swingtown”. Despite what our friends at Because We Love It might say, if the super cool characters and crackling good dialog doesn’t win you over, then surely the costumes and set design will. I can’t tell you how many times Christine and I have paused just to stare at the groovy stuff in these folk’s kitchens and living rooms and shout out: “We had that!” Hilarious.
And just when you think the nostalgia factor couldn’t get any higher, there is the music! Swirling disco classics giving way to awesome 70’s rock and folk, hell, half the time you’re wondering how they even afforded these songs. In last week’s episode, they actually played the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in it’s entirety. Do you know how much that song alone probably cost old Les Moonves? Wow!
But seeing as last week’s episode was the first to feature full-length opening credits, perhaps CBS has decided to throw some more money at the show since it’s pulling in halfway decent ratings. Whatever the reason for the support, we just hope they keep this amazing show on the air through the summer and hopefully beyond. Yep, it’s that good!
“Swingtown” airs Thursday nights at 10PM, so, toss your car keys in the bowl by the door and check out this rocking good show for yourselves.