TV preview: 'Swingtown' fails to recapture sexy '70s
After moving to an upscale lakeside Chicago suburb in July 1976, Susan and Bruce Miller (Molly Parker and Jack Davenport, right) must confront temptation in the form of their provocative new neighbors Tom and Trina Decker (Grant Show and Lana Parrilla, center), while not abandoning their old friends Janet and Roger Thompson (Miriam Shor, standing, and Josh Hopkins) in the new CBS drama "Swingtown."
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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 tonight, KDKA), is unlikely to fare any better, but at least it's a more interesting misstep.
- When: 10 p.m. Thursday, CBS.
Set in 1976, this hourlong drama about '70s swingers probably won't be palatable to the network's core viewers, but "Swingtown" isn't just misguided because it's on the wrong network. The show's bigger problem is that the resident "squares" are much more interesting characters than the swingers at the core.
The story begins as Susan (Molly Parker, "Deadwood") and Bruce Miller (Jack Davenport, "Pirates of the Caribbean") move from one suburban Chicago neighborhood to another. Their old friends, the squares, are sad to see them go. Janet (Miriam Shor, "Big Day") considers Susan her best friend and takes offense at her decision to move. Janet's hen-pecked husband, Roger (Josh Hopkins, "Pepper Dennis"), gazes at Susan a bit too long for him to feel mere neighborly affection.
When Susan and Bruce arrive on their new street, neighbors Tom (Grant Show, "Melrose Place") and Trina Decker (Lana Parrilla, "Boomtown") invite them to a party. Turns out it's a swingers party and Tom and Trina want to initiate Susan and Bruce as new playmates.
This aspect of the show, intended to titillate and surprise the staid CBS audience, is pretty predictable. Despite their protestations of how invigorating an open marriage is, it's obvious even in tonight's premiere that Trina is insecure after mustachioed Tom brings home a young flight attendant (he's a commercial airline pilot, the perfect career for a '70s swinger).
It's also clear that Susan is somewhat dissatisfied with the sex life she shares with Bruce, although I didn't buy that she's dissatisfied enough to jump into the neighbors' sack at the first invitation, even after taking a Quaalude. (The scene ends before much baum-chick-a-baum-baum action gets going.)
Uptight Janet is far more interesting. Why does she cling to Susan so fiercely? Does Roger desire Susan or is he merely interested in escaping Janet, who complains in front of their friends, "Couldn't you have put on some aftershave? You smell like lighter fluid."
That sort of bickering is more likely to resonate with viewers than anything that takes place in Tom and Trina's den of inequity, including a scene where a party-goer asks innocent Susan, "Do you have any coke?" like it's a request for a neighborly cup of sugar.
When: 10 tonight, CBS.
First Published June 5, 2008 12:00 am