Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: Swingtown

The much anticipated debut of the CBS series Swingtown has finally happened, and I can't wait to see the next episode (this Thursday at 10:00 p.m. EDT). If you missed it last Thursday and need to be brought up to speed, you will find CBS's synopsis here.

The lives of the Swingtown characters were instantaneously recognizeable to me, and I'm sure CBS is counting on attracting many of we babyboomers. The most fascinating part of the story for me is that the swinging neighbor couple, Tom and Trina Decker, appear for all the world to have a very affectionate, loving, dare I say solid relationship. CBS didn't give in to temptation to paint them as troubled or morally defective or that they are in any way heading for a marital train wreck. Such temptation is understandable, since historically it has been safer to demonstrate how behavior that is traditionally viewed as immoral will lead to personal disaster. I imagine that our generally sex-negative society made this necessary in order for the network not to alienate a great many viewers.

But hooray, it seems that the times, they are a-changing! At least so far, CBS has presented this subject in non-pejorative terms. In fact, of the three couples who are the central characters, in addition to Tom and Trina, pictured here to the left, Susan and Bruce Miller (in the middle) are clearly very happily married and evenso have the capacity to receive the idea of swinging with an open mind.

Jane and Roger Thompson, on the right, are a different matter, though. Poor Roger is the long-suffering husband of a frigid, priggish wife who runs screaming from the room when she inadvertently discovers what's going on at the Decker's party. She immediately insists that she, Roger and the Millers leave the party, but the Millers elect to stick around. In a subsequent scene Jane is seen to be frantically scrubbing the kitchen, declaring that the house is a pig stye (it's clearly already perfect, since Jane is the model wife and mother) and saying in an angry tone to Roger "Don't touch me!" when he tried to reach out and comfort her.

Another fascinating aspect of Swingtown is the sexual exploring, coming-of-age experiences of these families' teenagers. Their stories are just as important and compelling as the stories of their parents.

There is a lot of drug use portrayed (coke, weed and quaaludes.) I'm sure there are lots of conservatives who were just as scandalized by that as by the open sexuality. I recall that aspect of that time as well and think the story wouldn't be authentic if that part of life back then weren't also referenced. It is essential, in fact, as it is another example of our cultural desire in the 1970s to experiment and break away from the strict moral and social standards with which we had lived for many years prior.

I very much enjoyed being taken back to the mid 1970s - the music, the clothes, all of it. I was a young 20-something married woman at that time, a child of the 1960s and the sexual revolution, but not quite yet a mom or living in an affluent suburb, though that would soon follow. I don't recall living across the street from anyone like Tom and Trina, though I do recall some flirtation and making out with some neighbors we were close to - let's see, his name was Ralph, and hers was Sharon. Then there were Bud and Sandy, who came to our halloween party dressed as love bugs, those kind of cute but annoying, car-paint-peeling insects in central Florida that fly in swarming, procreating pairs. To this day it was the most clever couple's costume I've ever seen.

Ah, those were the days, and what an exciting time it was. Hopefully Swingtown will succeed and continue to take us back to this time of great social change that laid the groundwork for the next chapter in the sexual revolution.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought Swingtown was lots of fun, especially since I was very young during the 70s. It will be interesting to see how the characters develop over time, and i hope the writing stays solid. At first, I thought it might be cheesy, but then the characters pulled me in.

For myself, I'm seeing lots of synchronicities. Swingtown premierers, Jenny Block's book on open relationships is being published--and my partner and I are discussing opening our own relationship. We'll see how it goes...