Preview: Swingtown


In the US: CBS mid-season replacement. No fixed airdate yet

In the UK: Acquired by ITV1/ITV3. No fixed airdate yet

There’s an odd trend of late on US TV. No, not the hiring of British actors for just about every TV series (are we cheaper than Americans, I wonder?), although you’ll see that on display here, too (Jack Davenport!!!). I mean the recreating of modern times past to examine the change in social attitudes. Whether it’s just that everyone’s been watching Life on Mars or there’s something deeper at work, I don’t know. But what with Journeyman diving off into the 70s and 80s at a moment’s notice, Mad Men recreating the early 60s in minute detail, and now Swingtown trying to capture the magic (?) of the 1970s’ wife-swapping parties, it’s clear a certain amount of historical navel gazing is part of the US networks’ current plans for the world of entertainment.

There are a few problems with Swingtown, however, that separate it from the glorious Mad Men and the thoughtful Journeyman. Not the least of these is the fact it is all about wild, promiscuous sex and yet it’s very, very boring.

Plot (swapped from a plot on the CBS web site)

From the director of “Big Love” and “Rome,” SWINGTOWN peeks into the shag-carpeted suburban homes of the 1970s to find couples reveling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced open marriages and women’s liberation. During this heady era of provocative change, Susan and Bruce Miller move their family to an affluent Chicago suburb in search of a sense of community where they meet their new neighbors, Tom and Trina Decker, a striking, outgoing couple on the hunt who redefine the term “neighborhood watch.” After a mind-blowing evening with them, Susan and Bruce realize that couples in this town share much more than recipes, local gossip and a view of Lake Michigan, and are worlds apart from their former conservative neighbors, Janet and Roger. In a changing social climate–defined by its music, fashion and style–everyone in SWINGTOWN is confronted with personal choices, experimentation and shifting attitudes.

Is it any good?

It was clear within the first ten minutes of the show that it’s going to die horribly on the great ratings altar. It is just so tedious, badly acted, stupid when it should be clever, and ultimately empty. Its one and only message so far is that back in the 70s, people used to try this swinging thing, which involved having sex with people who weren’t your husband or wife.

Gosh. Really?

It took the whole episode to get that far, too. The clue was in the title, guys. We knew that.

There are no interesting characters, no decent plot, no real examination of the different attitudes of the age (despite promises in the plot synopsis to the contrary). There’s not even any graphic sex, since this is CBS, which sort of defeats the whole point of having a show about swingers. There’s just a bunch of people in old clothes, driving old cars, etc. The absolute highlight of the show was a fight between two teenagers – it’s the only thing that raised my adrenaline levels above “deep coma”. Oh, apart from the occasional titter generated by Jack Davenport’s attempt at an American accent.

It’s obvious, of course, where this is going: the newly weds who move into Swingtown will find that shagging other people eventually places something of a stress on their marriage. Can I really be bothered to find out how long it takes the show to get there? Not really. One to avoid, I suspect, since it’ll be following Viva Laughlin down the plug-hole some time soon.


Shanna Collins (Laurie Miller)

Jack Davenport (Bruce Miller, Sr.)

Josh Hopkins (Roger Thompson)

Aaron Howles (Bruce “B.J.” Miller, Jr.)

Molly Parker (Susan Miller)

Lana Parrilla (Trina Decker)

Miriam Shor (Janet Thompson)

Grant Show (Tom Decker)

Nick Benson (Rick Thompson)


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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