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In the summer of ’76, I was 3 going on 13, and the mister, 8 going on whatever age Bette Midler became a bathhouse sensation. But who wasn’t? 1970’s nostalgia (especially sexually-charged) reigns supreme at Casa McPadden, so naturally CBS’ 2008 single-season summer offering “Swingtown” had us bumping butts back to the bicentennial.
Set in the suburban North Shore of Chicago, three couples are introduced to us, representing 3 points on the marriage scale. The main focus is on the Millers, Susan and Bruce, who in the pilot episode move into a swankier neighborhood as Bruce is really pulling down the g’s on the trading floor. They are the centrists of this experiment. The ultra boring nerdy friends they leave behind on the old block, Roger and Janet Thompson, suck joy out of life on one end, and the hot group-sex loving new rich neighbors, Trina and Tom Decker, suck whatever turns them on out of anything they choose on the other.
The Millers got knocked up in high school and are raising 2 teenagers. Susan has a hilarious patented wistful look that could and should be a drinking game (combine with every ciggie Trina lights up, BLOTTO). They’re on a new freaky trip and are ready to live a little. Susan admits to missing out on a lot while raising kids so young. Enter Tom and Trina.
The Deckers, a sexy airline pilot and stewardess-turned-smoking-pool-lounger-and-modern-design-aficionado, jog in matching short shorts, call each other babe a lot and treat foxy humans like wild game.
I love the Deckers. I am the Deckers, except for all the things they have, do and say. The Millers are quickly under the Deckers’ kinky sex and Quaalude spell.
The sad-sack Thompsons have sanctioned intercourse every other Friday night, and a pervy creep son who seems like he might hurt animals and eventually women. This kid is besties with the Miller boy who has the decency to at least have a sexy name: BJ. Interesting subplots revolve around the children, including BJ’s older sister, Laurie, a real feminist high schooler who regularly has lines like “Women can be whatever they want now” and “I get to choose when I have sex and I’m not stupid enough to get pregnant” or something like that. Laurie also mounts a flawless summer-school teacher seduction. Except that he’s an (attractive, young) adult and should know better.
BJ befriends a feral girl with the porn-y blond mom who blows dudes for dudes’ blow. That severely slutty drug-addicted mom is not without her charms. In the first of my “If you only watch two “Swingtown” episodes, make sure it’s these two” episodes, Trina hosts a fundraiser for Deep Throat’s Harry Reems after his FBI arrest (seriously, MUST SEE, Episode 5 “Go Your Own Way”), and feral girl’s shickered ma tells Harry what a huge fan she is and that Linda Lovelace is an amateur and she’d like to prove it. Tom tells Harry “she’s not kidding” and she adorably slurs and hiccups ”I’m not kidding.” I like her as the town’s sexiest drunk. And I can’t say 100% that I’ve never gotten a date like that.
The second “If you can only watch two” episode is called “Puzzlerama” and involves the Deckers’ annual horny, secret-revealing scavenger hunt. Our language does not contain enough words. There’s a prop in this show I thought hard about locating when “Swingtown” was officially cancelled. All I’ll say is “question mark.” Please find out for yourselves.
Boiled down, the series is about three different married women and what they really want out of life at a time in the world when those options seem infinite and well beyond their mothers’ dreams (and realities). Plenty of surprises fill 13 lucky episodes. Corny as hell to the hopeful end, but I have genuine affection for this show even though I count on one hand the other people I know who stuck out the season.
Originally pitched as a cable show, the real charm may come from the telling of these stories in an innocent enough made-for-network manner. Oh, and none of this stuff ever really happened. Your parents or grandparents did not go to key parties and no one met Harry Reems. They might have visited a playboy club, but everyone knows, those were as sexless as “Swingtown” on CBS.
Buy it, stream it, make passionate love to it and it's consenting adult partner.