Non-knee-jerk review: "Swingtown"

1. The summer series currently running on CBS isn't an amazing show. But it's a perfectly good show. And one that stands out amid the usual derivative programming that fills the airwaves. It's not a disturbing, bloody police procedural. It's not a loud reality show with preening contestants. It's not even a situation comedy in which everyone's witty and knows just what to say and how to say it. Which of course means "Swingtown" likely won't last long. It's too different. The ratings have declined each and every week for the show, so it's probably only a matter of time before CBS pulls the plug.
2. Yes, ostensibly it's about some couples in suburban 1976 Chicago who swap wives. But it's not nearly as racy as you might imagine.
3. Although it certainly often seems too racy for CBS. One just just imagine the sweaty palms of certain CBS executives watching the rough cuts. Drug use, implied nudity, pornography, promiscuity. In short, this is a show that probably would have thrived on HBO, TNT, or even AMC, places where smaller niche shows can thrive without the demand of big network ratings and audiences.
4. You really don't often seen shows that take so close a look at that awkward situation we've all found ourselves in when we change locations or social positions and have to balance the cool new friends with the slightly uncool old friends. It all feels very fresh.
5. Then again, the show also gives us the very unfresh subplot of a brainy high school girl and her blooming inappropriate romance with a young teacher. Been there, done that. And frankly, it was pretty boring then, too.
6. The three female leads - Molly Parker (our heroine), Lana Parrilla (the cool new friend), and Miriam Show (the uncool old friend) - are outstanding.
7. Clever idea for CBS to make available for downloading the show's 70s-infused soundtrack each week.
8. But all those disco-era songs are also an annoyance. The writing is often so strong that the show's frequent reliance on period songs seems somehow lazy. Does the episode about Molly Parker feeling the stirrings of the women's lib movement really have to end with Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman"? That's the kind of obvious, heavy-handed thing a junior film student would do. The show's better than that.
9. If you want to check it out, tune in before it's too late.

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