Sex and Drugs on CBS? Oh My! A review of 'Swingtown'
Or a show about home decorating where you weren't allowed inside the house.
That's a little bit how I felt watching the pilot episode new CBS series Swingtown (premiering Thursday at 10 p.m.). The series kicks off on July 4, 1976 when Susan and Bruce Miller (Molly Parker and Jack Davenport) move across the street from Tom and Trina Decker (Grant Show, sporting a mustache Earl Hickey might envy, and Lana Parrilla).
As the title would suggestion, Tom and Trina are swingers with an open marriage. In the provocative opening scene, Tom, who is an airline pilot, brings home a new stewardess for a little tryst with his wife. I've been a fan of Parrilla since her days on Boomtown, but here she really seems to be trying too hard to convince viewers that she's part of the sexual revolution. She has a perpetual "come hither" look on her face.
There is a lot of sex in the pilot but because of the confines of network TV, so much is implied. I'm not for gratuitous sex on TV but it's a little odd that the camera gives the viewer flashes and quickly pans away. You can almost feel the show struggling to avoid the network censors and it's distracting. My first thought was -- this show would have had a much easier time on cable.
As Susan and Bruce begin to, shall we say explore, life with their new neighbors, they are quickly willing to try many things. It's hard to get a read on Susan and Bruce as characters since we don't really know who they are before they rapidly begin to change. They also leave their old neighbors, Susan's best friend Janet (Miriam Shor) and her husband Roger (Josh Hopkins) behind. Shor brings Janet's jealously and panic about being ostracized by her best friend to life.
I got a better sense of the show by watching the second episode. The series delved deeper into the lives of the children and how the turbulent decade affected multiple generations. So I'm curious enough to keep watching but not quite sure what the show is truly going to be about yet. I do hope that CBS keeps it on longer than Viva Laughlin, its other "we're not your father's TV" show they had this season. I would like to see where the showrunners are heading and how they begin to balance how the multiple themes the show wants to tackle. For now two and a half stars with some bonus points for having a great soundtrack (it's sounding like no popular song from the 70's will go unplayed). After you've watched the show, talk about it below and let me know what you think.
I can sum up the appeal of Army Wives in two words -- mismatched pajamas. Throughout the second season premiere (Sunday at 10 p.m. on Lifetime), Roxy (Sally Pressman), who is anxiously awaiting news of her husband Trevor (Drew Fuller), is decked out in sleepwear that doesn't coordinate.
This small detail is so true to life (really how often do you go to sleep in some of the get ups most TV characters wear?) that it really grounds the show in reality. You can't help but feel that not only do you know Roxy but you could so totally be friends with her.
That's how I feel about all the characters on Army Wives. I like them. I would go on a trip to the spa with them or out for a gossipy dinner. Sure the show is a soap opera but it's a good and addictive one. And, as the series proves in the premiere, it is a show with consequences. Last season ended with a jealous Army husband walking into the bar (where most of the Wives were conveniently located) and setting off a bomb. Many shows might have had everyone survive such violence, but not Army Wives.
That means get your tissues out. The episode is handled in a clever way and I genuinely feared for several of the characters throughout the hour. And certainly the consequences of what happened will ricochet throughout the rest of the season -- a season I am really looking forward to. Four stars. After you watch the premiere, talk about it below and let me know what you think.
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Time for June 2-8
If you're like me, you may have arrived late to the party Gossip Girl (Monday, CW, 8 p.m.) was throwing. (I think my invitation got lost in the mail). So I'll be checking out this early episode where Dan finds out that Serena and Nate know each other better than he thought.
So many of you have asked me what I thought about the season finale of One Tree Hill (Monday, CW, 9 p.m.). And aside from again being reminded just how cute the kid who plays Jamie is (seriously even Gavin Degraw thinks so) and enjoying Dan's little path to redemption before being hit by a car, I didn't love it. The ending was too hokey for me (I actually think I don't care any more who Lucas chooses, do you?). But I think my major problem with the show is once the other shows returned from the strike, I realized I was merely biding my time with One Tree Hill and that I'm just not that into it. Do you feel the same way?
After a four year break, The Mole returns to ABC Monday at 10 p.m. Twelve people compete to figure out who is trying to sabotage them. If they succeed, they'll win $500,000.
CBS repeats an NCIS episode from December 2006 Tuesday at 8 p.m. I've also tracked down this cryptic quote from executive producer Shane Brennan about next season. He wrote, "The season opener will resolve why Director Leon Vance split up Gibbs' team. The opening episode will be very revealing..." Okay so I'm just as confused as ever but at least we know we'll have some answers as soon as the new season begins.
Those of you who have been fretting about Law & Order: Criminal Intent will be happy to know that the show returns with new episodes Sunday at 9 p.m. on USA.
That's all for today. I'm back on Wednesday with familiar faces and to kick off the annual Amy Awards (that's where you pick the categories, you pick the nominees and you pick the winner). Have a question or a topic for discussion? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.