“Open and honest doesn’t always mean easy.”
-Tom Decker (Grant Show) (‘Puzzlerama’)
1976, America celebrates its 200th anniversary as its people celebrate their own awakening via the sexual revolution. Swingtown explores the clash of 1950s innocence with the tumultuous 1960s as both eras struggle to shape the dawn of the country’s third century.
Bruce Miller (Jack Davenport) moves his family from their roots and their longtime friends, the Thompsons, to suburban Chicago. There, they move in across the street from Tom (Grant Show) and Trina (Lana Parrilla) Decker. They learn early on that Tom and Trina are into swinging and the Deckers, for their part, are interested in bringing the Millers into “the lifestyle”, which clashes early and violently with lilywhite Janet Thompson (Miriam Shor).
The show explores not only the swinging lifestyle, but the times that spawned it, the people that live it and both the good and bad that it can do to relationships. The Millers struggle not only to find themselves, but to keep the family together as their kids go through their own growing pains. The Thompsons, for their part, struggle with the loss of their friends and the changing times. The Deckers may be the most well-adjusted of the lot.
Swingtown does a fine job of tackling a racy topic in a network television format. Nothing gets more provocative than the average daytime soap opera, but the points are communicated nonetheless. Fans of shows like Desperate Housewives will find this show worthwhile, but Swingtown has a purer heart and tells better stories about its characters, who in only one season are all very well rounded. The show is also better done than a lot of the other “period piece” shows, like Mad Men, with a catchy 70’s soundtrack and a look and feel that remain impressively consistent throughout.
CBS, sadly, cancelled the show after its inaugural season, although a vocal fan base still pushes for its return. It would be a shame to lose a show like Swingtown from network television, but in the meantime you can pick up season 1 on DVD and get up to speed for a hopeful return.