Between Nina Tassler’s tantalizing promise that CBS would “push the envelope” and the Parents Television Council’s early condemnation of the program as “one of the most sexually indulgent shows we’ve seen on broadcast television in a long time,” you’d had thought “Swingtown” was the Sodom and Gomorrah of summer television, wall to wall with hot bodies and steamy sex.
Ironically, the PTC actually oversold the show’s salaciousness. And a wary CBS seems to have undersold the sizzle it did have.
But apart from Lana Parrilla’s eye-catching retro swimwear and the recurring nods to amorous air crews, “Swingtown” turned out to be a compelling family drama — not exactly for the family, but about the family.
While its opening credits breezily flipped through the iconic images of the decade (from Jimmy Carter campaign buttons to Farrah Fawcett’s famous poster) “Swingtown” at its core has been all about reflective pauses: a suburban couple who married early and wonder about the roads not taken; a pair of wedded traditionals buffeted by the changes in society and their own gender roles; teens looking to find their own path while their parents veered from the traditional one. Adding further irony — given all the hype about the show’s presumed assault on mainstream morality — even the show’s swinging adventurers, Tom and Trina, ended up heading down the road toward conventionality as they pondered the responsibility of having a child.