How much do I love this very short-lived series which originally aired on CBS during the summer of 2008? Well, I believe I can declare it my favorite television series. I know, I know. I hear some of you shouting "What about DOCTOR WHO and POPULAR and HATERS BACK OFF!?" I do love those series, and the latter is my favorite Netflix series, but there is something about SWINGTOWN that emotionally turns me on.
SWINGTOWN takes us on a retro disco ball spin back to 1976. America is celebrating its 200th birthday and Susan and Bruce Miller are celebrating their new home. Susan and Bruce were busy raising their kids during the counterculture/sex revolution, so it's surprising when the celebration leads to a swingin' night with adventurous new friends Trina and Tom Decker. Trina and Tom have open minds and an open marriage, making them the polar opposites of Janet and Roger Thompson. Janet and Roger are friends of the Millers from the old neighborhood and they are not fans of change, especially Janet. How will they fit into Susan and Bruce's new life? The answer to that question is the key to this under-appreciated series.
There is so much more to SWINGTOWN than the titillation of a key party and the retro-horror-glamour of '70's fashion. Take a peek under the covers and you will find emotionally authentic and complex characters. You will become intwined in relatable storylines from first loves to forbidden loves to finding strength within yourself in a changing world. You will also experience character development on a scale rarely seen in American television. Even a thread of teen angst is explored in a mature, thoughtful way that reflects the growing pains the adults are experiencing.
It's the character development that keeps me popping in the DVD's. The characters you meet in the first episode have grown in different ways by the last episode. I hesitate to say the characters change because it's not that simple. The development patiently evolves from confronting their fears or exploring their desires throughout the series. Sometimes this is as subtle as perusing a scrapbook and sometimes it's as bold as eating a pot brownie. Either way, the collective journey of these characters feels very real and is a remarkable piece of writing.
As for the acting, I think the entire cast is great, but it's the three main actors who are riveting to watch. Molly Parker brings an effervescent aura and down to earth intellect to Susan Miller's search for her authentic self. Lana Parrilla brings a quiet strength and a disarming vulnerability to Trina Decker's examination of herself and those around her. Miriam Shor brings fierce determination and hard-earned sympathy to Janet Thompson's struggle to find her place among new ideas and experiences. Yes, fully realized, emotionally complex women are the main characters in a series dealing with swingers, which is one more reason I love SWINGTOWN.
I must add that SWINGTOWN was tragically canceled after one season. Sometimes I wish it would've lasted longer, but as I've said before in this blog, maybe it was for the best. Sure, the series ends with some unresolved issues, but I feel satisfied after the final episode because I understand where the characters are heading.
In conclusion, I could go on and on about this series, but my goal is to wet your appetite for this overlooked gem. So, if you're in the mood for a bit of fun, with a tease of wild and a generous helping of emotional stimulation, then let SWINGTOWN turn you on.
P.S. If SWINGTOWN is my top TV series, then what is my favorite film?
My certain feeling about SWINGTOWN is why I'm extremely proud of this review of DARK EXCURSIONS...