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June 20, 2008

The Countess Reviews "Swingtown"


When I saw the commercials about "Swingtown", I knew I had to see it. The Washington Post has covered the show. The show is set in an American suburb in 1976. I was sixteen years old that year, but I was raised in a conservative household in a working class, heavily Catholic neighborhood. I lead a rather sheltered and naive life as a teen. I knew I probably wouldn't relate much to "Swingtown", but it turns out that I did after all. I came of age sexually when I was a freshman in college in 1978, so I did experience some of what happened in "Swingtown", albeit a few years later.

As I expected, the show has lots of product placements to help Baby Boomers flash back to their lives in 1976. When I saw a can of Tab, I spat iced tea all over myself. My father was always on diets, and he drank Tab like it was going out of style. I thought the stuff tasted like battery acid, and I wouldn't touch it. I still go "ewwww!!" when I think of Tab. The show also has the dreaded tuna noodle casserole. I still cringe when I think of tuna noodle casserole. It reaches a whole new level of suck. The show is also full of songs from the 1970s, ranging from classic David Bowie (the good stuff) to cringe-worthy songs like "Seasons In The Sun". All of this is obviously designed to make the Boomers go, "Gotcha!"

The show opens with Bruce and Susan Miller and their daughter moving into a new neighborhood in the suburbs. Their new neighbors, Tom and Trina Decker, are swingers. So far, the show plays with the swinging idea, with the expected snippiness from Susan's uptight best friend and sexy but safe games played at parties; but everyone is straight. I think that Trina Decker, played by Lana Parilla, is the hottest of the four main characters, and she seems clearly interested in Susan as well as Bruce, but bisexuality doesn't seem to cross the show's radar - this early in the season, at any rate. I have a strong feeling that Trina is bi. It's just a hunch from the way she acts on the show. I'd like to see a little sexual variety that goes beyond the usual heterosexual swinging. I'll give the show more time to tackle that topic, assuming it ever does.

Trina Decker is the woman in the picture below carrying the strategically-placed cantaloupes. She's just scrumptious!

swingtown 2

While I'm enjoying the show, it plays it safe much like the way "Sex and the City" played it safe. I have no problem with that in this show. At least "Swingtown" isn't full of product placements the way SATC did. SATC was very materialistic, and I didn't care for the show at all. I'm waiting to see if the show relaxes a bit and goes into more depth.

I like the way Trina described swinging. She said there's no sneaking around and no lies. Everything is out in the open and on the table. That also describes polyamory. There is no cheating because everyone knows about each other and everyone is okay with the open relationship. Cheating involves subterfuge, which is not what swinging and poly are about. The show gave a good explanation behind open marriages.

One portion I'd take issue with is how the Playboy club was depicted. While the backward dip of the Bunny waitresses was accurate, not much else was. I read Gloria Steinem's article "A Bunny's Tail", and I knew that the women wore bunny costumes two sizes too small for them on purpose, especially so that their boobs would get pushed up. Drunken men at the club pawed at them, and when they left for the night, the drunks walking around the building confronted them, thinking they were hookers.

The one character I identify with is Laurie Miller, the Miller's teenaged daughter. She's smart and leaning towards being a feminist. She's also a free spirit. Remember that the second wave of feminism swept the U. S. in the mid-1970s. She reads Anais Nin, which is something I haven't done. Not yet anyway. I read Erica Jong. I really identified with her regarding the obvious mutual attraction between her and her teacher for a summer class she chose to take. I took voluntary summer classes when I was in high school. I also dated college professors who were much older than me when I was in college. One scene in particular really struck home with me. Laurie went to see a feminist version of the play "Waiting For Godot". It was a feminist, female-only version directed by her teacher's close friend. A guy is interested in her, but she isn't into him, and he treats her like crap. He goes to the play with her, even though he doesn't really want to, and proceeds to humiliate her in public. She's embarrassed by his behavior, and tells him to leave the theatre rather than continue to publicly humiliate her.

That scene reminded me so much of an experience I had as a college freshman. I asked a guy I was seeing if he would like to see me in a play I was cast in. He said he'd go, but he really didn't want to. He wanted to go out drinking instead since I think there was a mixer that night. So, he asked all my friends what the play was about so he could give intelligent answers when I asked him how he liked it. He planned to go out drinking during the show, and show up at the end. My friends refused to tell him what the play was about, and one of them told me what he was up to. I confronted him, and he admitted what he had done, but he didn't think he had done anything wrong, since he ended up going to the show after all. I didn't need a guy like that in my life, so I broke up with him that night. I, like Laurie, didn't need a guy around me who only wanted to humiliate me and use me.

So far, I'm enjoying the show very much. I can identify with some of it, but not all since I was too young in 1976 to experience the sexual revolution and feminism. As I said, I grew up sheltered and naive. It wasn't until I went to college that I came "of age".

And I was Hell On Wheels. Photobucket

Posted on June 20, 2008 at 02:56 PM | Permalink



Believe it or not, Swingtown was completely off my radar, which is funny because I loved Molly Parker on Deadwood and I've been waiting to see what she was going to follow it up with.

Thanks for the alert. I'll be watching next Thursday.

Gotta say, though, I'm not looking forward to seeing the 70s brought back to life.

Posted by: Lance Mannion at Jun 21, 2008 9:55:37 AM

The show isn't bad, Lance. I don't think it focuses too much on the '70s, not as much as other shows in the past. It's about the relationships between the couples and about their children. So far, I think it's pretty good. The Count is hooked, too. I'm curious to see where it goes.

Posted by: The Countess at Jun 21, 2008 11:36:48 AM

It looks interesting. I don't think any of our neighbors were into that when back then. Though there was one married couple that broke up because of cheating. That was the closest it ever got to swinging.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jun 24, 2008 4:07:44 PM

Same here, Sheelz. None of our neighbors were into swinging either. Just didn't happen in my neighborhood, but I also grew up in a Catholic working class neighborhood rather than an upscale suburb. Nobody divorced in my neighborhood, but one of my junior high school teachers divorced. She was the only one I ever ran across when I was a kid.

Posted by: The Countess at Jun 28, 2008 12:42:17 PM