Monday, June 16, 2008


The pilot of SWINGTOWN begins with the CBS station ID from 1976. It’s a nice touch but my first thought was – back then CBS would never air this shit. CBS was then the “Tiffany Network”. Their primetime schedule that season included ALL IN THE FAMILY, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, MASH, MAUDE, RHODA, THE WALTONS, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, and CAROL BURNETT. Now they show live street fighting on the weekends and a drama about wife swapping.

SWINGTOWN wants to be a cross between BOOGIE NIGHTS and ICE STORM. Instead, it’s really CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC meets I WILL, I WILL…FOR NOW.
It’s set in 1976 and comes with all the requisite nostalgic touches. Eight track tapes, clunky phones, leather jackets, vinyl, disco balls, the fifteen most overplayed oldies from the 70s. Guys all looked like Tony Orlando, girls all looked like Charlie’s Angels. It was the sexual revolution. Anything goes. Drugs, open marriages, Plymouth Dusters.

SWINGTOWN would have you believe their little Cheeveresque bedroom community in suburban Chicago was typical of the times. Everyone swung, took Quaaludes, partied every night, had money, wore nine pounds of jewelry, and got into everyone’s pants but Marie Osmond’s.

The 70s I remember featured gas shortages, energy shortages, Richard Nixon, 13% interest rates on homes, a recession, the Ayatollah, Abba, and Captain & Tennille.

I must’ve lived in the wrong neighborhood.

SWINGTOWN is supposed to be provocative, shocking, an HBO type show. But it’s not. It’s on network television. So there’s no nudity, no sex – everything is off screen and implied. Wow! Not exactly the kind of show you guys are going to Tivo then sneak downstairs to watch at 4 a.m when the wife’s sleeping.

And then there are the other smaller problems – what the hell are we watching? Why do we give a shit about any of these people? Is there a point to all of this? Is every episode just going to be who slept with who? Is this even a real series? What do they do the third season? Tupperware orgies? Threesomes with Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Not that there will ever be a third season. Despite all the steamy hype, the first two episodes of SWINGTOWN got killed in the ratings by the NBA FINALS – which makes sense. At least the Lakers and Celtics showed some skin.


Anonymous said...

The Lakers and Celtics are also having more extramarital sex. It’s the NBA got God’s sake. Incidentally, the producers knew CBS was no longer the Tiffany Network. The original pitch was an AARP-sponsored show called “Schwungers.” It was about people who vaguely recalled being swingers in the 70’s, but now can’t remember why. What the damned thing needs is a Mary Alice voiceover.

By the way Ken, “What are you wearing?”

Anonymous said...

What happened to my beautiful (Tiffany) network? Les Moonves, Julie Chen, oh my!

Anonymous said...

Was Julie Chen the cute Asian on the "Mixed Yentas Show"? That's the day time show that originally had a Yenta to represent every ethnic type. She got replaced by a dumb blonde. The fat sister got skinny and was replaced with a fat dyke, who got into a dust up with Donald Trump and was replaced by Whoopi who defies ethnic type casting. The hispanic just vanished one day. Then they got another fat sister who is dumber than the dumb blonde. Of course the head Yenta is Jewish. The show is up on a screen sometimes in the Fitness Center while I'm working out. Never caught the real title of the show, but "Mixed Yentas" works perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was smart social commentary of the times, SWINGTIME seems to be about forty years too late...

I hear CBS plans to follow-up SWINGTIME with a Charlie Angels remake, only this time Charlie will be a born-again Christian type and the three girls will be re-formed porn stars.

Sounds like a hit to me.

Anonymous said...

Was Julie Chen the cute Asian on the "Mixed Yentas Show"?

Unfortunately, I know this, and no, she wasn't. That was Lisa Ling.

Anonymous said...

The 70s I remember featured gas shortages, energy shortages, Richard Nixon, 13% interest rates on homes, a recession, the Ayatollah, Abba, and Captain & Tennille.

Oh great. Our economy's in the crapper, so does that mean a Captain & Tennille comeback is next?

Anonymous said...

It's not streetfighting. It's mixed martial arts and it takes a hell of a lot of skill and training and dedication.

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Reminds me of having married a swinger 20 years ago, she just never told me. I spent half that four year marriage with the hood up on my peepee fixing one thing or another.

Anonymous said...


OT – and I know it’s likely somewhere against BKL rules, but I couldn’t think of a more cynical and embittered group to share this post from this morning’s DailyKos with. Additional exculpatory PowerPoints: I think Ken also riffed on this a while ago; and it’s from “Koufax” award-winning “Bill in Portland” (although I am unsure if the Koufax blog awards only go to left wing bloggers).

Speaking to live airline booking agent helpfulness fee: $.25 per minute (including hold time)
Online reservation convenience fee: $5
Courtesy luggage-cuddling fee: $15
No-snooping-through-your-stuff guarantee: $3
Courtesy fee for booking a window seat, middle seat, and exit-row seat, respectively: $10, $5, $15
Seat-sharing waiver: $25
Use of "courtesy seat" at terminal gate while waiting for plane: $.10 per minute
Courtesy passage through enclosed ramp to plane door: $.02 per inch
Courtesy smile from boarding-pass checker or flight attendant: $1.50 each
Reassuring head nod from pilot or co-pilot: $2.50 each
Seat-back pocket rental fee: $2.00
Motion-discomfort bag restocking fee: $5.00
Courtesy test of flaps, rudder and landing gear: $4.75
Courtesy air circulation fee: $1.50
No-snakes-on-plane guarantee: $3
Rental of light from overhead reading lamp: $0.50 per minute
Water, coffee, tea and juice: $2 each
Courtesy lavatory flush: $3 each
Courtesy fee for not performing a courtesy lavatory flush: $100
Ask flight attendant a question: $1 each
Infant cone-of-silence (mandatory for infants over 80db): $20
Seat cushion that sinks: $2
Seat cushion that floats: $8
Mid-flight fuel check: $4.50
Landing-at-the-right-airport guarantee: $2.50
Courtesy disembarking fee: $25
Airline CEO country club membership courtesy contribution: $6

* For your convenience, please have the exact amount handy at all times. Courtesy change-making fee is $5. Thanks for flying and have a great day!

Anonymous said... are not recommending this show?

Anonymous said...

You know why "Swingtown" doesn't ring true to the mid 70's? Because the studio/network morons won't hire anyone for the writing staff who was actually IN their 20's during the mid 70's. Instead, they no doubt have hired some young "tyros" as they like to call them who are using "That 70's Show" as their research. This is so typical of the state of TV. I used to be proud to tell people I am a TV writer... not so much anymore. And I'm one of the very, VERY few writers who is in his mid 50's and is still working on a hit sitcom, thanks to some incredible showrunners who don't judge you by your age... only your contributions at the table and the quality of your first drafts.

Anonymous said...

Obvious good point.
Sure I wouldn’t be the first to propose this -- especially since it's a writers' issue -- but has there ever been a TV series proposed like “The Front,” where two established older comedy writers use a couple of kids (ideally from less cerebral occupations) to front for them as a sitcom writing team because of the agism issue? Not that there hasn’t been a lot of intergenerational stuff, but combined with snookering the network (I’m thinking Full House without the drag), there’s got to be something there? If only the puzzled look and sinking feeling response to lines like, “Yeh, we can put them into a band, like the Nairobi Trio.”

Late for the office, Larry; I’ll take my answer off the air.

Anonymous said...

CBS has finally caught up to sex, drugs and rock 'n roll! Next up: a show about gays!

Mary Stella said...

What do they do the third season? Tupperware orgies?

Only if someone invents burp top sex toys.

Anonymous said...

A snarky ken is the best ken of all.

Also, I guess if you fool around nowadays you're not historic, or topical, or cool, or illuminating changing sexual-social dynamics; you're just a dick.

Chris L said...

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are up for anything, you know! It's just that nobody thinks to ask them.

growingupartists said...

Do they let fans of the show submit their own episode ideas? I hear they're thinking of doing that for a new Internet show, it's called Motherhood something. Read about it in Entertainment Weekly.

Anonymous said...

Damn if they didn't pretty much nail the Chicago Playboy Club. I' ve still got a Playboy Club Keycard from that era. Wonder what it's worth on e-bay.

I really wanted Mark Valley to look directly into the camera and say, "Hi. I'm Eddie. How do you like me so far?"

Anonymous said...

Just ran across an episode of Cold Case from a few years that riffed off this whole 70s suburban Bob & Carol scene. Which seems about right for how long you can sustain interest of "look how loose Mom was in her 20's"--one episode of a series whose premise allows now & then juxtiposition versus this dreary series thaty just wallows. The best thing that can be said for it is it is one less hour of cheap/stupid reality programming!

Anonymous said...

"look how loose Mom was in her 20's"

Maybe I should have said Grandma...

Anonymous said...

I work for this show, and I totally agree with you, Ken. Everyone else in the office seems to think we're working on a genius show, and I just don't see it.

Is this normal?

Even the title is terrible. I can't tell you the number of people I've talked about the show with, and they're like, "Swingtime? What?"

Other Anonymous-- you're right, the oldest writer is in his forties (I think). The show runner was a kid in this time period.

Anonymous said...

Well anyone who truely lived through this period in their 20s, like me (I turned 20 in 1970), would know better than to - ah - mount this series in the first place.

How about a REALISTIC show about 1973 or 74? Call it GAS LINE, and it's about people living in their cars while waiting in line to buy gasoline. The lines are so long, that when they finally get gas, they just get back in line again. They listen to Vietnam reports and the Watergate hearings on their car radios, and try to have sex in reclining bucket seats.

And with gas around $1 a gallon, the nostalgia factor is through the roof!

Jenius said...

I have no problem with keeping all the "offending" material offscreen, as long as the writing is good enough to keep your interest without it. I can't remember how many times I've heard mention of censorship being a blessing in disguise, spurring creativity and funnier jokes. At least twice.

But if it ain't delivering on that end, it's all over. It's harder to be funny or provocative without pushing the envelope of "decency."

You might say, it's harder to be Sinbad than Eddie Murphy. If you wanna air Raw, go to Showtime where you can do it right. There are enough idiots like me who will blow $7 a month on that before we watch the laughable watered down version of Dexter.

Suck on that, motherlovers.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that the guy who's proclaiming his love for decencny can't even actually stay in a moral hightone when writing his review of others comments in his review. Unfortunately, it may have been someone I know. I, on the other hand, remember the 70's as a teenager. I had a pretty good time. Though I did have to fend off a few child-molesters of both sexes. Most of the women were beautiful as I recall. However, I didn't watch this show I assumed it would suck. Uh though, if you were looking for the town where this kind of thing really was going on and pretty still is it's here. I just hope they bring back the Big Bang theory.

TCinLA said...

It's actually even worse than "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" - which it wants to rip off - when it comes to being completely clueless. B&C&T&A at least helped kill the morons of the old studio system when it came to trying to be "hip." Too bad this won't have the same effect.

Every time I see some 20-nothing or 30-something running around in bad 70s fashions I want to grab them and shake them and say "You're frakking lucky you didn't live back then in the worst freaking decade of the 21st cwentury, only exceeded by 8 years of Darth-damn-Cheney!" (The monster from the 70s we'll only kill when we drive a cedar stake though him and leave the body for the sunrise to ignite)