I love the beginning of summer when all kinds of new TV shows find their way on the air. Sometimes they are rejects from the previous fall or spring season, or sometimes they are just great shows that have shorter runs for whatever reason.
After seeing one commercial, I decided to check out Swingtown on CBS to see what it had to offer. Two married couples...set in the 70's...trying to make their relationships work. Or so I thought. I should have watched the commercial more closely.
This is a show about couples that "swing" -- that is, trade spouses for sexual pleasure. And it is not on HBO or Cinemax. Nope, it's on CBS during primetime when your adolescent kids are likely to be flipping channels. Entertainment Weekly describes Swingtown as "a partner-sharing show whose pilot episode features its protagonists doing drugs and engaging in a foursome."
I'm an advocate for looking for the good in culture, for celebrating the seeking, for addressing the questions that pop culture asks--even if their answers are misguided. However, I'm having a hard time finding anything good in this show. After watching the first two episodes, I found a show that communicates...
- Sexual relationships with multiple partners have no consequences.
- Your spouse is a prude if she/he won't let you sleep around.
- You can have sex with another person without bonding emotionally or impacting your current committed relationships in any way.
The executive producer and show creator, Mike Kelley, evidently doesn't see anything wrong with swinging. He talks about his childhood when he would peek through the banisters and see "one husband kissing another's wife, but it didn't feel dark. You can tell, there's just a lot of joy and love here." I bet he didn't see the aftermath of those "innocent" kisses.
He goes on to talk about how he pitched the show to CBS after being declined by several cable networks. He told the Nina Tassler, president of CBS entertainment: "We still want the leading lady to take [drugs] and have sex with the neighbors. We still want the underage daughter to smoke pot and flirt with her teacher. We still want the crazy neighbor lady to snort coke."
The amazing thing is that Tassler wants us to think this show reflects normal life. She says the show is "taking some risks, but at the same time exploring issues of family and things that are eminently relatable to our audience. We're pushing the envelope, but in a very responsible way." Really? I'd hate to see them push the envelope in an irresponsible way.
In the first two episodes of Swingtown, there are no consequences. Everyone is happy, which is amazing, because in the world I live in, when couples engage in these kinds of acts, people get hurt. Families blow up. Marriages disintegrate. Children get tossed back and forth and many never recover. Men grow in their insecurity and women feel cheap and used.
The good thing is that CBS has some limits. On a bulletin board in their offices where show notes are posted for upcoming episodes, it was indicated that the orgy should not include any "thrusting, bouncing, moaning, groans, etc." Thanks CBS. You're watching out for my family. Way to go.
I'm not going to sign a petition or support a boycott of CBS. But I am hoping for one of two outcomes: 1) The show loses steam and goes off the air; or 2) They begin to show the deep and long-lasting emotional scars, as well as the potential physical consequences that this type of activity will lead to. I think that's the best I can hope for. In the meantime, I'm going to do my part and stay away from CBS when Swingtown is on the air.