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October 13, 2015

Swingtown: Go Your Own Way

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 4th 2008 11:58AM
Logo-swingtown-cbs(S01E05) What does Nadia Comenici, civil liberties, Harry Reems and bowling have in common? They were all woven into this very topical episode of Swingtown, one of the best of this summer series thus far.

The undercurrent of swinging and sex was still there, but the theme of the show was more about choice and control, who makes them and and who has it.

The Millers aren't in synch. In fact, Susan is the first to say it out loud, turning to Trina for guidance. I really like how the women on this show are becoming more real with each episode and less types. Trina is so much more than the wanton from the pilot.

She's smart and supportive, not only to Tom, but to Susan and Janet too. The scene in which she opens up to Tom and reveals her fear of losing him was the most tender moment yet on the show.

Politics were front and center in the show, but not Ford vs. Carter -- which should have been on their minds in the summer of 1976, if you ask me (it's in the title credits, but that's it).

No, the politics centered on the U.S. government suing actor Harry Reems to censor his appearance in Deep Throat. As Sylvia says in the show, the Decker's fundraiser was to help Harry's defense fund, not to support pornography.

When Susan was challenged by Sylvia because she doesn't know anything about the issues -- she thought the Decker party was another swinging session -- then is basically warned by Bruce to not go, she asserts herself. Susan reads about the subject, goes to see Deep Throat -- alone-- then reaches out to Janet for support.

To Bruce, Susan using her brain and asserting her independence is unsettling and he reacts by turning childish and churlish. All through the show, he's condescending Bruce, kissing the little lady's head, asking where's my dinner? Bowling with Roger is more important than anything Susan has to say. In the end, he turns away from her in bed. Is that a punishment for his wife, no sex?

Speaking of sex on demand, Roger and Janet have a very set schedule for sex -- every other Friday night and no veering. But Harry Reems changes things. Janet supports Susan by showing up at the party. Harry flirts with her, which is interesting because he rejected Gail (Samantha's mom). After the party, back home with Roger, Janet gives her husband a look and they go at it in the kitchen. Thank you, Harry!

Ultimately, all the women express themselves. Laurie challenges Logan to make a choice based on intellect, not emotion. Janet and Susan and Trina lock arms in support of each other and their desires to be more than just their husband's wives. Even Samantha and her mother embrace. When B.J. sees how Samantha cares for her mom, he gives her a sign of approval -- a perfect score, 10.0, just like Nadia in the Olympics. Using the same grading system, I give this episode of Swingtown a 9.8 -- only Nadia is perfect.

Other points of interest

-- The Rialto movie house -- a single movie theater, not a multiplex -- should have looked more like what it was back then, a porno theater. There were no X ratings on the marquee.

-- The actor playing Harry Reems (Rick D. Wasserman) was quite good, but the standee of Harry was all wrong. The moustache was right, but Harry had a very hairy chest. I don't know about you, but I demand accuracy in the depiction of porno stars from the era.

-- Actor Bob Balaban directed this episode and it made a difference. In 1976, he was in Maude and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, so he has a good handle on the times. He also showed a good handle on Swingtown. He really explored the characters and issues that haven't been touched upon before. I hope he directs more shows.

-- I loved the contrast between the Tupperware party vs. Deep Throat party.

-- Talking to Janet, Harry says he did the movie not to make a political point about censorship. "It was a job," he says. Amazingly, he got only $250 for the movie. Harry actually came off as a nice guy caught in a weird situation, but was he really that innocent -- or naive? How could he have not known that doing Deep Throat was going to be controversial?

-- Janet tells him that she's into sales, mostly to women. Is Harry looking for a job when he says, "I'm pretty good with women." Probably not.

-- As the show progresses, Bruce is a becoming more and more of a jerk. It's okay for him to see Deep Throat, but not Susan? He loves the sex with Susan, but he doesn't like how she's changing.

-- Samantha's mom is still a mess and getting worse. I think she's heading for a suicide attempt. Sam's already scarred, what would a suicide attempt do to her?

-- Singer Helen Reddy finally made an vocal appearance with "I Am Woman." You knew it was just a matter of time before the female liberation theme was used.

-- Laurie's comment to her mother for standing up to her father, "Way to go, Mom." It underscored the choice that Susan made and the importance of that choice. She set an example for her daughter...and all women.

-- The swinging Deckers choose not to join the orgy in the basement. Tom says he wants alone time with his wife.

-- "I just want to know where all this is taking us?" Bruce wonders at the end of the show. The viewers might be wondering the same thing, but whether we see Swingtown through to 1977 and beyond remains a mystery.

-- Just an observation, but the Decker's kitchen looks much too 2008. Those are granite countertops and the color is a warm red. In 1976, there should be avocado green and formica everywhere.
Can Trina be certain that Tom really loves her?
Yes, he's sincere33 (31.1%)
No, he's incapable of monogamy13 (12.3%)
Yes, he always comes back to her60 (56.6%)

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I'm actually liking the show better and better each week, but dear lord that daughter has to go. Her character is smug and superior, and the actress is simply dreadful.

I really liked the scenes with Harry Reems and Janet; it made sense that he would push away Gail, who saw him only as a sex toy, and try to put at ease the woman whom he made uncomfortable.

I lived through the era, too--in fact, I was about the daughter's age--and they do seem to have the culture down pretty well. (I remember Rutgers screening "Deep Throat" when I was there in '77...can't imagine any campus getting away with that nowadays. I went with a bunch of friends, and we responded much like the Dexters' guests: giggling.) The music's kinda one-note, though--way too much Top 40 and very little AOR; I was listening to Bowie and the Allman Brothers, not Helen Reddy. The 70s weren't all just "Brand New Key."

July 05 2008 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment

I totally agree with you about the daughter. She's the one grating note in an otherwise very likeable cast. I find it painful to watch her.

July 06 2008 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love, love, love, love this show. Best thing on TV right now, bar none.

July 05 2008 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Having lived the era, (I was married in the mid-sixties through the late seventies), this show depicts the culture quite well.

July 05 2008 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Connie Dinkle

Swingtown continues to be one of the best written and well constructed shows on TV. Each episode gives us a stylized, satisfying story that comes full circle by its end. Bravo to Mike Kelley and CBS!! It's doing well, so lets hope CBS gives it a 2nd season!

July 05 2008 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I give it six episodes before it tanks...


July 04 2008 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Swingtown is a nice summer surprise. When the broadcast networks have all but given up on producing anything other than cheap, craptastic "reality" shows coated with snipes for yet more mindless reality shows - Swingtown is a smart, funny, sexy trip back in time. Characters are well constructed and the relationships ring true. All the couples love each other, and in a twist - the most stable and loving couple has the most unconventional relationship.

If you're not watching - you're missing out.

July 04 2008 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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