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August 28, 2015

What's really real in Swingtown?

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 5th 2008 2:02PM
Harry Reems partyHow much of Swingtown is real and how much is pure fiction? According to Mike Kelley, Swingtown's creator, there are elements in the show that come right from his childhood memories of growing up on the North Shore, a trendy suburb of Chicago. But the sex and the swinging? That's mostly creative license.

So were there really sex parties and swinging in the Kelley home? "You know, it comes from imagination, for the most part."

Inspired by 1976, the era of women's liberation, disco-dancing, the end of the Vietnam War, and sexual freedom thanks to the pill and no AIDS, Kelley balances the fantastic elements with nostalgia.

For instance, the big Cadillac convertible that Bruce Miller drives with pride, that was right out of Mike's scrapbook. He has a picture to prove it. "There's dear old dad with his pride and joy. We had many family trips in that car."

Another real moment was the recent episode where the wallpaper was ripped off the wall. Mike's mom, Marcia Arnold, confirmed that fact. "We actually did that; we were going to redecorate and we were having a party and I thought, 'Gee, why don't we just write on the walls? It would be fun.'"

On Swingtown, the characters have lots of parties -- July 4th, Tupperware, fundraisers -- and that's reflective of Kelley's childhood. "They threw amazing parties, all theme parties. ...We use a lot of the parties that I remember specifically from the day."

Except without the orgies in the basement and the couple swapping, at least in the Kelley household. "No, I'm not naïve enough to think...maybe it was going on someplace, but no, personally, I do not know anything about that."

Which brings us back to Mike Kelley's vivid imagination. Why add the Playboy Club, Deep Throat and other sexual references from 1976 to Swingtown? Umm, to draw viewers? "Yeah it's provocative, but in a good way, and getting people talking always is good," said Mike.

The fate of Swingtown remains up in the air. The ratings have been acceptable -- for the summer when there's less competition for dramatic series -- but are they strong enough to warrant a renewal by CBS? Probably not. If Swingtown were on cable, where rating expectations are quite different, it would have a chance.

It might also be showing a lot more skin, especially if it were on Showtime or HBO as originally intended and have lesser expectations ratings-wise. For example, the premiere of Swingtown was tuned in by 8.6 million viewers. Mad Men, on AMC, just a year ago, drew only 1.6 million in its debut, 7 million less than Swingtown.

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I can only hope this can jump over to Showtime if and when it ends up on the shelf at CBS. I really enjoy all the memories I have of little things I see on the show. I know on the 'hey nielson' board they are posting like mad about this show--only to have it taken off the air because of its 'disgusting' swinger storylines. I don't agree, the swinging aspect is only a small part of the show, and the last episode proved that. Hard to believe its been 32 years since women had to be home to cook for the husband EVERY night, be dutiful to his every whim, and not have to work a 9-5 job to make ends meet. I like the kid's storyline. It takes you back to the time when riding bike, listening to records, and watching Land of the Lost was all you had to worry about most of the time.

July 06 2008 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm really enjoying this show, even though I'm doubtful to see a second season. But why are you worried whether or not Kelley really experienced swinging and orgies and sexual escapades in his own household? All these things were most certainly going on in the culture of the 70s...that's the key here.

Whether or not Kelley has firsthand experience is immaterial. He's nailing the emotional tone of the era, and putting those early post-Sexual-Revolution mores through a modern filter at the same time. It's pretty fascinating.

July 05 2008 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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