CBS presents tonight’s new Swingtown series as the latest in its unofficial, unimpressive and hopefully about-to-expire “dare to be daring” campaign, which last season gave us (shudder) both Kid Nation and Viva Laughlin. Set in 1976 – post-Woodstock, post-Watergate, pre-AIDS – Swingtown is supposed to give us a wry look back at the “free love” era.
Well, you get what you pay for. The only really shocking thing about Swingtown, besides its flirtations with open marriages, drug use and other bouts of period hedonism, is how dull, and how maddeningly predictable, it is.
Swingtown swings like a pendulum do – monotonously.
Lots of period music is used to set the stage (usually only a few bars, presumably to keep music-rights costs to a minimum), and the costumes and hair styles are a riot, and are cringingly accurate to the time. But while everything looks good and sounds right, there’s no compelling drama here – just a lot of cardboard caricatures bumping into one another, like so many dress-up dolls.
Even Molly Parker, the marvelous actress from Deadwood, and Grant Show, who manages the right sense of knowing enjoyment in his portrayal of a neighborhood swinger, can’t generate enough sparks with other cast members to make Swingtown compelling. It’s fun seeing the eight-track players and blow-dried hairdos, but watching that, while listening to Norman Greenbaum and Fleetwood Mac, does not a TV series make.
That 70’s Show was a fun place to visit. This ’70s show is not.