Monday, January 14, 2008

'Swingers' in Primetime and the WGA Strike

I've become really cautious about television over the last couple of years, so much so that I've started really digging into the backgrounds of new shows to feel them out. Being burned with enough good shows being piddled on by the networks a few times has made me tetchy.

So, Swingtown- could be great for the not-necessarily gay alt life/lovestyle crowd, but I'm not betting on it.

Here's the short skinny: Swingtown is being produced and directed by Michael Kelly: did great with Rome on HBO, but also brought us Big Love. Big Love was really not a positive, nor even really honest look at poly(agamy). I only watched a few episodes but it came across to me as a scripted circus sideshow. Scripting and acting talent might have been good, but as an observation into a nonmonogamous lifestyle, it was pretty unjust.

The early press release from CBS when the show was first picked up said: "'Swingtown,' an ensemble drama set during the 1970s about the impact of sexual liberation."
The plot outline from IMDB as provided by CBS is "As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution."

Buzzwords - Sexual Liberation, Freedom, Sexual Revolution. They're selling the sex even before the pilot hits the air.

BTW- Dare to Grok gets big props on his FAQ posting for Swingtown on IMDB for his definition of the differences between swinging and polyamory.

Last season, CBS had an episode of Cold Case which featured a key party as the catalyst for a murder. While tasteful in their handling of the party, all of the revisited characters who maintained the poly/swing lifestyle were painted as creepy, crude, self absorbed individuals. This season, NBC's Journeyman also had an episode that featured a Swing Party as the catalyst for many bad things happening - namely a teenage girl running away from home, joining a drug addled cult, and being killed in a shootout during a liquor store robbery - all from the "horror" of finding out her parents were swingers. All evidence to date from the Networks, Swingtown isn't a hopeful looking prospect.

Some other stuff about the WGA strike and television this season -- The big networks have pulled a rather interesting stunt to keep new programming going this year, in expectation of a strike. The end of last season a lot of new shows were picked up (and one resurrected from cancellation) and filming was sped up through the summer and fall to get as many episodes "in the can" before the contract deadline as possible. This benefitted both the Networks and the writers as they will all still make money from the episodes as they air. That's normal. What isn't is the number of shows that made it through to the midseason break. There was only one new show cancelled this fall - Viva Laughlin.Looking back, typically 25% of new shows don't make it through their first six weeks, and Viva Laughlin made it to 8 before being cancelled. Even the much reviled CBS offering "Kid Nation" has been running without interrupt, despite all the negative comments from Child Advocacy Groups, the general public, and even the State of New Mexico investigating violations of state Child Endangerment and Child Labor laws.

Heroes ended early. Journeyman ran out all the filmed episodes. There are more "midseason replacements" scheduled this year than any two typical years. There are new primetime game shows and American Gladiators has been reborn for primetime. Networks aren't cancelling their normal volume of new shows.

Why? They're doing everything they can to fill timeslots during the strike, and they planned ahead for it. If the strike ended tomorrow, there still would not be enough time to film any more episodes of any show that started the first half of this season. We, as television viewers, are not going to get any new episodes of our current favorites until the fall.

The only exceptions are Jericho fans who've been lied to repeatedly by... you guessed it, CBS... as to when that show will be coming back on the air, cable shows which start their seasons in the spring as opposed to the fall, and a handfull of others, like Medium, that were pushed back by the networks as proven hold-out shows to start midseason.

Anyway...We'll probably see Swingtown in March, as the thirteen week ordered run will hit the May Sweeps toward the end of the season's run. As they've been billing it, it's all about the sex. These are television networks. They're no longer in the business of entertainment, they're in the business of making money. Sweeps is about setting advertising dollars for the coming season. Freak Shows and Circuses draw attention, and people pay thier nickels to see the bearded lady, the midget tightrope walkers and the egress.

I hope I'm wrong, but I really don't expect Swingtown to be anything worth watching, and the fallout will probably require major damage control from the poly/swing/kink communities and sub-culture elements as it airs.

1 comment:

Kasidie said...

If damage control is required, I'm sure the community will band together to do so. We at Kasidie Magazine certainly stand ready to pitch in and get our faces out in the media!