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ThrowbackThursday- Swingtown - The Summer of 1976

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Swingtown Review

Created by Mike Kelley ( Who also was a producer and writer on the show)

The series’ first aired in the summer season 2008 and despite positive reviews and growing numbers it seemed to go like so many other good shows around that time into cancellation far too quickly, fast forward to now and with the ever growing success of Lana Parrilla a new audience has discovered this show. Lana herself has stated Trina Decker was one of her favorite characters to play next to Regina/The Evil Queen on Once Upon a Time.

Let me take you back to the summer of 1976...America was celebrating its 200th Birthday, during those celebrations this series takes use on a journey which includes two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb. They explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution.

We start the series the day before the 4th of July celebrations up in the skies., you see what could be misinterpreted as a pilot getting some personal attention from a member of the cabin crew. When she moves away she is only trying to remove a coffee stain from his shirt. Seems one of the young stewardesses got a bit clumsy with the coffee. The pilot tells the young stewardess its fine and his wife won’t be mad over the stained shirt but will love her. We cut to them all in bed but you see very little, his wife leaves the bed to get a drink and looking out the window she notices a couple getting the keys to the house across the street …The new neighbors…
The new neighbors will be the Miller’s, Susan and Bruce played by Molly Parker and Jack Davenport.
The little smile she gives indicates she is interested in the new neighbors and the tone is set.
Later that evening they call over and almost catch Bruce and Susan christening the new house. They introduce themselves and invite them to their 4th July party the following day. They are Tom and Trina Decker played by Grant Show and Lana Parrilla.

The Millers along with their two children Laurie ( Shanna Collins) and B.J ( Aaron Christian Bowles )are currently moving out their old neighborhood on the 4th of July. Susan’s is sad to leave but Bruce who has made something of himself seems pleased to be going.
Susan’s longtime best friend Janet and husband Roger Thompson are sad to see them go as well as B.J’s best friend Rick Thompson (Nick Benson) . Seems both families have shared a lot throughout the years.

The Miler's new house is larger and clearly, in a richer area, the Deckers house which we see more of has a pool which overlooks lake Michigan, apparently designed to a house in the neighborhood Mike Kelley ( creator) grew up in at that time .

It is clear that Janet is a bit jealous of her friend and when the Thompson's turn up that evening at the Miller’s as they head over to the Decker’s Susan feel obligated to invite them as well.

This party you see that Susan is adventurous, Bruce thinks he has made it this is the sort of thing he always wanted, Roger seems like a 'fish out of water'. Trina and Tom are the social butterflies while Janet is uptight doesn’t want things to change and instantly feels threatened by Trina.
Trina seems instantly drawn to Susan and shows her round giving her something to relax her which were very popular at the time. Trina, however, has a little fun with the Janet sending her down to the play room ! you can only guess what goes on there and nearly turns Janet’s hair white.
Janet orders Bruce and Susan to leave but they stay and get to know Trina and Tom on another level. Remember the title it called Swingtown for a reason.

Throughout the 13 episodes, these characters all change a lot during one summer and it also reference's significant events at the time, Nixon, and the upcoming presidential candidate elections. The Olympics and a star Russian gymnast and the scandal surrounding a porn film and prosecution of the star.

I am not going to give a detailed description of every episode but I felt this pilot is one of the best I have seen for setting up a series. You learn all you need to be interested and know despite the happiness Bruce and Susan feel after their ‘wild night ‘things will not be the same for them

The couples are the main body of the story and the events that unfold leave you wondering by the end what happened as you can’t help become invested in these characters.

The Miller’s married young as Susan was pregnant and Bruce worked his way up and is now works in the stock exchange. Susan is a housewife but you can tell she has a spirit and longs to be free and recognizes something in Trina that maybe is in herself. Opening their marriage shakes things up they were just existing it seems instead of living.Bruce likes some of the changes but still wants his wife to be here and do as he say’s type of guy, it’s clear Susan has been a great support to him but she wants more ,what that is she isn’t sure yet.
From Swinging with the Decker’s to partying at the Playboy Club life seems good but things soon turn sour by the end of the series the gaps that were there before appear to widen, Susan and Roger get closer and Bruce falls for the attention of a woman at work.

The Decker’s have an open marriage but for it to work they have to be open and honest at all times.Tom is a very laid back guy and you can’t help but like him and can see why women love him, Trina isn’t predator as some thought she would be in fact she observes everything and is quick to help a friend in need. She is also very free spirited a quality both Susan and Janet admire. When Tom gets an international route to Tokyo Trina feels things will change and an unfortunate slip by Tom reinforces her fears. The Decker’s put things on hold for a while and focus on each other and soon Trina discovers she is pregnant and is hesitant to tell Tom but his answer surprises her.

The Thompsons are in a routine, well for Janet it’s all about routine and when Roger loses his job and turns to Susan rather than his wife you wonder where it may lead. Janet does break out of the mold and you know that control is just a shield for her. Her Jealousy over Susan and trying to control everything is threatened by Trina but they soon become friends as well.Roger is a quiet guy but he wants more and is bored with his life quality's he sees in Susan .
Janet takes a job but when Roger gets offered a Job in another state Janet doesn’t want to go in fact she doesn’t like the fact she feels forced to go. Leaving their marriage uncertain as well.

We also meet the children B.J and his friend Rick who like his mother Janet feels he will lose his friendship more so when B.J befriend’s and falls for the girl next door Samantha played by Britt Robertson (I am not surprised she has gone on to do a lot more since this series). Samantha’s mother seems to lose herself in drugs and booze and no surprise is a regular at the Decker’s party’s. Samantha spends most of her time looking after her mother than enjoying the summer and even when she runs away her mother fails to notice.At the end of the series her Aunt steps in putting her mother in rehab and taking Samantha with her until she is clean but when B.J's sees her mother return later that same day he fears he won't see Samantha again.
Laurie the Miller’s oldest is at summer school though she is doing it for extra credit and doesn’t need the grades. She is a spirited young woman who falls for her teacher which causes a clash with her parents when she hopes to run away with him he leaves without her as not wanting her to risk her future on him.

As the series started with a party so it ends with one on the Beach for Labor Day and of course thrown by the Deckers. It was a Summer of change, discovery, first loves and new friendships for them all. We leave them at crossroad's in the lives and can only imagine what happened next. Like I said before it was cancelled after one season which for such a successful show seems a tragedy.
It was a wonderful glimpse into a period of time with a strong cast, great sets, wardrobes and a soundtrack that gives you the feel and mood of that period I would recommend anyone get a copy and watch. As the theme tune suggests ‘Give it up for love?’ you be the Judge.

Please post any thoughts regarding the series in the comments below

About the Author - Zandarl
Zandarl a Writer and avid TV and film buff ,once described as a wilful hedonist, has travelled all over and lived in the states for a short time. Now based in the UK she attends cons when able and meets stars from her favourite shows .Her first start in fandom was Xena and since then has admired tv shows that portray strong women. Her current favorites being Rizzoli and Isles and Once Upon a Time as well as anything comic book related. A regular movie goer she watches most genres but never ask her to watch a horror movie.
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