Entertainment behind the scenes
“Sex” sold, but will “Swingtown”? Reviews are in.
That old advertising axiom, “sex sells,” certainly held true for the film “Sex and the City,” which debuted at No. 1 in U.S. movie theaters last weekend with $56 million in ticket sales and has since added about another $12 million.
But a new “sex sells” question mark will be raised Thursday night when the CBS broadcast network debuts ”Swingtown,” about suburban sexual adventurism in the 1970s, complete with orgies, drug use and a touch of nostalgia.
The show has caused speculation over whether a broadcast network can truly do justice to the idea of a lifestyle with multiple sex partners because broadcasters face far greater restrictions than cable networks over the amount of sexual and other adult content in programs.
So far, a few critics are weighing in and several have expressed doubt.
The New York Times said: “Just because an era is amusingly kitsch does not mean it is ripe for dramatic exploration.” The paper noted that cable TV show “Mad Men,” a similar sort of program set in the 1960s that has been a hit with critics, ”plays with all the familiar cues of the period — the music, clothes and raffish ambiance — to frame a mystery that holds viewers’ attention.” “Swingtown,” it said, “has ’70s mystique, but not much mystery.”
The Boston Globe writes that “the older-skewing CBS is almost as far as you can get from HBO … And so while “Swingtown” is racy by network standards, and includes not just sexual situations but all kinds of drug use, it still doesn’t have the freedom to get into the nitty-gritty of a subject that is nothing if not nitty-gritty.”
“For all the industry chatter, the new CBS drama might as well be called ‘That ’70s Sex Show,’” the Los Angeles Times wrote in its review. “A network daring to tread in the R-rated territory previously left to the cable stations — imagine!”
USA Today says: “The show itself, sad to say, is not done well enough to work. But it’s not dull, and it’s worth watching if only to try to figure out what CBS could have been thinking.”
But critics are not the final word; audiences are. Tonight at 10 p.m. est, CBS will begin to find out if it’s risky experiment in the world of swinging 1970s sex will, in fact, sell on network TV in the 2000s.