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The series is set in 1976, at the height of suburban swinging. A square couple named Susan and Bruce (Molly Parker, Jack Davenport) move to a go-go Chicago neighborhood where everybody’s sleeping with everybody. The leering husband and wife next door are apostles of open marriage, and they talk Susan and Bruce out of their clothes within five minutes. Our squares simply pop a quaalude, roll a joint and join the orgy. The screen fills with writhing bodies — that’s right, soft-core copulation smack in the middle of prime time. Clearly, American viewers are about to get aroused on a mass scale.
But wait. Just when you think Swingtown will be a wicked romp, CBS pumps in socially redeeming value. God forbid we could simply enjoy the bare-naked sex. No, it must be incorporated into a stern morality tale about the corruption of decent values. The soundtrack cues up an earnest Seals & Crofts song as the squares look searchingly into the ether, meditating on what they’ve lost.
Suddenly, American viewers are no longer aroused. If the series succeeds in bringing back Seals & Crofts, some of us may never have sex again.
She’s Got the Look
Wednesday, 10 p.m. (TV Land)
It’s yet another modeling reality show, with pouts, tears and weekly eliminations. But this one has a twist: contestants over 35. And you wouldn’t believe how enjoyable it is compared to, say, America’s Next Top Model. That show asks us to hang out with callow young skeletons who have nothing between their pretty little ears. By contrast, most of the models on She’s Got the Look seem like substantial human beings. They’ve been around the block with marriages, kids and careers and that tends to make them more interesting.
It feels like spending time with your mom — that is, if your mom had the world’s most perfect rear end.
Saturday, 8 p.m. (CBS)
This new adaptation of Flora Rheta Schreiber’s book stars Tammy Blanchard as the troubled young woman with multiple personality disorder and Jessica Lange as her patient psychiatrist. It’s the mid-1950s, and the medical establishment scoffs at the idea of multiple personalities. But Lange’s Dr. Wilbur is stunned to watch Sybil change from one persona to another — 16 in all.
We, on the other hand, are not so stunned. The story is familiar from Sally Field’s 1976 TV-movie version of Sybil, not to mention countless other psychological-disorder movies in the intervening years. There aren’t a lot of surprises as Dr. Wilbur peels back the layers to discover Sybil’s abuse by a cruel mother. On the other hand, both Blanchard and Lange give powerful performances, and the movie treats the potentially heavy-handed subject with finesse.
So part of me liked Sybil, while another part of me was bored. Part of me was moved, while another part of me laughed hysterically. Part of me.
Sunday, 8 p.m. (ABC Family)
This car-racing TV movie finds a pretty young newcomer (Michelle Trachtenberg) trying to make her mark in a male-dominated sport. She’s living in the shadow of her estranged dad (Billy Campbell), a racing star whose bad behavior has ruined his career. And she’s pitted against a devilishly handsome rascal (Drew Fuller) who’s become the sport’s latest sex symbol. Will she beat him or fall in love with him? And if she falls in love with him, will she break the heart of the regular-guy mechanic (Tommy Lioutas) who’s always been sweet on her?
No, The Circuit doesn’t overlook a single cliché. But, dammit, I like it anyway. The actors aren’t just gorgeous, but lively, witty and substantial. Though, admittedly, they had me at gorgeous.