Washington Post Style TV columnist Tom Shales blames the FCC because tonight's premiere of CBS's "Swingtown" doesn't show enough skin to suit him.
"Swingtown," a drama set in the free-loving, drug-hazed summer of 1976, lacks the "kind of intimacy and even eroticism that is common on HBO," Shales complains.
In his June 5 review he writes:
It's conceivable that ‘Swingtown' will prompt complaints to the FCC about its relatively explicit sexual depictions. But there's no nudity, and that seems to be the thing that gets those FCC commissioners' panties in a bunch. Perhaps soon, the bureaucratic busybodies will steal away into the night and television will be relieved of what has been an ineffective and hypocritical anti-smut crusade.
Apparently it never occurred to Shales that the reason there's no nudity on this show is because the FCC's "anti-smut campaign" has in fact, been effective in keeping at least that largely off the broadcast networks.
But even without the nudity for which Shales desperately longs there's still plenty of bad behavior portrayed in "Swingtown." In his review he notes the use of cocaine and pot, teenage boys looking at pornography, a "liberated young woman" beating up somebody's little brother, a teenaged girl swimming in only her underwear and one wife suggesting to her husband and another couple "Why don't the four of us go somewhere a little quieter?"
Despite his disappointment that the show is not racier, Shales calls "Swingtown" a "bold, retro step for CBS" in terms of running a scripted drama instead of the "reality" series offered by other networks. He goes so far as to say "a return to fantasy seems strangely refreshing."
But whose fantasy? His own of seeing nudity on CBS or one in which Americans can turn on a television set without enduring yet another assault on traditional values?
More about the media's acclaim for this show can be found at the Culture and Media Institute's web site or by clicking here.