** Spoiler alert ** Don't read this if you're a "Swingtown" fan and haven't seen the finale.
Kudos to "Swingtown's" creative stewards for wrapping up the series last week in a satisfying a way. Instead of the pulling out the old trick of "let's leave 'em on a cliffhanger so the fans will raise a ruckus for renewal," exec producers Mike Kelley, Alan Poul and Carol Barbee gave us conclusions for the show's three central couples: Susan and Bruce Miller, Janet and Roger Thompson and the fun-loving Trina and Tom Decker.
So the real cliffhanger for viewers is: Does "Swingtown" go down as a 13-part miniseries -- beach reading for the summer of '08 -- or does it get an eleventh-hour renewal?
(Read another take on "Swingtown" from Brian Cochrane on Variety's Season Pass blog.)
Low ratings have sealed "Swingtown's" fate on CBS. Showtime would seem a natural home for the show, and in fact the Eye's pay cabler was in the hunt for the project when it was first shopped as a spec script more than a year ago.
Hopes were raised when word surfaced last week that Kelley is working on another drama project for the pay cabler, and that he has signed a new overall deal with "Swingtown" producer CBS Paramount Network TV.
But the chances of "Swingtown" getting picked up by Showtime seem to be slim to none. The pay cabler Showtime already has its hands full with new skeins to come, including Toni Collette's "The United States of Tara," Edie Falco's "Nurse Jackie" and they have high hopes for a family drama project from Tim Robbins.
It's hard to figure where else "Swingtown" would fit on the dial. Given its '76 time frame, it's been cheekily suggested that ABC should pair it with its 1973-set "Life on Mars." (Actually, with ABC's femme-friendly drama profile, "Swingtown" might've had a better reception on the Alphabet.)
As for the payoffs in the finale, the development between Susan and Roger was the most momentous, it seemed to me, and laid the groundwork should the plot engine need to be revved up again. Janet getting her shot at the working world -- something she stumbled into after taking a temp job when Roger got laid off -- harnessing her natural talents as a know-it-all was a surprise I never would've predicted.
The pregnancy storyline for Trina and Tom is something I should've been able to predict -- in hindsight, a lot of hints were dropped, primarily the fact that the fast-living Trina was even remotely interested in befriending a pair of housewives like Susan and Janet.
I don't think Bruce and Melinda have much hope at long-term couplehood. But I think that particular storyline of a married man or woman's lusty infatuation with a co-worker (who "gets" him or her is one for the ages -- whether 1976 or 1996 or 2016.
There was a nice bit of truth to the denouement for Laurie, the Miller's eldest, and Doug, her twentysomething former summer school teacher. At one point I thought they were headed for having Laurie wind up pregnant at 17, repeating her mother's story. But Laurie's experience with her first serious love ran the gamut of the thrill of being giddy in love to the literal aches and pains of heartbreak -- and the writers did it without turning Doug into a total heel, quite the contrary.
Cast of "Swingtown" was uniformly strong, a rarity for an ensembler like this. Molly Parker as Susan and Lana Parrilla as Trina stood out early on, but Miriam Shor was able to blossom as Janet, the fussy homemaker thrown a curve ball. Jack Davenport was really good as Bruce, a solid, successful family man who took a baby step at a Fourth of July party that sent him off a cliff into a mid-life crisis.
I also liked the actress who played Sam, the girl next door to the Miller's new home with the woefully screwed up mom. Brittany Robertson did a good job with a role that could have been one big cliche. Her moments with B.J., the Miller's youngest, were often sweet and poignant. The writers took care enough to make Sam more than just a vessel for her mother's bad behavior -- they gave her some non-angsty material too.
All in all, "Swingtown" was a good lesson to me to not be too hasty in writing off shows with any kind of glimmer of promise in the pilot. I didn't love the "Swingtown" pilot and was kinda surprised it was so well-reviewed by crix. But I really did warm up to the characters and got wrapped up in their stories, even the Laurie-Doug thread that I felt was weak at the start.
Since early June, I've looked forward to my weekly date with "Swingtown." Can't ask for much more than that from a fledgling relationship.