Swingtown and the curse of being cancelled after one season.
This week (since I spent a lot of time at home, and there was no Gossip Girl, HIMYM or Criminal Minds to catch up on) I watched all 13 episodes of CBS’s 70s Suburban drama, Swingtown.
It was amazing. The casting was perfect, the pacing never failed, the acting was sublime the narrative twisted and turned along the way life does, never jarring – and it looked so much like the 70s that I spent a big chunk of this week feeling sentimental for the decor of the first house I lived in.
It follows the lives of 3 families living in Suburban Chicago throughout the summer of 1976, and the way that their lives begin to change as the sexual revolution and feminism begin to seep into their previously safe little world.
I cannot extol the virtues of this show enough, I’m not going to write a review here, but I’m thinking about writing a paper on it, just for fun, ‘cos that’s the kind of TV nerd I am.
So why, oh why then did it not get renewed for a second season? With this show I can think of two specific reasons. 1) terrible, terrible marketing – people were hardly even blogging about it, it wasn’t a big deal at the upfronts and VIPTV for some reason have it in their “comedy” section. 2) CBS started the show in June, mid season OUCH! For a show to succeed it has to be a part of the fall schedule, we all know this. As if that wasn’t recipe for failure enough they then moved it to the Friday Night Death Spot. Even Joss Whedon couldn’t survive that.
More generally, there is a giant list of amazing TV shows that can’t survive more than one season, while Everybody Loves Raymond can survive ten, TEN! of ‘em. The fault can be divided quite neatly between the studios, and (I’m afraid it’s true) US. The studio’s still have no clue how people watch TV, they’re only now catching on a growing number of people (and in amongst them the hardcore TV fans) watch TV almost exclusively on the internet. I’ve worked for a legal film and TV internet service for the last couple of years and it’s a really drawn out process to get them to agree to rights issues. They don’t know how to get accurate data on the viewing figures and thereby the show gets cancelled.
The part, where we, the potential audience are responsible is upsetting to explain. TV still has such a stigma attached to it, specially in smart/indie/punk/academic circles. People don’t have TVs and feel that watching TV is somehow not a valid pastime, whereas film can be. I’m not going to launch into the film vs. tv diatribe again, I just wanted to make the point that these fantastic shows having difficulty in finding an audience due to snobbery is one of the saddest pop culture casualties I know.
My Top 5 Cancelled after 1 Season shows are:
Freaks and Geeks
My So Called Life
Tell Me You Love Me
Carnivale (I know this was 2 seasons, but it was in the MIDDLE of it’s story)