Do You Swing?

The new series Swingtown, on CBS, takes viewers inside the sexually provocative world of swinger couples in suburban '70s America. The show's creator, Alan Poul, knows a thing or two about pushing the limits of sexuality and tells us what we can expect from his latest.



There’s certainly a lot more sexual innuendo than you tend to find on CBS. I'm thinking of Lana Parrilla's smirk when her swinging character watches Pyramid and the category is "Things You Spread." But, Alan, naming the central family's teenage son B.J.—really? [Laughs] It's so funny. You're not the first person to bring that up, but it's so not true! The truth is that the show itself is loosely based on recollections that Mike had from growing up in Winnetka, Ill. The B.J. character is kind of based on Mike, and one of my best friends growing up was named B.J. Miller -- that's who the character is named after. You know, that kind of lurid, winky-winky innuendo is so not what the show is about, but it's just amazing. You put something out there, and people will read a different thing into it. 

In its nontraditional examination of monogamy, Swingtown reminded me of two other series you’ve been involved with: Six Feet Under and Big Love. I come from a cable background and have a cable sensibility, but I do think that questioning traditional relationships is in the zeitgeist right now. I think that we've become more open to depictions of it on television, and that's why the shows you mentioned have come about. The fact is that the genesis of the questioning of the traditional family unit dogma is in the '70s, and that's why it's so great for us to go back and look at it from the point of view of this period. Our main grown-up characters are in their early 30s. They were raised in the '50s; they got married in the early '60s. The sexual revolution passed them by, and they basically got married and began to breed [laughs] based on the unshakable assumption that you had to marry the first person you had sex with and that you basically had to begin propagating. That was an unchallengeable assumption, and then people began to challenge it. 

It's also notable that Swingtown, Big Love, and Six Feet Under all boast gay creators or gay executive producers. Do we look at the traditional family unit in a way that informs the sensibility of these shows? You know, you're preaching to the choir because when working in television and film, I'm always astonished that -- whether they generate gay content or not -- the percentage of gay talent in the front ranks of innovators is always disproportionately large. Because I am a champion of the queer sensibility, I do believe that having outsider status conferred on you as a child does force you to think more creatively and also forces you to look at the big picture of why people do what they do.

Tags: television