Remember how you felt at that wedding reception when Grandma polished off one too many gimlets and boogied down to "U Can't Touch This"? That same wave of nausea washed over me while enduring "Swingtown," CBS' laughable attempt to dive into the 1970s fad of spouse-swapping, which manages to be about as sexy and provocative as a bunion.
The network, home sweet home to "The Waltons" and "Murder, She Wrote," is doing its best these days to shake its stodgy reputation with programs such as "The New Adventures of Old Christine," the Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle that attempts to top the "Seinfeld" masturbation episode every week, and "Two and a Half Men," a hit so crude it makes Hustler magazine look like Good Housekeeping.
"Swingtown" is funnier than both those sitcoms -- for all the wrong reasons.
The pilot, which airs tonight, opens with airline pilot Tom Decker ("Melrose Place" vet Grant Show sporting the worst facial hair since Conan O'Brien's strike beard) apparently getting some, ahem, gratification from a stewardess. Turns out she's just rubbing out a coffee stain. Hardy-har-har.
No, you have to wait three more minutes for the real deal -- Tom's threesome with another flight attendant and his scheming, seductive wife, Trina (Lana Parrilla).
The series' other primary couple are Susan and Bruce Miller (Molly Parker and Jack Davenport), a middle-class, middle-brow pair who are moving to a new house. It's just a few blocks from their old pad, but you'd think they were going from Pleasantville to Hades.
Before they can settle in for their first night, the oh-so-innocent pair are invited to the Deckers' soiree and wind up in an orgy (apparently, all it takes is a quaalude to unleash the inner pervert in us all).
I should mention that all the action occurs around July 4, 1976. Yep, the nation's 200th birthday -- the ultimate Independence Day.
If that analogy to the Millers' new "independence" seems a bit heavy-handed, wait till you hear the soundtrack. The pilot jams in 14 classic rockers with titles like "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "I Can See Clearly Now" to reinforce the on-screen dalliances. I'm just relieved that Dr. Ruth Westheimer didn't appear in the crawl with play-by-play commentary.
"Swingtown" creator Mike Kelley, who previously toiled on "The O.C." and "One Tree Hill," has made the mistake that's as old as Hugh Hefner: Just because you're dealing with sex doesn't make the content sexy. It's a lesson we last learned from "Tell Me That You Love Me," HBO's soft-core porn series that featured plenty of skin and salty language, but had all the allure of a used condom.
Neither "Swingtown" nor "Tell Me" can hold a scented candle to AMC's "Mad Men," a drama low on skin and salty language, but high on eroticism, thanks to smoldering characters and dialogue. Come to think of it, an eyebrow arch from Angela Lansbury will give you more of a charge than the "Swingtown" scene in which a supposedly oppressed housewife stumbles into a "sex den" in a stranger's basement.
If there's anything to lust for in this new series, it's the visual references to the 1970s: a deep sip of Tab, luxury airplane travel, a group performance of "The Hustle," a round of Harvey Wallbangers.
Wallbangers. Get it? If yet another not-so shaded reference to all this show's hanky-panky is enough to send you into a giggle fit, then, by all means, don't miss "Swingtown."
Oh, and when you're done, make sure you take a few moments to grow up.