'Swingtown' experiment is on


UPDATED 1:05 p.m., Mar. 5

Guess who's swinging into summer?

CBS' long-awaited drama "Swingtown" is going to be slated for a summer run, the network announced Wednesday.

"Swingtown" will debut Thursday, May 29 at 10 p.m. CBS is also planning to launch another scripted show during the off-season, the drama "Flashpoint" –- a 13-episode co-production from CBS Paramount Network Television and Canada's CTV about an elite tactical police team. "Flashpoint" will premiere sometime in July.

With a few rare exceptions, like Fox's teen drama "The O.C.," scripted broadcast programming launched during the summer withers in the Nielsen ratings. A network's holding of a midseason series until summer typically signals a lack of confidence in the show.

But CBS head of scheduling Kelly Kahl said adding scripted in the summer is party of a new strategy.

"It's something we've been wanting to do for a long time and the strike helped us into it," said Kelly Kahl. "We have sat back and watched cable clean up with a lot of summer fare and wanted to challenge that."

Also, "Swingtown" executive producer Carol Barbee said a postseason run creatively suits the show.

"A summer launch is perfect for 'Swingtown' since the pilot takes place on the Bicentennial Fourth of July," Barbee said.

"Swingtown," created by Mike Kelley ("Jericho"), follows the lives of couples experimenting with sexual and social mores in a 1970s Chicago suburb. The show was announced at CBS' upfront presentation in May as part of the network's plan to push its creative boundaries with such shows as "Moonlight," "Viva Laughlin" and "Kid Nation."

The serialized "Swingtown" originally was set to launch midseason so that it could air straight through. But aside from the pilot -- which drew a favorable response from critics -- CBS Paramount Network Television completed only a couple of episodes when the writers strike shut down production in November.

The series recently resumed production on its 13-episode order, but its fate remained uncertain -- especially since CBS' own social experimentation phase hasn't gone so well.

"Laughlin" was canceled after two episodes, and "Nation" did not perform well enough to earn a renewal. Although "Moonlight" has done OK and built a devoted cult fan base on Friday nights, the show was left out of CBS' recent mass series renewal.

Just as worrisome: Broadcasters recently have been on the defensive about airing sexual content. ABC was hit with a $1.2 million fine from the FCC for brief nudity in a 5-year-old episode of "NYPD Blue," and a family values watchdog has protested CBS for airing edited episodes of Showtime's "Dexter."

A summer run gives still "Swingtown" a shot at finding an audience, though the show may have to work extra hard to break through.