The producers of the CBS wife-swapping drama Swingtown were hoping that cable would be a lifeboat for the show, but it turns out to have a sizable leak. The cable net Bravo has purchased the right to rerun the 13 episodes that CBS aired this summer, but says it has no intention of producing any new ones. That means Swingtown, which averaged fewer than five million viewers an episode (and just under 2.1 million in the 18-to-49 age demo advertisers like), is all but officially dead. No way that CBS will absorb the full production costs of a primetime show with that small an audience.
What the Swingtown producers were hoping for was a deal like the one NBC cut for Friday Night Lights, which last season had similar ratings and was on the network's chopping block despite a generally good critical reception. Friday Night Lights survived after satellite provider DirecTV kicked in some money for the first-run rights to the show. You can see the results, if you're a DirecTV subscriber, at 9 p.m. Wednesday when the show's third season starts -- on satellite only. NBC won't air the new episodes until February.
Any fears that the change of venue would alter the texture of Friday Night Lights have proven groundless. Wednesday's debut episode is indistinguishable in tone, substance and style from the show that's been airing on NBC. Of course, the story is moving along. The only missing series regular is Jason Street, the star quarterback who was paralyzed with an injury during the show's very first episode. Tami Taylor, the coach's wife, has been promoted from Dillon High's guidance counselor to principal. And a new quarterback, with a pushy football dad, has transferred in, making some waves on the team. In short, if you liked Friday Night Lights on NBC, you'll like it on DirecTV. In fact, you might like it better: The DirecTV episodes will air without commercials and will include bonus footage that makes the episodes slightly longer. (Wednesday's show, for instance, is about 50 minutes, eight minutes longer than the episodes that run on NBC.)
You can find Friday Night Lights on DirecTV's channel 101. You Swingtown fans can watch and dream about what might have been.