Classic TV cheese: Swans Crossing

swansBeing a teenager in the pre-Internet, entertainment-overload era during the summer was difficult, especially if you didn’t have a car and had to watch your younger brother during the day. And so, in the summer of 1992, I turned to that bastion of the bored – soap operas.

Now, I’m not sure what TV executive thought creating a soap opera for teens was a great idea, particularly one with such bizarre touches as a girl who lived on a submarine and boys who tried to build a rocket, but, right in the middle of my summer doldrums, “Swans Crossing” appeared. And I was hooked.

Yes, I am going on the record to say I was absolutely obsessed with this show. You see, it’s in my blood. The Smiths have had a long history of supporting “the stories,” as my grandmothers call them, and “Swans Crossing” was right in my wheelhouse, even though I knew it was painfully cheesy.

Just take the opening credits (which, I will have you know, I had memorized down to the last step – I had that much free time). Can you imagine kids watching something like this today? It would be laughed off the screen.

If anyone today remembers this show at all, it’s because it was one of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s first roles, as Sydney Rutledge, the snooty daughter of the mayor of Swans Crossing. In the ensuing years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Gellar or anyone else mention that she was on this show – I guess she thinks she’s too good for her humble beginnings.

The only other semi-familiar faces to appear on the show were Mira Sorvino, who showed up in the first episode and was never seen again, and Brittany Daniel, who went on to act in various shows and movies, most recently in “The Game” on the CW network.

As for the show itself, it was a basic “Romeo & Juliet” drama in that Sydney’s family battled with the neighboring Booth family while Sydney and Garrett Booth (Shane McDermott) carried on a secret relationship. But the Sydney-Garrett relationship was just the tip of the iceberg. There was the aforementioned girl who lived on a sub, an aspiring singer, spies, rocket launches, fake birth certificates and all kinds of other contrived drama. It was patently ridiculous, yet strangely compelling.

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Even as a 16-year-old I could see that this was not going to last beyond the summer (and if I recall correctly, our local affiliate in Richmond started showing the episodes at 6 a.m., so I started taping them). Years later, when I worked at Peaches record store, I found a couple of kindred souls who also enjoyed Swans and one of them dubbed the entire series for me (albeit in crappy quality).

This is how the series exists today – crappy dubs on YouTube. I’d show you a scene, but they look so bad you’d hardly be able to figure out what was going on. I don’t think it will ever get a proper re-release; most people have forgotten it ever existed, and most who watched don’t want to embarrass themselves by saying so.

Every once in a while I find myself humming that theme song and going back to 1992, when the most exciting thing I could do while staying out of the oppressive heat was watch a soap opera. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that.

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~ by Elliott on June 22, 2009.

One Response to “Classic TV cheese: Swans Crossing”

  1. Didn’t you say a few years ago that you still have the videotapes of the show? We have a VCR player we could bring over, you know…

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