A&E Swinger Lifestyle Show 'Stilted,' 'Boring,' 'Awkward' TV

Turns out that life as a swinger means a lot of work for a "cringe-worthy" payoff, according to Entertainment Weekly's review of new A&E show Neighbors with Benefits.

“They should have just called it Awkward Encounters. Make that, incredibly awkward,” Entertainment Weekly described the new reality show, which portrays the intimately intersecting lives of couples in an unnamed suburban Ohio neighborhood.

“While the idea of swinging is supposed to be titillating … Neighbors with Benefits proves it’s kind of anything but.”

Lest audiences get the impression that media types have suddenly turned prudish, plenty of them expressed their support for the show’s premise. They were just unable to praise this partner-swap show.

“It’s actually admirable that the producers want to focus on the emotional impact of swinging,” Emily Yahr wrote in a Washington Post blog, while lamenting that the cable show “can’t show or talk about anything too scandalous, so it’s destined to be boring.”

People’s TVWatch said, "Following Fifty Shades of Grey, there couldn't be a better time for a new reality series to present yet another alternative view of relationships and sexuality."

Neighbors, which premiered Sunday night, is intended to normalize what insiders call “the lifestyle” by showing seemingly everyday families who happen to host swinger parties.

“They’re attractive [people]. This isn’t your pony-tailed, earring guy that you would picture being a part of swingers,” executive producer Aaron Rothman told the New York Post. “They look and feel like they are your neighbors. Their kids are playing with your kids.”

Activist groups including One Million Moms have been less than thrilled about the new show, initiating petitions to get it off the air, but Neighbors seems likely to bring about its own demise.

The show is “premised on the presumed illicitness of swinging but mostly dwells on the negotiations that all of this freedom requires,” noted the New York Times.

Despite the high stakes that result when couples play with fire, negotiations don’t make for good reality TV—which is why Neighbors is “stilted” instead of sexy.

Neighbors premieres at an interesting moment in time, with several new reality shows having sought to explore fringe sexual pursuits and titillating frontiers, from VH1’s Walk of Shame Shuttle to WE tv’s Sex Box to various TLC entries,” noted Variety.

“Still, the underlying message is almost invariably conservative — an embrace of old-fashioned monogamy and fidelity, given the complications unleashed by trying to spice up marriage in one fashion or another.

“Moreover, most of the extramarital encounters within the show — despite a discretely placed bra here and some kissing there — are so awkward and stilted that there’s nothing particularly sexy about them, to the point where the viewer-discretion advisory seems wholly unnecessary.”