Where would television be without wives? Audiences love 'em, and seemingly can't get enough of them. Footballer's Wives, Desperate Housewives, politician's wives (The Good Wife), special forces wives (The Unit), we're drawn to their strife and melodrama like catnip, with declarations of "Ohh, I can't believe she just did that!" Where, too, would Lifetime be without the wives? Ever ready to be placed in jeopardy or knocked around by cruel, unfeeling men, they're the network's staple. How did Family Guy describe Lifetime again? Oh yes..."Welcome to Lifetime - where men are evil and will hurt you, because this is Lifetime."
Army Wives, now available on DVD for it's third season, is the highest rated show the network has ever seen. That's not to say that it's success comes from the pungent aroma of estrogen slapped on with a trowel. On the contrary, by Lifetime's own standards this is decidedly dialed down in terms of histrionics, although certain soapy conventions persist with the kitchen table the bedroom acting as the key locations for the drama. It also takes a somewhat considered view of the role of the military, and the wives within it, positing them not as a burden that must be bared, but the glue that holds the entire thing together. Knowing that neither themselves nor their children will ever come first, the wives are the ones who make the real sacrifice in service to their country.
Unlike contemporary series that feature servicemen and their spouses, most notably The Unit, Army Wives takes a dim view of the crypto-fascist paranoia that show descends into all too frequently in a race to paint all outsiders with an absurd level of suspicion that is then validated in a worst possible case scenario every single time. At least in the fictional Fort Marshall, in Charleston, South Carolina, the shady looking dude who shows up to try to con Roxy (Sally Pressman), our plucky defacto heroine, out of her bar is just after money. Were this The Unit he would con it out of her, fill it with puppies and children, and then blow it up in the name of Islamic Jihad.
Indeed, for a show about the military the war on terror seems very far away most of the time which, though admittedly due to the budget constraints as much as anything, is somewhat refreshing considering how saturated we are by it everywhere else. This show is about dilemmas closer to home, and Roxy struggling to keep her bar afloat in the face of mounting money problems is just one storyline carried over from season two. Admittedly the solution presented is nothing if not wildly contrived and simplistic. It seems that though the bank may balk at your credit rating and refuse you a loan, you can always save a rich philanthropist from a mugging in the car park and solve your problems that way.
Elsewhere Major General Holden (Brian McNamara) is searching for his daughter, Emmalin (Katelyn Pippy), who has eloped with a Pvt. in order to escape her father's new deployment to Brussels. Dr. Burton (Sterling K. Brown), continues to wrestle with his decision to give up his career as a shrink, and Denise has to deal with the shame of the base learning she was fired from the hospital for sleeping with a patient.
Ultimately, like so many soap operas, the storylines vary wildly from the compelling to the contrived week-in-week-out, but the ultimate worldview is never called into question. There are no 'bad' people, only flawed ones. And while we struggle to find our way there really is only one way to live; Support your friends, honor your parents, do right by your children, and try to do the right thing always. That's not to say that Army Wives is a bad show - it's not - but it is one that realistically preaches to the convinced.
DVD Bonus Features
Extras include a selection of bloopers, deleted scenes, and webisodes. Also included is the featurette Army Wives Give Back that sees the show visit actual army families to offer their support. Stationed in the South is a location oriented behind-the-scenes look at Charleston, South Carolina.
"Army Wives: Season Three" is on sale February 9, 2010 and is rated PG. Television. Written and directed by Various. Starring Brigid Brannagh, Catherine Bell, Kim Delaney, Sally Pressman, Sterling K Brown, Wendy Davis, Brian McNamara.