Married life is full of challenges, but being married to a soldier comes with a whole other set of struggles. Lifetime Channel’s original series Army Wives tries to give a glimpse into life on a military base. The show follows four army wives and an army husband in their day-to-day lives. All of them have children and plenty to do, and their spouse’s jobs could change everything on a moment’s notice. While Army Wives is hardly the new MASH, they should be admired for trying to tell these families’ stories, and I think that viewers will find that this show has a bit more meat than the usual Lifetime Channel fare.
Army Wives follows the lives of Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delaney), Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell), Roxy LeBlanc (Sally Pressman), Pamela Moran (Brigid Brannagh), and Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown) and their respective spouses Michael Holden (Brian McNamara), Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), Trevor LeBlanc (Drew Fuller), Chase Moran (Jeremy Davidson), and Joan Burton (Wendy Davis). Denise and Frank’s son Jeremy (Richard Bryant) is also in the army, whereas the rest of the children are too young to serve in the military. Claudia Joy and Michael also had another daughter who was killed by a terrorist attack at the end of the first season.
At first glance, Army Wives might look like a soap opera with military jargon thrown in, but the focus of most episodes is not on romances or love triangles. In season four, the show tackles post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, military divorce, and the MIA of Vietnam. Characters are fighting in Afghanistan and building schools in Iraq. Critics might write the show off due to its flaws or sometimes overly sentimental moments, but where else are these issues being tackled on television right now?
Another concern I had initially was that the show would overly romanticize army life and intentionally overlook some of the military’s problems. On the contrary, there are numerous subplots involving where the military fails. In “Trial & Error,” Claudia Joy is asked to assist on a case against the army involving a contaminated building site, and in the end, the army is clearly in the wrong. Also, Claudia Joy gets involved again in “AWOL” when a single mother misses deployment because she can’t find a home for her daughter while she is gone. The mother might have missed her deployment and violated her contract with the army, but the episode shows just how difficult it is to be a single mother in the military.
On a similar note, the show used Pamela’s separation and divorce throughout season 4 to show why military wives going through marital problems opt to stay in an unhappy marriage instead of filing for divorce. This is a situation that needs to be remedied, especially considering the spousal abuse also shown in “Evasive Maneuvers.” If wives are seeking a divorce and haven’t been forward about any physical abuse, then they might think it is easier to go back to that abusive situation since they know they won’t get much out of the divorce. Pamela is lucky in that she has police training from before her marriage and has viable skills for getting back into the workforce, but not all military wives are so fortunate.
In the end, Army Wives was a show that snuck up on me. I started out expecting nothing more than Lifetime drama with a little bit of military thrown in, but as the season ended, I actually felt a connection to these characters and their struggles. The acting might not be as strong as other dramas on TV right now, but if you’re looking for a good ensemble drama that focuses more on families and marriages than couple swapping, you should check out Army Wives.
DVD Bonus Features
Special features include the stars having a cooking lesson, a behind-the-scenes featurette on “Safety First,” deleted scenes, and a bloopers reel.
"Army Wives: The Complete Fourth Season" is on sale December 14, 2010 and is not rated. Action, Drama, Romance, Television, War. Directed by Chris Peppe, Lloyd Ahern II, Patrick Norris. Written by Karen Maser, Dee Johnson, Tanya Biank. Starring Brian McNamara, Brigid Brannagh, Catherine Bell, Drew Fuller, Jeremy Davidson, Kim Delaney, Richard Bryant, Sally Pressman, Sterling K Brown, Terry Serpico, Wendy Davis.