×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Army Wives

There's a fine line between tribute and exploitation, between mining contemporary territory for drama and using the troops shipped off to Iraq as emotional packaging for a primetime soap.

With:
Claudia Joy Holden - Kim Delaney Roxy LeBlanc - Sally Pressman Pamela Moran - Brigid Brannagh Michael Holden - Brian McNamara Roland Burton - Sterling K. Brown Joan Burton - Wendy Davis Trevor LeBlanc - Drew Fuller Denise Sherwood - Catherine Bell

There’s a fine line between tribute and exploitation, between mining contemporary territory for drama and using the troops shipped off to Iraq as emotional packaging for a primetime soap. FX tiptoed along that edge without toppling over in the laudable if too-close-to-the-bone “Over There,” and now Lifetime seizes on the war with considerably less ambition in “Army Wives” — a stereotypical sudser that wants to be “From Here to Eternity” but feels like “All My Children: Military Edition.” One suspects the show, inherited by new Lifetime chief Andrea Wong, will need to prove itself quickly or face redeployment.

Adapted by Katherine Fugate from Tanya Biank’s book, the series follows the wives (and as in “Over There,” one husband) who live with the constant dread of knowing their spouses can be called up to serve abroad, with all the minidramas that engenders.

The characters, however, appear derived from a lineup of war movie cliches: the saintly Claudia Joy (Kim Delaney); abused Denise (Catherine Bell); fun-lovin’, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Roxy (Sally Pressman); struggling Pamela (Brigid Brannagh); and patient Roland (Sterling K. Brown), whose wife Joan (Wendy Davis) is experiencing signs of post-traumatic stress and hitting the bottle.

Bringing these women together is Pamela’s pregnancy, which, in the show’s one novel twist, is actually a surrogate birth, because she and her husband (Jeremy Davidson) desperately need the money. Like Roxy — who shows up to a courtly tea in a bare midriff and extremely short skirt — Pamela’s condition sets gossipy tongues wagging, forging bonds between the newcomers as well as Claudia Joy, who takes them under her wing.

Clearly, there’s fertile material in the toll military life can exact on relationships, but as constructed, “Army Wives” too often feels like a hollow dramatic device — burdened with been-there, heard-that dialogue like “How long before everything feels normal again?,” which elicits the answer “It never does.”

The not-quite-saving grace comes from the earnest performances, with series pros Delaney and Bell supported by the vivacious Pressman and angst-ridden Brannagh. That said, there are still some wince-inducing moments, including a third-episode sequence in which the women sip wine and discuss nicknames for their vaginas. (If that’s standard out-with-the-gals chatter, I’d rather not know.)

Lifetime has made some inroads with primetime series, extending its brand beyond a long-held niche in female-oriented movies; still, a show tackling an area as thorny as the war in such benign, once-over-lightly fashion reflects one of those instances where there’s more courage in the decision than the execution.

At a certain point, the soapy qualities could kick in and bring these characters to life, but as it stands, “Army Wives” feels as empty as expressing “Support the troops” sentiments on a bumper sticker.

Army Wives

Lifetime, Sun. June 3, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in South Carolina by the Mark Gordon Co. and ABC Television Studios. Executive producers, Katherine Fugate, Deborah Spera, Gordon, Jeff Melvoin; co-executive producers, Marshall Persinger, Alex Shevchenko, Harry Bring; director, Ben Younger; writer, Fugate, based on the book "Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives" by Tanya Biank.

Crew: Camera, Lloyd Ahern; editor, Chris Peppe; music, Marc Fantini, Steffan Fantini, Scott Gordon; production designer, William Arnold; casting, April Webster. Running time: 60 MIN.

Cast: Claudia Joy Holden - Kim Delaney Roxy LeBlanc - Sally Pressman Pamela Moran - Brigid Brannagh Michael Holden - Brian McNamara Roland Burton - Sterling K. Brown Joan Burton - Wendy Davis Trevor LeBlanc - Drew Fuller Denise Sherwood - Catherine Bell

More TV

  • Taskmaster - Series 9Picture shows: Taskmaster

    Originals, Streaming Drive 4% Growth in Viewing at British TV Network UKTV

    British broadcast network UKTV claimed a 4% rise in viewing last year, fueled by a spate of original programming and rapid growth for its on-demand service UKTV Play. The 4% figure refers to an increase in “Share of Commercial Impacts,” a metric broadcasters employ to quantify viewing in the digital era for their advertisers, where [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    Disney Plus Set for Earlier Launch in U.K. & Western Europe

    The Walt Disney Co. has set March 24 as the new launch date for Disney Plus in the U.K. and other key markets across Western Europe. With the roll-out previously set for March 31, the streaming service will now be available a week earlier in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. Pricing [...]

  • 9-1-1: LONE STAR: L-R: Rob Lowe

    TV Ratings: '9-1-1: Lone Star' Starts Strong Behind NFC Championship Game

    “9-1-1 Lone Star” got off to a flaming start for Fox in the TV ratings behind the NFC Championship game. The Rob Lowe-fronted series premiere to a 3.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.5 million viewers in the time zone-adjusted ratings, which represents easily the best scripted debut of the 2019-2020 season. “Lone Star” had [...]

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content