In the last twenty-five years, television has taken viewers on a journey through the grittier side of war with series like Tour of Duty, China Beach, and The Unit. Rarely has television examined the lives of the families left at home as their husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers serve their country. In an effort to change that, on June 3, 2007 Army Wives premiered on Lifetime television. Based on the non-fiction book Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage by Tanya Biank, Army Wives was created by Katherine Fugate, and Grey's Anatomy executive producer Mark Gordon serves in the same capacity for Army Wives.
Set on fictional Fort Marshall in Charleston, South Carolina, the series follows the lives of four women and one man who are brought together by a common bond–they all have enlisted spouses. Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delaney) is the person the rest of the spouses look to for leadership. With a forceful personality and a heart of gold, she always seems to be around when someone needs help. She has also been married to the newly appointed post commander Brigadier General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara) for eighteen years, so she garners immediate respect. The couple has two daughters, Amanda and Emmalin.
Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell) is undoubtedly the most conservative of the army wives. Having grown up as an army brat, she is comfortable in the lifestyle and readily admits that her husband of eighteen years, Major Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), is the first and only man she has ever slept with. Together, they have a son as old as their marriage named Jeremy (Richard Bryant), who has just been accepted at West Point but is secretly hitting her. After all that time as a stay-at-home-mom, Denise decides to complete her nurses training she abandoned when she married.
Dr. Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown) is the only male among the army wives. He works as a psychiatrist at the post's military hospital and is married to Joan Burton (Wendy Davis), Fort Marshall's first African American Lieutenant Colonel. As Army Wives begins, Joan has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan where she commanded over 400 men and is showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
Roxy LeBlanc (Sally Pressman), a Southern girl from Alabama, married PFC Trevor LeBlanc (Drew Fuller) after only knowing him four days, moving with her new husband and two young sons to the army post in Charleston. Free-spirited, opinionated and unaccustomed to military life, Roxy immediately feels like an outcast. To try to gain a foothold, Roxy takes a job at a local joint called the Hump Bar.
Pamela Moran (Brigid Brannagh) is a former Boston cop. She is married to Chase (Jeremy Davidson), a member of the Delta Force and the secrecy of his missions is a constant strain on their marriage. In the series opener, Pamela is heavily pregnant with twins–she is secretly acting as a surrogate to get her family out of debt. All of these spouses create a special bond when Pamela unexpectedly goes into labor at Claudia Joy's wives' tea party and gives birth on the pool table at the Hump Bar.
Unlike most recent female-dominated shows like Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, where all the women are from the same economic status, Army Wives shows there is an economic division in the military that comes with position and rank. Obviously, the rank of each woman's husband determines their social standing on the post. As the wife of a colonel (later a Brigadier General), Claudia Joy lives in a large nicely appointed home and gets only respect when spoken to. (The gossip mill is another story.) Denise is married to an officer, so she ranks just below Claudia Joy in the social pecking order. Roxy and Pamela are wives of enlisted men who live in low-level base housing and whose life choices are the object of open snickering and post gossip. Despite all of the differences, these women form a special bond because of what they have in common–they all know what it's like to worry to worry about a spouse that has been shipped overseas or will be.
Now, don't think that Lifetime has created a completely serious show. Like any network, the folks at Lifetime realize that sex sells. Now this is basic cable, so Army Wives has some limitations that Sex and the City didn't face. However, the show does a good job of providing enough female and male skin to give Army Wives a soap opera feel. Despite the amount of sexual innuendo, the series does a good job of never crossing the line into complete soap opera territory. Just when you think the army part of the show has dissolved, another deployment occurs or the news is on in the background to keep the war in the viewer's minds.
Army Wives is really the first television series to take the camera off the battlefield and look at life in the military from a spouse's perspective. While Army Wives is definitely a sudser in many ways, the top-notch acting, compelling storylines, and gripping drama make the series a fulfilling experience.
Army Wives – The Complete First Season includes all thirteen episodes on three DVDs. The show is presented in widescreen format. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and features Spanish and French subtitles.
The set includes a few interesting extras. "Have At it With the Army Wives" is a question and answer session with the cast of the show and questions submitted by fans. "Wives on the Homefront" is a featurette showcasing the stories of real army wives and how they cope. This DVD set also includes a deleted storyline and blooper reel as well as several audio commentaries.