With all the frenzied promotion for USA's miniseries "The Starter Wife," I didn't even notice that another spousal-themed TV show premiered just this week. And I'll admit it: When I first learned about "Army Wives," I rolled my eyes, thinking it would be another helping of goopy-sappy Lifetime programming. Having watched the pilot episode, however, I've completely changed my tune.
"Army Wives" is an ensemble drama that follows several women living on an army base in present day (which is to say, in war time). There's Claudia (Kim Delaney), the strong-headed wife of a high-ranking officer. Denise (Catherine Bell) has a stern but loving husband and a teenage son with an uncontrollable temper. Joan (Wendy Davis) is recently back from Afghanistan and is having trouble re-adjusting to her "normal" life with her supportive psychiatrist husband. Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) used to be a tough Boston cop, but gave up working at her husband's urging and became a full-time mom. At the heart of the show, however, is Roxy Leblanc (Sally Pressman), a spunky, funny mother of two who is new to the army lifestyle after recently marrying a soldier. To find out more specifically why I'm loving this show, though,
Roxy reminds me of a slightly sweeter version of Kyra Sedgwick's character in "The Closer," and there is just something compelling about her that makes you want to keep watching. The group of women is diverse enough that their relationships really do seem unlikely, but the way they connect isn't cheesy or overly neat, as I think many Lifetime shows make things appear. Meanwhile, the writing neither glamorizes nor demeans army life, making the army lifestyle seem highly respectable, but certainly not without its problems. And sure, maybe I am the target audience for this show, but even the male writer over at TV Squad admits to enjoying "Army Wives," while acknowledging that people may call into question his manhood because of it. Personally, I think clever and engaging television knows no gender, though it's probably difficult to get male viewers to tune into a channel deemed "television for women."
"Army Wives" regularly airs on Sundays at 10:00 PM, but if you missed the first episode you can watch it online. And then come back and tell me what you think.