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Army Wives





Paul Asay
PluggedIn Staff

TV Series Review

No one ever claimed military life was easy. But who knew it could be so sudsy?

That’s the impression left by Army Wives, a heartfelt but often salacious look at family life on a fictional South Carolina military base teeming with sex and sobs … and an occasional suicide bomber.

The series follows the fortunes and follies of five military families ranging in rank from post commander Major Gen. Michael Holden and his beautiful, benevolent wife, Claudia Joy, to Sgt. Trevor LeBlanc and his feisty bride, Roxy. There’s man’s man Lt. Col. Frank Sherwood and his wife, Denise, a nurse who slept with a former patient while Frank was deployed—an escapade that got her banned from working at the base hospital. Pamela Moran, now divorced from her Delta Force hubby, currently packs heat as a police officer. And the tough-as-nails-but-still-loving Lt. Col. Joan Burton is married to the group’s only Army husband, psychiatrist Roland Burton.

With so many characters, military castes and stressful deployments, plotlines are more complex than a tactical assault, so let’s just say that all of these folks have marital, physical and emotional issues. “The show is a drama,” says Tanya Biank, author of the book on which Army Wives is based. She told Newport News’ Daily Press, “It’s not a primer on military life. But it makes people think about what military families go through.”

On that count, the most successful show in Lifetime’s 23-year history earns its stripes. Couples feel severe strain when one or the other of them is deployed. When a soldier tells his wife he’s afraid that she’s changing while he’s overseas, the conversation rings true. Affirming messages about family and forgiveness are embedded here, too.

Real military wives are said to be among the show’s biggest supporters, and the drama has been promoted by a U.S. senator and a president. Others, however, feel Army Wives should be court-martialed. “What I witnessed … was the utter degradation and humiliation of Army spouses everywhere,” wrote Victoria Franz in Army Times. “Shame on Lifetime, and shame on Tanya Biank.”

The show can, indeed, be tawdry. Characters (and not all of them married) strip and cavort in bed half-naked, kissing passionately as they prepare to do much more than that. Females strut in revealing nighties and underwear or in camisoles and very low-cut dresses. Everyone on base seems to drink, downing wine, beer and glasses of whiskey at the Hump Bar. Language can be coarse, with misuses of God’s name and profanities such as “d‑‑n,” “h‑‑‑,” “a‑‑” and “b‑‑ch” fired indiscriminately.

These are the things that rip those stripes away.

Episode Reviews

ArmyWives: 5222011

“Drop Zone”

Joan and Roland adopt David, a young boy who is HIV-positive. They explain to friends that the child is not a threat to anyone’s health, and their new family member is warmly embraced. But David has been abandoned by several women, and while the couple can deal with his illness, his aloofness toward Joan is harder to navigate.

A nighttime parachuting drill ends in tragedy, killing several people and injuring others. Michael and Trevor are among those hurt. Trevor is deemed a hero for his leadership during the crisis. Denise misses nursing, so Roxy talks to Joan about letting her have a second chance to work at the hospital. Pamela nervously faces her six-month officer evaluation—which will be headed by her potentially vengeful ex-boyfriend. Michael is overlooked for a West Point promotion, but Claudia passes the Bar exam. Their daughter, Emmalin, comes home miserable from college, threatening to drop out because she’s overwhelmed by classes.

When Michael’s pulled over, the officer finds an open alcohol bottle in his car. Characters say “d‑‑n,” “a‑‑” and “h‑‑‑.”

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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