Army Wives is a guilty pleasure, that’s for sure. It’s so earnest and melodramatic that you can’t help but laugh at it on occasion. However, it’s also a noble show in that it makes an attempt to show viewers the lives of soldiers, their spouses and the struggles they go through while our country is at war.
When the show premiered four years ago, it was a little rawer in its drama, making it one of the finer cable shows when it premiered. Eventually, it got a little too intense for me and I moved away from it. That says a lot coming from Lifetime. In its fourth season, Army Wives has established its formula and is a lot slicker than I remember. Furthermore, the show does heighten the melodrama more than I recall.
At the heart of the series is still the relationship between the four Army Wives the series takes its title from. There is Kim Delaney as Claudia Joy, the wife of a base commander, Catherine Bell as her best friend, Denise, Brigid Branaugh as a worn down mother, Pamela, and Sally Pressman as sassy Roxy, who was a joy to watch when I was originally a fan of the show. Since that first season, when she was a firecracker in a conservative army base, she has since mellowed.
The 4th season of Army Wives opens with the cliffhanger from the end of season 3, with Denise and her husband, Frank (character actor Terry Sipico, also known as one of Tommy Gavin’s cousins on Rescue Me) racing into their home after a gunshot goes off. We’re lead to believe that their twentysomething son, Jeremy (Richard Bryant), who returned from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, may have shot himself. I’m not giving anything away by saying he did not. In fact, his mental health is used as an opportunity to utilize Dr. Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown), the unofficial 5th Army Wife, even though he’s a husband. Roland has a spouse who has been in and out of Iraq while he raises their baby, virtually alone.
An aside, I’ve never been satisfied with the way this relationship was handled in the early seasons and it still felt very forced throughout season 4. Because the series airs on a ”womens” network, it feels that Roland’s wife, Joan (Wendy Davis), must be included in these storylines. Why? The episodes are fine featuring Roland, as his experience (the Army husband) is definitely one you rarely see on television. I digress.
Major plots from the fourth involve pregnancies, redeployment, the wounded and divorce. Although the tone is sometimes light, at other times a little too soapy, the war looms in the background, and adding weight to whatever is going on. Despite my reservations about Army Wives, I couldn’t help but get a little choked up when seeing soldiers getting shipped off to the Middle East. For all of its faults, I still found Army Wives worthwhile viewing simply because the writers and producers are giving a voice to military families. I believe that’s a major reason the show remains a hit.
Bonus features on the complete fourth season DVD include deleted scenes, bloopers, a look as the making of an episode and a featurette on some of the military jargon used in the series.