Army Wives: The Complete First Season – DVD Review

Army Wives
Available at Amazon.com

The LIFETIME channel’s slogan is “television for women.” If there is one thing women love to watch it’s soaps operas. They are often over-the-top, cheesy, and melodramatic, but they also can be addicting. With the recent popularity of modern prime-time “soaps” like Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, you knew it would only be a matter of time before LIFETIME got a prime-time soap opera themselves. With the help of some writers from Anatomy and a somewhat fresh premise, they gave Army Wives a chance to become a new addiction for women out there.

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. She has been married to the newly appointed post commander Brigadier General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara) for eighteen years. Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell) is undoubtedly the most conservative of the army wives as she readily admits that her husband of eighteen years, Major Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), is the first and only man she has ever slept with. 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. 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. 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.

The cast is made up of relative unknowns, except for the leading star, Kim Delaney. She has appeared on the ultimate day-time soap opera, All My Children, so it’s not too hard to see that she is natural in this role. As you might expect, though, all the characters are pretty much stereotypes. There are a couple of interesting characters, like Roxy for an example, but they often get overshadowed by the overall melodrama surrouding the show.

The story lines are pretty much what you would expect from a soap opera as well. Despite this series being written by some of the same writers of Grey’s Anatomy, Army Wives is nowhere near as witty as that show. There are cliches everywhere. The only bright spot is at least this show is examining a subject that hasn’t gotten much coverage before now.

While it is nice to see a show examine life on “the other side of war,” it really brings nothing new to the table. You wouldn’t be shocked to see Army Wives on during the middle of the day if you were changing channels. If you are a classic daytime soap opera fan, you will no doubt enjoy this series. For those who enjoy modern primetime soaps on ABC, you probably won’t like this as much, if at all. It’s a little too melodramatic and there are better shows out there doing the same thing, albeit a different background.

Episodes:

Disc One:

Episode 1 – A Tribe is Born
We follow Roxy, the “newbie”, who moves to the army camp and tries to fit into a strange new world where everyone has to have their own support system for when their spouses leave for extended duty.

Episode 2 – After Birth
Jeremy (Richard Bryant) manhandles his mother for the last time, and Denise decides to get some self-defense training. Pamela and her husband (Jeremy Davidson) are forced to take in the twins because the real parents are out of town. And Joan’s behavior takes a bad turn.

Episode 3 – The Art of Separation
Trevor (Drew Fuller) wants to adopt Roxy’s sons before he ships out, but there are complications (of course). Jeremy’s violence becomes too much, finally, and Pamela decides to come clean about the twins.

Episode 4 – One of Our Own
Denise’s husband (Terry Serpico), a hot-shot major who’s a walking “be a man” cliché that made his son the way he is, has his helicopter shot down and Denise and the others await news. But the biggest soap bubble comes when a soldier takes Roland and Claudia hostage.

Disc Two:

Episode 5 – Independence Day
One of the wives outside the circle, who’s been giving Pamela a hard time, has a secret of her own, but Pamela gets some bad news at Claudia’s Fourth of July party that spoils everyone’s day. Roland goes to Col. Holden (Brian McNamara) to plead for his wife, whose behavior has her facing a court martial. You’d think that since Roland and Claudia Joy Holden are buddies it’d be a slam-dunk.

Episode 6 – Who We Are
This breather episode brings in other characters and story lines. Claudia’s daughter, Amanda (Kim Allen), returns and picks up where she apparently left off with Jeremy. Meanwhile, Roxy’s mother pops in and Trevor’s deployment is rescheduled after an injury.

Episode 7 – Hail and Farewell
Roxy’s mom tries to plan a birthday party for her, and the Army Wives gang up on Jeremy.

Episode 8 – Only the Lonely
The Holdens schedule a vacation, hoping to nip this thing between Amanda and Jeremy in the bud. Denise decides to return nursing after more than a decade off. And Roxy gets an ominous sign when she meets a single mother who has to leave the post after her husband’s death.

Episode 9 – Nobody’s Perfect
Joan returns, but Roland had an affair and so that threatens to keep them apart. Denise’s job puts a damper on Frank’s homecoming, and the other wives re-examine their relationships.

Disc Three:

Episode 10 – Dirty Laundry
Come on. All of it’s dirty. But this is military dirty laundry. A friend of Claudia’s is going to testify at a Congressional hearing that her husband’s death was caused by the U.S.

Episode 11 – Truth and Consequences
Joan finally finds out about the affair, Pamela gets a job with a radio station, and we learn more about Claudia Joy’s past. Everyone does, in fact.

Episode 12 – Rules of Engagement
At the bar where Roxy works a fight breaks out that prompts Trevor to ask her to quit. Roland and Joan are still having problems.

Episode 13 – Goodbye Stranger
When weapons turn up missing, the post is put on high alert in anticipation that it might be terrorist-related.

The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. The transfer is good and a little better than average even for new shows today. No major problems here.

The audio included is English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in Spanish and French as well. No major problems here either. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear.

Audio Commentaries
There 5 audio commentaries for this season on 4 different episodes. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer) and Deborah Spera (executive producer) comment on “A Tribe is Born” episode. Ben Younger (director) and Lloyd Ahern (director of photography) comment on “A Tribe is Born” episode as well. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer), Katherine Fugate (executive producer), and actresses Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell comment on the “Independence Day” episode. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer), Katherine Fugate (executive producer), and actors, Brian McNamara, Sterling K. Brown, and Wendy Davis comment on the “Dirty Laundry” episode. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer), Katherine Fugate (executive producer), and actors, Brigid Brannagh, Sally Pressman, and Drew Fuller comment on the “Goodbye Stranger” episode. There is a good mix of information and entertaining with each one having their strong points. So check these out when you get done watching the episodes.

“Wives on the Homefront” Featurette
This runs 12 minutes and we hear comments from real-life army wives about the challenges and hardships they face on a daily basis. There are lots of personal anecdotes here, and it is all pretty interesting.

“Have At It” Featurette
This is a Q&A session with the cast and also a separate one with the executive producers. The one with the cast runs for 14 minutes and the one with the executive producers runs for 3 minutes. They all answer questions submitted by fans. The actors’ question-and-answer segment is pretty insightful, and you also get to see the actors out of character. But the one with the executive producers is too short and too “promotional”-sounding to be worth anything.

“Army Wives Gone A.W.O.L.”
This runs 4 minutes and it’s your standard blooper reel. Just the basic stuff you would expect to find here. Fairly funny.

“Missing in Action”
This runs for 7 minutes total and there are 8 deleted scenes all together. There is one spoiler scene, but for the most part all these were cut for time reasons and aren’t really worth your time. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer), Katherine Fugate (executive producer) comment on the scenes that were deleted and the reasons why.

“Hump for the Lump”
This is described as a “deleted story line”, but this is really an extra deleted scene. It was supposed to open the season finale of the season, but was cut for time reasons. Marshall Persinger (creator/executive producer), Katherine Fugate (executive producer) explain why this scene was cut as well.

If you love day-time soap operas, you will probably enjoy Army Wives. It is targeted towards women who love that type of show, so they may become so addicted to it that they will want to purchase this set. If you don’t like excess melodrama, you probably won’t like this show. My suggestion is just to rent it, if you haven’t seen it yet, and it sounds interesting. However, this is not “must-see” viewing.

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Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Army Wives – Season 1. Created by Tanya Biank, Katherine Fugate, Marshall Persinger, and Mark Gordon. Starring Catherine Bell, Brigid Brannagh, Wendy Davis, Sally Pressman, and Kim Delaney. Running time: 552 minutes. NOT RATED. Released on DVD: June 10, 2008. Available at Amazon.com

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