While the Lifetime network has gained a reputation of offering largely "movie of the week"-type dramas, the network has taken steps to turn this perception around, with new shows such as "Army Wives" (and nabbing "Project Runway" from the Bravo Network.) "Wives", from "Grey's Anatomy" exec producer Mark Gordon, is a drama that focuses on the wives of men currently serving in the armed forces. The series does occasionally find itself in soap opera territory, but the characters and situations are well-written and emotional moments often seem earned and not manipulative.
The main character is Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delaney), who's joined by a varied group of other women, including: former cop Pamela Moran (Brigid Brannagh) , Joan Burton (Wendy Davis), Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell) and Roxy LeBlanc (Sally Pressman). The series follows the women as they try to cope with the stress of having their loved ones very potentially in harm's way. Their enlisted husbands are Brigadier General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara), Major Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), PFC Trevor LeBlanc (Drew Fuller and Chase (Jeremy Davidson). In a reversal, there's also Dr. Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown), who is married to colonel Joan Burton (Wendy Davis).
Season Three picks up where the series left off at the close of season two. Joan has a lot to deal with in this season, including having to say goodbye to her husband and new baby girl, Sarah Elizabeth, before heading back to Iraq. Meanwhile, Roland is also facing a turning point as he juggles taking care of Sarah Elizabeth and deciding what career path he wants to take. On top of issues with her daughter, Claudia Joy discovers she has a health problem that she tries to keep a secret from her friends. Season three also delves further into the relationship between Denise and Frank as Denise must own up to her affair while the couple works on saving their marriage. Meanwhile, Roxy is set on reopening the bar, and ends up running into some financial trouble. Pamela gets a new job, but the joy is short lived after Chase doesn’t return home when expected and the truth of his whereabouts are revealed.
Season Four continues to see the series provide an enjoyable and compelling balance between relationship drama and professional drama, as the characters try to cope with the difficulties of both and trying to balance both sides of their lives. The season provides several story arcs, including Roxy facing both the serious difficulties of surroundings her pregnancy and the stress of having to wonder where her and Trevor will find themselves heading if he is promoted. Meanwhile, Pamela and Chase take steps to improve their relationship after problems become apparent to others, and Pamela finds herself in a new career. Emmalin tries to pursue her dreams, but finds a bump in the road when she gets an injury. Five For Fighting, Jill Biden and Winona Judd make guest star appearances in the season.
The performances are above-average, although the series is especially helped by the duo of Bell and Delaney, who lead the show with two compelling, powerful performances. Additionally, engaging in supporting efforts are Brown, Brannagh and Pressman. The show continues to impress with its solid writing and honest, emotional moments. As the show continues to progress, the characters develop naturally without feeling manipulated to fit the plot. With several moving and memorable moments in Season three, “Army Wives” manages to maintain it’s run as a heartfelt and powerful series.
• Season 4
51 4-01 11/Apr/10 Collateral Damage
52 4-02 18/Apr/10 Scars & Stripes
53 4-03 25/Apr/10 Homefront
54 4-04 02/May/10 Be All You Can Be
55 4-05 09/May/10 Guns & Roses
56 4-06 16/May/10 Evasive Maneuvers
57 4-07 23/May/10 Heavy Losses
58 4-08 06/Jun/10 Over and Out
59 4-09 13/Jun/10 New Orders
60 4-10 20/Jun/10 Trial & Error
61 4-11 27/Jun/10 Safety First
62 4-12 11/Jul/10 Change Of Station
63 4-13 18/Jul/10 Army Strong
64 4-14 25/Jul/10 AWOL
65 4-15 01/Aug/10 Hearts & Minds
66 4-16 08/Aug/10 Mud, Sweat & Tears
67 4-17 15/Aug/10 Murder in Charleston
68 4-18 22/Aug/10 Forward March
VIDEO: "Army Wives" is presented by ABC Studios Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Episodes looked surprisingly good for a basic cable program, as the show offered fine cinematography, as well as good use of locations. The transfer certainly presents the show well, as the episodes appeared consistently crisp and well-defined. While a few minor instances of artifacting appear, the picture otherwise appeared clean and smooth. Colors looked warm and rich, with very pleasing saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a dialogue-driven presentation, with relatively little in the way of surround useage (occasional slight ambience, largely.) Audio quality is fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and clear, full-sounding music.
EXTRAS: 18 deleted scenes, "Safety First" featurette (an informative "making of"), "Army Wives Get Cookin'" (a local chef visits) featurette and "Military Jargon" (the cast gets tested on their knowledge of military jargon - fun and enjoyable) featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Army Wives" continues to press forward quite well in season 4: the performances remain strong and the writing continues to provide fresh, moving drama for the characters to contend with. The DVD presentation boasts very nice audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.