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TELEVISION REVIEW

Women bond as `Army Wives'

June 02, 2007|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

Set on a Charleston, S.C., Army post, Lifetime's rather good new series "Army Wives" bears a passing resemblance to the home-front half of the CBS series "The Unit." But that is a boy's show, a military fantasy thriller closer in spirit to "JAG" than to "Army Wives," with its war-strained but fundamentally domestic, familial concerns -- a girl's show, to put it in outmoded and stereotypical and yet obviously the intended terms. Strong enough for a man but made for a woman.

Kim Delaney plays Claudia Joy Holden, the big wife on campus, as it were -- she is a sort of legend among lesser wives -- with "JAG" vet Catherine Bell, Brigid Brannagh and Suzanne Pressman as her eponymous comrades-behind-the-comrades-in-arms. Sterling K. Brown as the doctor husband of a lieutenant colonel (Wendy Davis) is a kind of honorary wife, up to a point. The pilot does a few wire-assisted back flips to get them all friendly -- they come from different strata of Army society and pre-post walks of life. But television routinely makes strange bedfellows, and the players make it easy enough to accept their friendship, so that by Episode 3 it seems perfectly natural to find them drinking wine and discussing the names they've given their "lady parts." (Brown's character is not invited to that particular party.)

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 06, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
"Army Wives": A review of the Lifetime TV series "Army Wives" in Saturday's Calendar section misidentified actress Sally Pressman as Suzanne Pressman.

Indeed, this cross-class, cross-cultural bonding is a kind of expression of Lifetime itself, based as it seems to be in the notion that the particular woes and joys that women share are greater than whatever social circumstances may separate them.

While all the wives get more or less equal time, it's Pressman's Roxy -- as the new kid in town, who doesn't yet know a corporal from a colonel -- who is the viewer's proxy. With her high, high heels, low-cut tops and short-as-possible skirts, she is kitted out just as you might imagine a Tuscaloosa bartender named Roxy to be, but Pressman keeps her very real and down to earth; and as husband Trevor, Drew Fuller ("Charmed") is a good match for her. They do really lovely work together. Indeed, for all the issue-oriented melodrama it offers (including post-traumatic stress and the rarely explored subject of maternal abuse), the show's main strength lies in their highly functional relationship and that of Claudia Joy and colonel husband Michael (Brian McNamara), long married but still flirtatious.

Although there is a little friction when Claudia Joy's older daughter is caught on television demonstrating for peace (but not, it is made clear, specifically "against the war"), "Army Wives" isn't really a political show. (If you can agree that, except perhaps on some high executive level, war is not caused by soldiers, you can watch without fear of apoplexy.) Our current state of engagement gives it currency and urgency, but the Iraq War that shows up occasionally in the background on TV or the radio and sometimes affects the action in the foreground is really Any War. With a little tweaking, the series just as easily could be set in some large corporation, or on a college campus, and engage most of the same interpersonal issues -- what women do for men and for one another. The drama is all local; that's what makes it universal. Yet the setting should resonate with whatever portion of the audience is actually living the stories "Army Wives" purports to tell -- whether they find it accurate or off-base or are just pleased to have been noticed.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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`Army Wives'

Where: Lifetime

When: 10 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)

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