"Army Wives - The Complete First Season" DVD Review
June 09, 2008 by Zach Demeter
One of the Lifetime networks newest original series, Army Wives debuted to positive reviews from the New York Post and Miami Herald and became the Lifetime networks biggest premiere since its inception. The series also maintained a healthy viewership throughout its first season, thirteen episode run and shortly after the season wrapped up a second season was ordered. Unfortunately with the writers’ strike in full tow shortly after the season ended, it’d be over a year since the series debuted that fans would get another look at the many roles in Army Wives.
Taking place on an army base, Army Wives revolves around a small group who have had their husbands or wives deployed overseas. Forming a bond with one another over this single string that connected them, five of the wives bolster an even stronger friendship, not only sharing secrets with one another but also helping each other out whenever one of their own requires it. Based off of the non-fiction novel Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage by Tanya Biank, Army Wives comes from Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Mark Gordon and stars Catherine Bell, Wendy Davis, Kim Delaney, Sally Pressman, Brigid Brannagh, Drew Fuller, Brian McNamara and Sterling K. Brown.
I won’t lie…I try to avoid the Lifetime channel by any means necessary. There are several reasons I don’t enjoy the network, the first being that…well, I’m not a woman. The programming offered there doesn’t interest me in the least, but even I became curious about the Army Wives show that was making waves on the network. I still wasn’t interested enough to actually sit down and watch a show, but when the first season arrived on my doorstep I saw the opportunity to watch this show that had piqued my interest almost a year ago. Well that and I had to watch it to review it regardless, so there wasn’t much of a choice involved there.
Within the first episode I saw the appeal of the series. It’s tightly written, boasts a strong cast and from the start it has several storylines running alongside one another. It was also a very easy show to get into, as even when you were introduced to a new character you felt like you already knew them for several episodes already. The characters were all easily identifiable and unique in their own regard and by the end of the first episode I saw what was making the show such a hit for the network.
Of course with that easiness in viewing it also means that there are elements of the show that aren’t entirely unique. A few of the characters fit into a general stereotype that works for the show, but it’s hard to just gloss over details that you’ve seen in other productions that have either done it similarly o better. Still, Army Wives has plenty of unique aspects of it too, which is where the show really shines, but keep in mind not everything about the show is as original or ingenious as one would hope it could be.
A lot of the series plays out like a late night soap opera, but hey, it airs on Lifetime so what more do you want? It can become a bit redundant in its story lines at times, but overall the thirteen episodes create a steady pace throughout and regardless of any kind of overlap from other series or films that have photographed a similar setup, the series is still an engaging event that keeps viewers guess as to where it’s traveling with some of the story lines. In particular the whole season ends on a cliffhanger, something that no doubt is making the near year-long wait in-between seasons even that more agonizing. At least Army Wives and 24 fans have something in common now. Maybe they’ll make a show about being forced to wait long periods of time for new seasons. I shouldn’t have said that, now Fox will make the show and then cancel it abruptly. Oh well.
Overall Army Wives is a fine treat, but I don’t see myself coming back for a second season. It’s smartly written and features a strong cast, but it’s just not a show for my age or gender bracket. As interesting as the series is, I just won’t be tuning in on June 8th for the premiere…well, maybe I will. That cliffhanger was a bit enticing. Recommended.
Army Wives arrives on DVD in a three-disc slipcase set, with a single and dual layer digi-pak tray to house the discs. A small flap holds an advertisement for the upcoming season premiere, while the rest of the packaging includes images from the series as well as disc descriptions and bonus features (which there are plenty of). I’m actually kind of surprised they put this series in such a fancy box set release, as a lot of studios, Disney included, are moving towards single-size amaray cases to house their multi-disc releases. I guess they wanted to get more viewers into the series with the more extravagant packaging.
Menus are simple and easy to navigate but the real star of the set is the anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Surround transfers that the episodes boast. While Lifetime HD isn’t a widespread channel yet, fans can check out what the series looks like in a sharp looking video transfer and an excellent sound mix. The video remains crisp and clean throughout the set, as one would expect with a recent show, and the audio remains mostly front channel focused, but bar sequences and the occasional action piece makes use of the surrounds. It’s a very well done technical presentation all around and one that I’m sure fans will appreciate.
Moving on we have the host of extras I mentioned earlier. The first big bonus is the four episodes with commentary by cast and crew. The four episodes, “A Tribe is Born”, “Independences Day”, “Dirty Laundry”, “Goodbye Stranger” all come with commentary with varying levels of cast and crew participation. They’re a very interesting listen as we get to hear discussion on the series as well as specific plot points that made it into the episodes and what was dropped. In similar fashion, the “Missing in Action” deleted scenes, which run near an aggregated nine minutes, and “Hump for the Lump”, a deleted storyline that runs 2:47, have commentary with executive producers Katherine Fugate and Marshall Persinger. Each one of the commentaries are worth listening to if you’re a fan of the show, but if you’re like me and only casually enjoyed it, some of the discussion may get a little more in-depth than you really care about, but hey, that’s the nature of commentaries.
The other extras on the disc include a gag reel (4:08) as well as several documentaries. The first documentary is “Wives on the Homefront” (11:49), which follows real-life army wives and includes a healthy amount of interviews mixed in. The next two extras are “Have At It with the Army Wives” (14:07) which takes on the interview style of the “Have At It” segment that Brigid Brannagh’s character has in the series. This is our first extra in full anamorphic widescreen and has the cast answer questions that were submitted by the fans that range from how much training the actresses went through to accurately portray their roles all the way to general making-of questions. A second extra, “Have At It with the Executive Producers” (3:17), isn’t quite the same, despite the “Have At It” being included. This piece is more just the producers talking about the show rather than fielding specific questions from fans and their dialogue is interspersed with clips from the show (almost all of which are from the pilot, oddly enough). About the only thing it has in common with the previous “Have At It” extra is that it’s in anamorphic widescreen as well.
That wraps up the extras for this release. While it may not seem like much, the commentaries more than make up for the lack of any kind of series overview and the “Have At It” pieces include plenty of other behind-the-scenes information as well. The set comes Recommended for those who haven’t seen the series or are die-hard fans, but casual viewers will want to pass it on by. The series is interesting, but I don’t think it has much of a re-watch factor, so owning the set will be limited strictly to the fans of the series.
Army Wives - The Complete First Season arrives on DVD on June 10th.