Saturday, April 13, 2013

TV Watch: "Army Wives" soldiers on, taking large changes in stride


The old gang: Col. Joan and psychiatrist Roland Burton; now-Gen. Michael and Claudia Joy Holden (back), Roxy and Trevor LeBlanc (front); Denise Sherwood (back) and Pamela Moran (front)

by Ken

It's been awhile since I've written about Army Wives, but it remains one of the offerings on the TV schedule I look forward to most, and that's with the considerable cast turnover last season and especially the newly begun one, with the departures of, first, Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) and then Roxy (Sally Pressman) and now, apparently, Roland (Sterling K. Brown), who is shipping off to Baltimore.

And of course there's the loss at dead center of Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delaney), one of the great characters in TV history, sort of the glue that held Fort Marshall together as the wife of Michael Holden (Brian McNamara), whom we've watched rise from colonel all the way up to three-star general. Of course change must be a basic fact of life on an Army post, and that has been reflected in the characters we've lost to personnel decisions, either the Army's or the characters' own, and more painfully to death from combat or natural causes.

Along the way of course new characters have been introduced, including a flood of them this season to replace the newly-departeds, but of the original core of "wives" -- the odd grouping of the wives of (originally) a colonel, a major, and two enlisted men and the husband of a lieutenant colonel, only Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell), wife of now-Col. Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), remains. A new network has been formed, now including another general's wife, Jackie Clarke (Kelli Williams) and a few batch of enlisted men's wives (or ex-).

It strikes me as quite believable, though. That original group came together by chance and peculiar circumstance, and the special bonds that developed among them were special and probably nonrepeatable.

And the writers have found plenty to deal with in the characters efforts to cope with family situations and the basic reality that they're all there as part of the U.S. military machine, which means soldiers being sent off to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The characters have always been created so vividly, and with such respect for their individuality, that it's been easy to form strong bonds with them.

I assume the death of Claudia Joy had everything to do with contracts, but the writers made it almost unbearably poignant -- especially for husband Michael and the Holdens' surviving daughter, Emmalin (Katelyn Pippy); her older sister, Amanda, was killed off early on), and for best friend Denise (who herself lost son Jeremy a couple of seasons back). I've tended to assume that each season was the last, and each season I've been pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't. I'm glad again.


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