Army Wives: The Complete First Season
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (24th June 2008).
The Show

I’ll admit, when I had first heard of “Army Wives” (2007-Current), I often wondered if this was some different series that was to be along the same lines as “Desperate Housewives” (2004-Current), just based in the Army. However, this was just a thought since I’ve never actually seen an episode. Then I got the package in the mail knowing that my next reviews were inside. That’s one of the fun things about getting those mysterious envelopes. You always know that there’s gonna be some secrets waiting to come out once they’re opened. In this case, I found that one of my three titles in THIS package was the first season of “Army Wives”. I guess I would have my chance to find out of this was a sister show to “Desperate Housewives”. I can definitely say that’s a big, fat NO!! The only thing that I’m sure these two shows have in common is that they are both released by Buena Vista. Okay, now that I think about it, I HAVE caught little bits and pieces of “Desperate Housewives” and these two shows are definitely down different paths. Also, I noticed the Lifetime network’s logo on the back of the cover, so that was also a tip-off. Lifetime, for those of you who aren’t up to speed, is a cable/satellite TV network that has programming tailored more for women. As I would find out, “Army Wives” is no exception and it definitely falls in the Lifetime category. But the question to answer here is: Is this DVD box of “Army Wives: The Complete First Season” worth being in either the must-see category or the must-own category? Read on and find out.

“Army Wives: The Complete First Season” – From “Grey’s Anatomy” executive producer Mark Gordon comes the emotional series. Meet the "Army Wives" – four women and one man – who share the common bond of loving someone enlisted in the U.S. Army. Authentic, passionate drama and candid interviews offer an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of everyday Americans as they struggle to understand honor, friendship and loyalty to their country. Experience every inspiring episode of “Army Wives: The Complete First Season”, featuring an all-star cast led by Kim Delaney, Catherine Bell and Sally Pressman.

One of the things that I liked about the series is that even though the title would suggest that it’s about the wives of soldiers in the Army, you also get to see some things from the men’s point of view. Even the so-called Army brats get their time in the spotlight (young and young adult). Also, I like that the Army wives are not all the same breed. In other words, they each come from a different walk of life. Still, somehow or other they manage to blend together really well. However, the wives themselves have even more diversity as they have a male friend, Roland (Sterling K. Brown) the shrink, who somehow manages to fit in here. I think it’s because his wife is a commanding officer. As I’m watching this series, I would think that it was created by women for women. In many cases it was as I’m listen to the audio commentaries. In some aspects, it plays out like a soap...with an Army twist. Also, I was glad to see that the wives aren’t just there to be wives. They most certainly have their say when it comes right down to it. I also enjoyed watching the characters change and grow throughout these 13 episodes. I also liked that Roland, despite being a guy, has also become an “Army Wife”, if you will. I guess he fits in nicely with them, because he seems to be on their level, not being a soldier like them but is married to one. Also, like most good series these days, there’s definitely a cliffhanger. As of this review, Season 2 is already premiering, so those of you who are faithfully watching already know what happened after. For those of you don’t know, well...you’re just going to have to watch for yourself to find out.

The downsides? On the other hand, if I were watching this series when it premiered, I probably would not have continued with it. I could say that the reason the pilot didn’t sell me was because I felt the story didn’t flow as well as most other shows I’ve had to review in the past. It could be the Army atmosphere since everything seems to be about discipline. As you move throughout the rest of the series, you will continue to see conflicts in which you basically get the idea that it’s the Army’s way or the highway. Unfortunately, that’s the way it often happens in the real world when you are part of SOME armed force. Why am I stating this in this part of my review? Because I for one don’t like the way the military can be to people, and because it’s a part of life as we as a whole on Starship Earth have created. In the case of this show, life can be just as unpleasant as pleasant – especially if you’re a woman living the life of an Army wife. Still, they don’t let it get them down, on a more positive note.

My final word: I have managed to get through the entire first season of this series. Once again, I was surprised, especially since the pilot episode didn’t impress me all that much. Still, I guess watching a pilot can go one of two ways. You may be impressed by it and continue to watch the series to the end, or you won’t be too impressed and that will be the end of that for you. As a reviewer, I can’t do that. So I have to go on and hope that it gets better. In this case, it has. Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t own it. No, I’m not being negative here. It’s just that this title doesn’t fall into my personal preferences (horror movies, independent films, foreign films, just to name a few...). However, for those of you who enjoy this kind of programming, you will DEFINITELY want to add “Army Wives: The Complete First Season” to your collection.

This set contains all 13 episodes from the show's first season, they include:

- "A Tribe Is Born" (42:38)
- "After Birth" (42:38)
- "The Art of Separation" (40:52)
- "One of Our Own" (41:18)
- "Independence Day" (42:37)
- "Who We Are" (42:11)
- "Hail and Farewell" (42:56)
- "Only the Lonely" (42:54)
- "Nobody’s Perfect" (41:42)
- "Dirty Laundry" (41:47)
- "Truth and Consequences" (42:32)
- "Rules of Engagement" (42:38)
- "Goodbye Stranger" (42:00)

Video

Each episode is presented in anamorphic widescreen format (1.78:1 ratio). Although there are no chapter selection menus, each episode has chapter stops. There is also a ‘Play All’ option available on each disc in case you wish to have a marathon. After the pilot, the episodes thereafter have a “Previously on...” to show you what has happened beforehand. As for the picture itself, Buena Vista shows that once again it doesn’t skimp on the transfers. The picture looks virtually flawless. You can see how vibrant the colors are. In some cases you can even see the auras around some of the people in the background.

Audio

Each episode is accompanied with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. There are optional English (hard-of-hearing), French and Spanish subtitles available. I’ve only watched a few of the episodes as I’m writing this part of the review and I’m noticing that the audio mix could easily be a 2.0 Dolby Digital surround. You rarely hear any of the background noise at the rear speakers. Still, if you listen well enough it will be there.

Extras

Buena Vista has included 5 episode audio commentaries, outtakes, deleted footage, 3 featurettes, and 3 bonus trailers that make up the extras packed into this 3-disc set. Read further for insight into these bonus features. Note: With the exception of the bonus trailers, all of the bonus features have optional English (hard-of-hearing), French and Spanish subtitles.

DISC ONE:

There is an audio commentary track for the episode "A Tribe Is Born". This features executive producer Deborah Spera, creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, and co-executive producer Marshall Persinger. As they are watching the pilot episode, they seem to be picking certain things about a scene and expounding on them. It’s interesting hearing these women talk technical as they also display their emotions at how some of the scenes played out. It should prove to be enjoyable.

There is a second audio commentary track is also for the episode "A Tribe Is Born". This features director Ben Younger and director of photography Lloyd Ahern. Unlike the first commentary, this one is all technical talk. Like the first commentary, it is also scene specific. They also throw in bits and pieces of humor. However, they stick to the technical. Also worth the listen.

DISC TWO:

There is an audio commentary track for the episode "Independence Day". This features creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, co-executive producer Marshall Persinger and actors Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell. I think it’s pretty safe to say that all of the commentaries presented here will be scene specific. In this particular track, you get another women’s point of view. It’s also interesting to hear an all-women point-of-view since you get to hear the emotions they display as they talk. This one delves more on the characters themselves.

DISC THREE:

There is an audio commentary track for the episode "Dirty Laundry". This features creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, co-executive producer Marshall Persinger and actors Brian McNamara, Sterling K. Brown and Wendy Davis. This is the first commentary in this set to where you have mixed sexes. In the commentaries on the other two discs, it was either a male-only or a female-only point of view. This one flows nicely as they laugh and have a good time talking about each scene as the participants are watching this episode. This track is more of a casual flow. You will definitely enjoy listening to this one.

There is an audio commentary track for the episode "Goodbye Stranger". This features creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, co-executive producer Marshall Persinger and actors Brigid Brannagh, Sally Pressman and Drew Fuller. This time you’ve got the women outnumbering the men (there’s only one this time). Despite there being only one male in this commentary, it flows smoothly as they are focused on this final episode of the first season. Every commentary has been fun to listen to up to this point and this one is most certainly worthy the listen. You would be surprised at what you would learn about each of the episodes that have a commentary. Too bad all of them didn’t have commentaries. Still, this one is both a combination of technical talk and easy flowing conversation.

"Army Wives Gone A.W.O.L." runs 4 minutes and 8 seconds. Here, you will see one outtake after another. In other words, it’s an outtakes reel. These are presented in letterboxed widescreen format.

There are 8 deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, co-executive producer Marshall Persinger. You can view them individually or all together. These are presented in letterboxed widescreen format. Here are the scenes as follows:

- "I Don’t Understand" runs for 1 minute 4 seconds – Claudia Joy finds Michael feeding the babies. Michael tells her that he doesn’t understand how Pamela can make the decision she did.
- "Pour the Tea" runs for 1 minute 52 seconds – The wives are tearing down the nursery as Pamela shows up with beer. They then pour the tea (spill their guts).
- "It’s Not a Girl Horse" runs for 59 seconds – Two kids bring a wooden horse up to their parents and argue about it.
- "I Love You Too" runs for 36 seconds – At a children’s performance, Chase leans over and tells his wife that he loves her before leaving.
- "Getting Ready" runs for 16 seconds – Claudia Joy is alone and getting ready.
- "Art Class" runs for 51 seconds – Pamela takes her daughter to art class. Pamela and Scott see each other and Angie has an idea why.
- "Caught In the Act / Unidentified Bomber" runs for 43 seconds – George is spying on Marilyn. Then you see an unidentified man arming himself to the teeth.
- "Paycheck" runs for 22 seconds – Roxy shows up at the bar to get her last paycheck.

There is a deleted story line entitled "Hump For the Lump" which runs 2 minutes and 47 seconds. There is also with optional audio commentary by creator/executive producer Katherine Fugate, co-executive producer Marshall Persinger. Here, you see an unidentified man going through some Army weapons while the wives are singing a Supertramp song during the Hump For the Lump event. These scenes are cutting back and forth. It is presented in letterboxed widescreen format.

The featurette "Wives On the Homefront" runs 11 minutes and 49 seconds. This is a made-for-Lifetime featurette about 'Operation Homefront', a program that helps real Army wives deal with life as such. You get to see and hear from real Army wives. The cast of the series were also on hand to spend a day with them and their children during a community event. You also get interview comments from the cast who are there. You also find out how some of the real wives feel about their roles while their husbands are away (in Iraq probably). It is presented in letterboxed widescreen format.

The featurette "Have At It With the Army Wives" runs 14 minutes and 7 seconds. Here, you will see Fugate and Persinger sitting with the cast members in a huge living room-style setting. They are asking questions to a specific member of the cast. You will see the question for yourself and then get the answer for that particular cast member and others who also may comment. These are questions about their experiences while filming. If you’re interested in seeing/hearing the questions and hearing the answers, I don’t think you will be disappointed. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen format.

The featurette "Have At It With the Executive Producers" runs 3 minutes and 17 seconds. Here, you will see executive producers Mark Gordon and Debra Spera talking about how the first ideas for this series came about from a book called 'Under the Sabers', which was written by an Army wife about the Fort Bragg murders. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen format.

There are 3 bonus trailers that you may select from the Main Menu in the ‘Sneak Peeks’. You may play them all together or individually. All are presented in anamorphic widescreen format. They are as follows:

- "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" which runs for 2 minutes 3 seconds.
- "College Road Trip" which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Enchanted" which runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.

Packaging

This 3-disc set is packaged in a digipack housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Show: A- Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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