Army Wives TV Series Overview (2007-2013)


Introduction

Army Wives is an American drama television series that followed the lives of four army wives, one army husband, and their families.

Four women and one man share the common bond of loving someone in the US Army.

The series premiered on Lifetime on 03 June 2007, and ran for seven seasons, ending on 09 June 2013. The show had the largest series premiere in Lifetime’s 23-year history, and the largest viewership in the 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm time slot since December 2007 for Lifetime. It received favourable reviews and several award nominations, and won five ASCAP Awards and one Gracie Allen Award.

Outline

Based on the non-fiction book originally titled Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives, by Tanya Biank, the series is set at fictional Fort Marshall, at the old Charleston Naval Base, in North Charleston, South Carolina, home to the also fictional 23rd Airborne Division, a component unit of the XVII Airborne Corps. The show itself is filmed in various locations such as the Charleston Air Force Base (now Charleston Field) and the sound stage off Dorchester Road in the City of North Charleston. Some scenes have been shot in and around the City of Charleston. In Season 5 the 23rd is disbanded and the 32nd Airborne Division becomes the new resident unit, having moved to Fort Marshall from the fictional Fort Hope. The 23rd Airborne Division, XVII Airborne Corps and Fort Marshall are presumably based on the actual 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, home of the airborne divisions and the United States Army Special Operations Command. In Season 7 Fort Marshall was merged with an Air Force base, mirroring the mergers of several Army posts with nearby Air Force bases as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Mercer Army Medical Centre is the fictional hospital on post where some of the characters worked.

In the pilot episode of Army Wives, “A Tribe is Born”, Roxy (Sally Pressman) accepts the marriage proposal of Private First Class Trevor LeBlanc (Drew Fuller) after dating for less than a week, and moves with her two children to his Army post. Floundering in her new life as an Army wife, she takes a job as a bartender at a local joint known for being a Jody bar (where civilian men go to hit on enlisted men’s wives). While on the post, Roxy meets Claudia Joy Holden (Kim Delaney), who believes that her husband Colonel Michael Holden (Brian McNamara) recently missed out on a promotion because of base politics. Another Army wife, Pamela Moran (Brigid Brannagh), is pregnant with twins; she is secretly acting as a surrogate to get her family out of debt. Pamela’s husband Chase (Jeremy Davidson) is a non-commissioned officer assigned to the highly secretive and frequently deployed special operations unit Delta Force. Meanwhile, psychiatrist Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown) is trying to reconnect with his wife, Lieutenant Colonel Joan Burton (Wendy Davis), who has just returned from Afghanistan. Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell), a long-time friend of Claudia Joy, is dealing with her son Jeremy’s anger issues, and her strict husband, Major Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico), is about to be deployed. The unlikely group bonds when Pamela unexpectedly goes into labour at Claudia Joy’s wives’ tea party, and subsequently gives birth on the pool table in the bar where Roxy works. Not wanting everyone to know her family’s dire financial situation, Pamela relies on these new friends to keep her surrogacy from being exposed.

As the first season progresses, the four women and Roland all become close friends. Along with their spouses and other characters they face issues such as deployments, abuse, hostage situations, adultery, post-traumatic stress disorder, death and loss of friends and loved ones in combat, homophobia in the military, financial problems, and alcohol and prescription drug addiction.

Though the show is based on the book of the same name, and some of the characters echo their book counterparts, significant differences exist. For example, in the book, Andrea Lynn Cory (the basis of Claudia Joy) loses her husband in a helicopter crash during a mission to find the remains of soldiers in Vietnam.

Production

Development

Army Wives was created by Katherine Fugate, based on the book Under the Saber: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank. Fugate told she received the book from The Mark Gordon Company and first thought it was to be adapted as a movie, since she had mostly written movies during her career. She met with Deborah Spera, the president of The Mark Gordon Company, and pitched a film adaptation of the book, which would begin and end with a murder. They presented the series to ABC and then to Lifetime. Fugate commented on the book: “I read that book, and it was very traumatic and very difficult, but it also opened the gates of a military post. We drive by them all the time, but we don’t know what goes on inside”.

Fugate expressed her desire that the show remain accurate: “It’s extremely important that I portray them accurately. I have great admiration for the wives. It’s the last untold story, about how they maintain relationships and how they are single mothers much of the time. That story is why I created the series.” The cast and crew have visited the army installations at Fort Bragg and Fort Belvoir and talked to army wives. The Department of Defence lent Black Hawk helicopters and humvees used in production.

Filming Locations

Principal photography takes place in a sound stage, while some outdoor scenes and shots are taken at the former Charleston Naval Shipyard, parts of Charleston Field and in the city itself. Local landmarks prominently featured include the Unitarian Church in Charleston and parts of the city’s waterfront.

Production Team

Army Wives was produced by The Mark Gordon Company in association with ABC Studios. In December 2006, Samantha Corbin-Miller was named executive producer/showrunner of the show, which was at the time in development. However, by March 2007, it was announced that she had left the then upcoming series and was replaced by Jeff Melvoin. In August 2007, Dee Johnson took over Army Wives for Melvoin, becoming the third showrunner. She departed in March 2008, and Nick Thiel came aboard. In August 2008, the series’ creator Katherine Fugate also left, stating: “With the show [being] such an established hit, now seems like a logical time for me to step away and focus on developing new projects.” Melvoin returned in 2009 and was the showrunner from then.

Each script was supervised by two advisers from the Army. Additionally Tanya Biank, whose book inspired the series, served as a military consultant on every episode. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breassealle was also enlisted to provide insight on the military life. Cast member Brian McNamara (Michael Holden) directed several webisodes and two full episodes: the tenth episode of the fifth season and the eleventh episode of the sixth season.

Spin-off Pilot

In September 2009, a survey to see which character should get its own spin-off was posted on Lifetime’s Army Wives blog; Pamela Moran (Brigid Brannagh) was one of the most-chosen characters. On 13 June 2010, Deadline Hollywood reported that Lifetime was pursuing a spin-off procedural drama television series for Army Wives featuring Brannagh’s character, police officer Pamela Moran. It was reported that an episode of the fourth season would serve as a backdoor pilot for the proposed spin-off. The seventeenth episode of the season, titled “Murder in Charleston”, served as the backdoor pilot, airing on 15 August 2010. Written by Bruce Zimmerman and T.D. Mitchell, the episode sees Moran teaming up with detective Gina Holt (Gabrielle Union) on a murder related to a case Holt has been working on for the past three years in Atlanta. At the end of the episode, Holt tells Moran she should take a detective’s exam and to look for her if she is in Atlanta. In September 2010, however, Lifetime did not pick up the spin-off series.

Release

Domestic Ratings

The series opened its third season with 3.5 million viewers and a 2.4 rating among women 18-49, and a 1.0 rating among men 18-49. That made Wives the top-rated drama premiere in Lifetime’s key demographic for 2009, though the show declined 22% among total viewers later in the year.

The series opened its fifth season with a total of 4.2 million viewers, up 27% from the fourth-season premiere, and it scored a 1.4 rating among women 18-49. The episode is Lifetime’s second most watched original season premiere among the key demos, including Women 18+ (3.0 rating) and Adults 18+ (4.0 rating), behind only the season two debut of Army Wives.

International Airings

The series began airing in Ireland on Monday 15 October 15 2007, on TG4 (in English) and in New Zealand on Thursday 19 June 2008, on TV2. The series began airing in Australia on 01 December 2008, on Network Ten and currently on pay TV provider Foxtel. South African network M-Net also airs the series; the second season ended on M-Net on Monday, 05 January 2009. Sky Living in the United Kingdom broadcast the first three seasons. However, in February 2012, it was announced that the channel had not purchased the rights for the fourth season.

The series also airs in Israel in the winter of 2008 on Yes stars Drama. In the French-speaking parts of Canada, Historia (TV channel) started airing the first season on 04 January 2010. The series was then brought to an associated channel, Series+, and which started airing from season 1 again on 04 November 2010, on a daily basis. The series began airing in the Netherlands in 2008 on NET 5, while the second season aired starting 26 April 2010. In the French-speaking part of Belgium, Wallonia, the first season began airing on RTL-TVI on 03 August 2008 whereas the second season was shown on cable television network BeTV starting from 26 December 2008. The first season and the first 13 episodes of the second were aired in the Arab World on MBC 4 while the third season began on Tuesday 11 May 2010, on Fox Series. The series began airing in Russia on FOX Life and in Sweden the series is aired on Sjuan. In France, the show retitled American Wives was first broadcast on Monégasque channel TMC on 27 November 2008. His sister channel TF1 started airing the first season on 13 August 2012. The series aired on RTL Television in Croatia, starting on 10 December 2018.

Trivia

  • The second season received promotion from Barack Obama and John McCain who were running for President in 2008.
  • In season 2, Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell) is a nurse in the post hospital, and cares for an amputee soldier named “Mac,” which was Catherine Bell’s nickname in JAG.
  • On 21 September 2012, the show was picked up for a thirteen-episode seventh season to air in 2013.
    • In November 2012, it was confirmed that season 6 main cast members Catherine Bell, Wendy Davis, Terry Serpico, Brian McNamara, Kelli Williams, Alyssa Diaz, and Joseph Julian Soria would return as regulars.
    • Kim Delaney’s character, who did not appear in the final episodes of the sixth season, was written out.
    • Season seven premiered in the US on 10 March 2013, at 9:00 pm Eastern on Lifetime, and concluded on 09 June 2013.
  • On 24 September 2013, Lifetime cancelled the series after seven seasons.
  • The network confirmed a two-hour retrospective special with cast members to celebrate the series that aired on 16 March 2014.

Army Wives Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Creator(s): Katherine Fugate.
  • Director(s): John T. Kretchmer.
  • Producer(s):
    • Executive Producers:
      • Mark Gordon.
      • Marshall Persinger.
      • Jeff Melvoin.
      • Katherine Fugate.
      • Dee Johnson.
      • Harry V. Bring.
      • Nick Thiel.
      • Deborah Spera.
      • Karen Maser.
      • Debra Fordham.
    • Producers:
      • Cynthia Cohen.
      • Karen Maser.
      • John E. Pogue.
      • Alex Shevchenko.
      • Barbara D’Alessandro.
      • T.J. Brady.
      • Rasheed Newson.
      • John E. Pogue.
      • Karen Maser.
  • Music:
    • Theme music composer:
      • Marc Fantini.
      • Steffan Fantini.
    • Composers:
      • Scott Gordon.
      • Marc Fantini.
      • Steffan Fantini.
  • Editor(s):
    • Briana London.
    • Susan K. Weiler.
    • Sharon Silverman.
    • Chris Peppe.
    • Alan Cody.
    • Kurt Courtland.
    • Peter B. Ellis.
    • Lauren A. Schaffer.
    • Christopher Cooke.
    • Susan Vaill.
    • Meghan Robertson.
  • Production:
    • ABC Studios.
    • The Mark Gordon Company.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
    • Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
  • Release Date: 03 June 2007 to 09 June 2013.
  • Running Time: 60 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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