WASHINGTON, January 8, 2013 —Long before the current trend of cultivating niche appeal became obsessively popular with basic cable networks, Lifetime Network recognized its allure and focused on appealing to its largely female demographic. The network even went so far as to announce its simple mantra by labeling their network “Television for women.” The many successful programs that have mimicked their approach since then can thank Lifetime for being among the first to prove that a show need not resonate with everyone to be profitable.
One of Lifetime’s most popular examples of this programming approach is its long-running series, Army Wives. A drama about the lives of four army wives, the show premiered on Lifetime in 2007, and wrapped up its sixth season this past September. The show has also been picked up for a thirteen-episode season to air in 2013. To augment the current cast, the popular singer Ashanti was recently signed to a recurring role in the show’s upcoming seventh season.
In this country, the support for our troops is unwavering. The vast majority of Americans appreciates the sacrifices made daily by our armed forces, and expresses their gratitude often and without hesitation. We all love to watch the feel-good news clips and social media videos that show the reunion of a soldier and his loved ones. But the details of how their families cope with day-to-day life until that reunion occurs—these lives deserve an audience as well. The story of their sacrifice needs to be applauded just as loudly.
And that’s where the Lifetime series comes in. Army Wives tells this story while successfully navigating the fine line between empathy and exploitation: no easy task for what is basically a soap opera that takes place on a military base. The drama is a bit overdone, but the issues are familiar and believably conveyed by the show’s excellent cast, and with a meticulous attention to detail. The show is an eye-opener for those of us unfamiliar with military life. For America’s military families, it’s also an affirmation of the value of their many personal sacrifices that, all too often, the rest of us for granted.
Whether accomplished by one parent or two, children have to be raised, bills have to be paid, and life goes on no matter what might happen to any individual family. The nature of this reality may be approached differently by a military family—frequently separated not by divorce but by service to the Nation—but the emotional aspect of military family life is actually something we all have in common. Living on an Army base doesn’t insulate its occupants from the problems all families face. It simply means their camo-based wardrobes will never go out of style.
If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to be married to a soldier in these dangerous times, I cannot imagine any show depicting it better than Army Wives. Despite its label as a soap opera, the show is often compelling, and its approach to its military-oriented subject matter is unique. It seems like we all know someone with military ties these days. A better understanding of what they face is more than enough motivation to give a show like this a chance if you haven’t already caught an episode or two.
But be forewarned: the show exemplifies, better than most, Lifetime’s well-earned reputation as a happy home for tearjerker entertainment. So when you sit back to watch the show, make sure there’s a handy box of Kleenex close at hand.
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