Army Wives' first season was a ''surprise'' hit only to callow pop-culture-ites who assumed there was a limited audience for a nighttime soap about mostly working-class women enduring Iraq-war sacrifices. Instead, the show hit home on a number of levels. It presents familiar faces, like NYPD Blue's Kim Delaney and JAG's Catherine Bell, as newly vulnerable women with cores of strength role models for Lifetime's demo and beyond. And, in a way, the cramped, refreshingly untidy Army base houses of some of these wives serve as a metaphor for the economic hard times of many current civilians.
But metaphor, shmetaphor: In season 2, Wives is exploring new up- and downbeat themes. It's rolled out a story line about the joys of returning spouses (Sally Pressman's irrepressible Roxy tried orally pleasuring her wounded hubby even before he was discharged from the base hospital). Another subplot concerns the numbing grief felt by Delaney's Claudia Joy over the death of her daughter, who died in last season's bar-explosion cliff-hanger.
Creator-writer Katherine Fugate knows that clichés persist because they contain truth, even when a character says, ''Life goes on, as cliché as that sounds.'' This is the way people talk, and Wives captures its women in anger, despair, and the giddiness that comes from the red wine they all regularly gather to guzzle their troubles away with momentarily. Sure, it's melodramatic, and the gloppy Lilith Fair-era soundtrack music should be court-martialed. But Army Wives is pretty addictive. I'm kinda hoping Bell's character has an affair with that cute motorcycle-riding doctor, aren't you? B