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Saturday, June 20, 2015

PILOT REVIEW: The Astronaut Wives Club


Starring: JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominique McElligott, Odette Annable, Erin Cummings, Azure Parsons, Zoe Boyle, Desmond Harrington, Bret Harrison, Wilson Bethel, Kenneth Mitchell, Joel Johnstone, Sam Reid, Aaron McCusker

Based on the Novel by Lily Kpppel
Developed by Stephanie Savage
Written by Stephanie Savage, Directed by Lone Scherfig

The Astronaut Wives Club is a period drama based on the book of the same name. Set during the 1960s space race, the show focuses on the other side of the famous astronauts from that era: their personal lives and specifically, their wives. Famous couples fill out the large ensemble including Annie and John Glenn (Azure Parsons and Sam Reid), Louise and Alan Shepard (Dominique McElligott and Desmond Harrington), Betty and Gus Grissom (JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Joel Johnstone), Rene and Scott Carpenter (Yvonne Strahovski and Wilson Bethel), Trudy and Gordon Cooper (Odette Annable and Bret Harrison), Marge and Deke Slayton (Erin Cummings and Kenneth Mitchell), and Jo and Wally Schirra (Zoe Boyle and Aaron McCusker).

I wanted to like this show so bad. I love the 60s and I think the Space Race is a really interesting topic. However, I just didn't enjoy it and that's too bad because it really had a shot at being an intriguing show. It may be set in the 1960s and based on real life people, but it had such a feel of an ABC soap. It was the same thing ABC has been peddling in too many of their shows back to Desperate Housewives. And really, this was just a vanilla, 1960s version of Housewives. The wives were all "types" to be sure yet I really couldn't distinguish one from the other. And their husbands were even less memorable. I know this is a show about the wives, but couldn't they have made some very memorable figures from the decade a bit more memorable?

On top of that, the pacing was all off with this show. It spent an inordinate amount of time on the women snipping at each other and being suspicious of philandering from their husbands. Then the first launch with a man in space was reduced to a short scene with no real emotion attached to it because we didn't get to know the characters on anything more than a surface level. And I know this takes place in a different era, but this show did nothing to explore gender roles in the 60s, something Mad Men has supposedly done exceptionally well (I don't watch that show though I have always wanted to). There could be some really unique stories from that perspective given the plot of the show but instead it was all the same drama we see on any of ABC's female-centric soaps. Besides Housewives, I'm thinking of shows like GCB, Women's Murder Club, Eastwick, etc. Finally, my last complaint is that the footage from the 1960s meshed with the actual show didn't work for me. It was cool to see some footage but the splicing felt awkward.

Unfortunately we are two for two on lame period dramas this summer with this show joining the slightly more interesting Aquarius. Network TV shouldn't shy away from period dramas but they need to make it less... broadcast-y. Take some chances. This was a great idea for a show and it's been watered down to a whole lot of nothing.

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