The Astronaut Wives Club is another risky effort in period drama that sounds great on paper. This is a sub-genre that is hard to get away from, because the theory not only makes for something easy to pitch, but really should be able to deliver.
Much like recent efforts Pan Am and The Playboy Club, if someone came to you with a synopsis and even a marginal cast, it would be difficult to turn up your nose. There’s something about showcasing an era by way of some particular note that solidly represents a strong force within it. All three shows, based on their trailers, just ooze a feeling that you want them to work out, and you want to jump into their world.
The Astronaut Wives Club is ensemble taken to extremes, with every astronaut, and their wives, jockeying for time on screen. You want a road map to get through the pilot, and if not for the show’s effort to highlight some quirk or another in each category, you’d be hard-pressed to name everyone at the end.
The show does an incredible job of taking us into an era, but something feels off about the characterization of our group of wives. It isn’t that it’s unreal to have a group of women thrown together, and having the result awkwardly reminiscent of something that should be Real Housewives of Space, but it’s delivered rather quickly. There’s the difficulty of putting together pilots. Much as it doesn’t seem “fake” to imagine that the wife who insists on bucking fashion norms gets talked about behind her back, it offered up in rather stagy fashion here.
Beyond that, for all that this world is fun to dive into, there is so much work to do that the characters seem often just to be reading their bio at you. The show has to make you comfortable with a dozen characters, and that’s a tough road to travel in the allotted time without diluting the effort.
It’s a problem all such shows face, but this one has the added draw of a very specific role of tension, and it may make the difference. Once the show gets its character development out of the way, it quickly gets into a solid stride. The dynamics jump around frequently, as we jump around from disliking the exploitation to disliking the love of the exploitation, but when the show settles on the interplay of its wives, and their lives, it’s almost bizarrely entertaining.
What the show needs, and it can’t quite get there within the first few episodes, is a unique voice for its wives. It’s hard to fault the show for giving out a lot of information in this shorthand way to begin with, but it has to continue on the road to depth as it continues. As much as seeing famous astronauts will draw crowds in the beginning, if the drama between and among our group feels too familiar, it won’t keep audiences interested.
For now, the familiar and notable Yvonne Strahovski leads the show, and mere premise is enough to make it worth watching. Despite the lack of dimension that is apparent at the outset, the show is written well, and just because the characters shouldn’t stay where they are, doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to pull you in.
The struggle is the thing here, and it’s the “fly on the wall” idea that has the best chance of hooking you. Unfortunately, also like the previous shows mentioned, it doesn’t have a lot of wow factor. It’s a subtle endeavor, most of the time, and while that means it will be a quick favorite for many, it doesn’t usually make a lot of people make a lot of other people watch.
The Astronaut Wives Club Watch The First Five Minutes
A new television drama series based on the book by Lily Koppel, focuses on seven women who were key players behind some of the biggest events in American history. As America’s astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, the lives of their young wives were transformed, seemingly overnight, from military spouses to American royalty. As their celebrity rose, and tragedy began to touch their lives, they rallied together.