Ellen Gray: Wives report for duty in new show

Col. Morris Goins and his wife Yolanda will be one of seven couples featured on OWN's new series "Married to The Army: Alaska."
Col. Morris Goins and his wife Yolanda will be one of seven couples featured on OWN's new series "Married to The Army: Alaska."
Posted: November 16, 2012

* MARRIED TO THE ARMY: ALASKA. 10 p.m. Sunday, OWN.

TV'S ALASKAN pipeline carries an estrogen boost Sunday, as the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN, introduces "Married to the Army: Alaska."

Focused on seven Army wives who've landed in the 49th state courtesy of their husbands' jobs - which keep them away a lot - it's a real-life version of Lifetime's "Army Wives," with a touch of Bravo's "Real Housewives."

If only those women had to contend with moose.

That's how we first meet Lindsey Bergeron, a mother of two in Eagle Creek, Ala., who's cleaning up after a moose that's taken a "massive poop" in her front yard. The job's hers because her major husband is in Afghanistan.

I generally consider the early appearance of animal excrement a Bad Sign in a "reality" show, having suffered through too many moments in which minor celebrities' animal companions mirror their owners' lack of discipline.

Moose, though, are cool. And this one at least did its business outside.

Alaska, too, is cool, but maybe not quite cool enough for the show's producers, who've taken no chances with the human cast, stocking their show with at least a couple of women likely to set off the kind of tiresome fireworks that undermine the whole "sisterhood is powerful" vibe.

One is Lindsey, who's on her second Army marriage but her first to an officer, a situation that makes her exquisitely sensitive to the military-spouse hierarchy. And ultracritical of another Army wife who's not quite so hung up on dignity.

Lindsey, whose backstory only gets more interesting as Sunday's episode goes on, has breakout character written all over her.

But she might not be who the Pentagon had in mind when it decided to grant producers what OWN President Sheri Salata called "unprecedented access to . . . real-life Army wives."

More likely, officials were counting on people like Rynn Randall, another major's wife, who has teens in the house and a husband she mostly talks to via Skype, and Yolanda Goins, the wife of a brigade commander, who last summer told reporters that "as wives, we do not wear rank . . . If you are my sister, then you are my sister, and rank is irrelevant."

If only everyone in the show agreed.

Yolanda is so much a grown-up, it feels slightly disrespectful to be using her first name, but this is the kind of TV that encourages viewers to treat real people as characters. It also has limited use for emotional maturity, which may be why she's a bit on the outskirts of this first episode.

Wherever they're stationed, women (and men) who are married to the army likely deal with enough drama that they don't need to manufacture it - or sweat the small stuff.

But, sadly, it's the small stuff, the molehills that turn into Mount McKinley, that usually keep people tuning in.

Personally, I'd rather clean up after the moose.


Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

" @elgray

Blog: EllenGray.tv

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