The Astronaut Wives Club is based on a book based (which itself is based on a true story0, a fact you should immediately forget. While I cannot verify the historical accuracy of the show, it can be safely said that no history class is going to use this show as part of a lesson. Does that make it a bad show? Of course not, the women are strong characters, who are competing against each other in the press for the sake of their Mercury Astronaut husbands. At the same time, they are the only one’s who understand each other.
In the first episode, there was a lot of exposition about the Mercury missions. It was absolutely necessary because you know someone in the audience is going “Who are Alan Shepard and John Glenn?” I know those names, but they don’t ring a bell. Also, anyone (me: no one) who isn’t a scientist or history buff of some sort remembers all the details of the Mercury 7. However, all of that necessary exposition limits how much we learn about the seven real stars of the show: the Astronaut Wives.
Because Alan Shepard was the first astronaut, we learn the most about Louise Shepard (Dominique McElligott). She appears to be the most complex. She needs the support of the other women, but doesn’t want to get too close to anyone. Rene Carpenter (Yvonne Strahovski), Annie Glenn (Azure Parsons), Trudy Cooper (Odette Annable), Betty Grissom (Joanna García), Marge Slayton (Erin Cummings), and Jo Schirra (Zoe Boyle) offer to spend the launch together. Louise chooses not to because she doesn’t want anyone to know she is afraid. As her husband launches into space, she grabs the arm of a reporter, who is the only other adult in the room. When all is over, Louise realizes that these women aren’t trying to invade her privacy, they just want to make sure each other has support from the women who are most likely to understand their unique situation.
As for the other women, Rene Carpenter is intelligent, but plays a conniving clueless blonde most of the time in public. She wants everyone to know about her husband and wants a piece of the spotlight. Annie Glenn has a stutter, which is the only thing we know about her other than her husband. Betty Grissom and Jo Schirra are typical 1950s mothers. They support their husbands and take care of the kids.
The most interesting women, excluding Louise Shepard, are Trudy Cooper and Marge Slayton. Trudy, who is a pilot, wants to be an astronaut one day. Her view of the program is different because she has a combination of knowledge and feminist views that the other women don’t have. She doesn’t understand why her husband is going into space, but she can’t be in the next group with the proper training. Marge seems to have a naughty past in Japan that she doesn’t want to reveal to anyone, but that isn’t explored at all in the pilot. It’s just mentioned.
The Astronaut Wives Club should have had a two-hour series premiere, so that we could have learned more about the women because my only complaint is that there wasn’t enough time to meet everyone. On the plus side, the writers didn’t feel the need to jam forced character development into a two minute period because there are seven main characters, who all have husbands that are central to the plot even if they are always away. One thing’s for sure: this isn’t another Pan Am. The Astronaut Wives Club has style and substance. It is a show to watch.
Rating 9 out of 10
The Astronaut Wives Club airs every Thursday night on ABC
Allison Lips is the Founder of Wait! What’s a Dial?, a television blog that showcases the writing of millennials. Allison graduated from Rowan University in May 2013. She has a passion for TV history, especially late night and game shows. If she could go back in time, Steve Allen would still be hosting The Tonight Show. Follow her on Twitter @waitwaitsadial.