Acclaimed critic Roger Ebert, in describing the classic film “Love Story,” identified a cinematic syndrome known as “Ali MacGraw’s Disease,” where a dying character only becomes more beautiful as she approaches death’s door. Summer television miniseries “The Astronaut Wives Club” has adopted a similar condition, except in reference to age, evidenced by its series finale, which aired Thursday, August 20th.
In just ten episodes, the summer sensation spanned the entirety of the space race, from sending the first American into space to placing the first man on the moon. The only thing that changed in that period? The hairstyles of the lead cast of characters.
Despite the lack of aging, “The Astronaut Wives Club” proved to be a pleasant summer series that wowed audiences with beautiful period costumes and a powerful cast of female actresses, including JoAnna Garcia Swisher (“Reba,” “Once Upon a Time”) and Yvonne Strahovski (“Chuck,” “Dexter”). Reminiscent of ABC’s cancelled period drama “Pan Am,” “The Astronaut Wives Club” wows with each piece of clothing and each moment of drama.
Nevertheless, the brief ten episode arc awarded to the series created issues greater than a lack of aging. With the show covering a span of ten years, each episode should cover a year of the space race, which simply does not allow enough character development or plot development to take place. Each of the core seven astro wives almost has her own episode to herself, but even the original seven’s storylines are convoluted when additional wives and other subplots begin stealing the spotlight. While the show tries to stay true the history of the astronaut families, the original, favorite wives are occasionally overshadowed by newcomer supporting characters.
The finale episode works to provide a sense of closure for each of the original wives by including a narrative epilogue that details what happened to each wife historically following the moon landing. But the information provided is not enough to allow viewers to say goodbye to the women.
The series makes a point to introduce and develop strong, proactive women who are perfect role models for the young girls watching the summer sensation. But a hurried ending, in addition to the overall expedited pace of the series, robs the characters, and the viewers, of a story arc that is as powerful as the astro wives are.
If only more episodes had been available to delve into the complex characters introduced in the series. The strong attachment to the original Mercury Seven wives is simply denied in favor of breezy or light-hearted storylines that work against the determination and inspiration created by the actual astronaut wives.