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Fug the Show: Astronaut Wives Club recap, “In the Blind”


At this point, there are only two more episodes left, so why not just finish this out, right? Rene Carpenter, as ever, wins the wardrobe competition, and she ALSO wins for the Best 60s Kitchen. She loses the Best Accent Competition, however, because I guess Yvonne Strahovski decided she was going to just go with a modified Mid-Atlantic accent like a bit player in a 30s screwball comedy. As I say every single week: Her American accent was SPOT ON when she was on Chuck – like, flawless — so I…just really don’t know what happened here. I blame her wig.

Let’s check in on everyone’s plotline and then…to the kitchens! The costumes were also very good this week. Set and Costume are killing it.

Louise and Alan Shepard: It’s like Max Caplan: Reporter never even existed, and the big issue here is that Alan’s got Ménière’s disease, which messes with your inner ear and causes balance issues, nausea, and all kinds of other problems that get him grounded. (Obviously, this is fixed before he gets sent to the moon.) Beyond the drama of Alan careening into walls, it’s rather boring, mostly because Desmond Harrington has played Shepard as such a terrible cold fish, it’s hard to care. Additionally, I don’t know what’s going on with Harrington, but he has looked REALLY rough in this series. He’s only 38!

Annie and John Glenn: Continue to be noble American heroes the likes of which we shall never see again, etc, etc, etc. Also, John’s run for Senate, which we discussed last week, is derailed because of his concussion. NOTE: The show has him crack his head “fixing a closet door,” when the truth per Wiki is that he hit his head on the bathtub. THIS is the sort of detail they feel free to change? SHOW, YOU CONFOUND ME.

Betty and Gus: Gus has a stalker who might also actually be his side piece (??), which means he gets Secret Service protection after she sends Betty a threatening note and also shows up at the base screaming for him. He still has not died. (This show loves to send Gus into space, and I don’t know if they THINK the audience is thinking, “oh, shit, he’s gonna die HERE” and then he doesn’t — which is what I do, because I didn’t know how many times he went onto the launch pad before tragedy hit — or what. Shocker: the pacing on this show is weird!) Is the Gus’s Secret Girlfriend We’ve Never Seen Before And Never Will Again based in truth? WHO KNOWS.

Gus is, however, our entry to a brief plotline about Cute Zavier, the Housekeeper’s Son Who Loves Space, who at this point in his life and American history is pretty sure that NASA will never send a black man into space (in fact, this didn’t happen until Guy Bluford, in 1983). Zavier’s Mom finagles a meeting between him and Ed Dwight, who was the first African American to be trained as an astronaut (and who is played by Ray Fisher, who is quite handsome, FYI). Dwight is really interesting. Per his Wiki: “In 1961, the Kennedy administration selected Dwight as the first African American astronaut trainee, at the suggestion of the National Urban League’s Whitney Young. His selection garnered international media attention, and Dwight appeared on the covers of news magazines such as Ebony, Jet, and Sepia. Despite facing discrimination from other astronauts, Dwight persevered until the assassination of President Kennedy, after which government officials created a threatening atmosphere and he was assigned to be a liaison officer in Germany to a non-existent German test pilot school. As a result of this climate, he resigned from the Air Force in 1966.”  We don’t see any of that here, because this show doesn’t want to show its ostensible heroes being racist jerks, and they have no time to actually spend with Dwight so we can see this happen with him as the protagonist in the story, at the hands of people they feel they can paint as racist jerks. After leaving the Air Force, Dwight became a very noteworthy sculptor, who is still working.  I get that it’s not possible for this show to cover everything that ever happened in the Space Program, and they’re hamstrung here because Dwight was (I think?) single, but there is no way that this man’s life isn’t more compelling a story than The Ballad of Jo and Wally, and getting ONE SCENE of him and then cutting back to, like, Marge playing bridge is just a narrative thunk. This show really needed to devote one episode to each couple — just pick one really good story from each couple’s history, and anthologize this thing. That gives you more story-telling latitude when you have so much ground to cover, and you could tackle Dwight by — for example — telling the story of his mother, or his girlfriend, if he didn’t have a wife. Make the “wife” in the title sort of…metaphorical.

Jo and Wally: Jo is, however, the ringleader for an amusing low-level storyline where all the Wives are hot for Ed White (who eventually ends up dying with Gus, sadly) who is played by Matt Lanter, who is definitely someone I’d love to watch jog, so…I’m with you on this one, Jo.  The wives also kind of adopt Ed’s wife because she knows how to play cards better than Trudy. Yes, compelling.

Marge and Deke: Are really, really boring and could 100% be 86ed from this show except for, I don’t know, Reasons of Truth. (I get why they need Deke, because he’s In Charge of Stuff at NASA, but Marge doesn’t have anything to do.  Why not send her off on a super-long visit to her secret husband in Japan?)

Trudy and Gordo: Trudy wears a GREAT dress.

Rene and Scott: Scott leaves NASA to go work on SeaLab in Bermuda — this is true — and she doesn’t come with him because she wants to Find Herself As A Professional, an awakening she had when she was working on John Glenn’s Senate run, at which she gave a lot of speeches and acted, basically, as Annie’s Voice on the Road. This experience makes her decide she should be Glenn’s press secretary, and Annie is like, “it’s convenient that I don’t speak that much because THAT’S CRAZY but I can just make a ‘we’ll see!’ face and leave it at that.” Interestingly, Rene Carpenter did actually go on to become a successful journalist, and she’s announced that every scene of this show is fiction. THEN WHY ISN’T IT BETTER, RENE? WHY?

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Fug the Show: Astronauts Wives Club recap, “Flashpoint”


“Hey guys, I’ve got an idea! Let’s take the only couple the audience might be kinda invested in and ship one of them off to San Francisco for no reason and don’t really give them a satisfying farewell of any sort! Also, have everyone do a different accent again — that was fun! Also, let’s take what should be two huge plot points and just kinda shovel them into this one episode, which is going to cover some REALLY vague amount of time but at least six months. Also, toss in some half-hearted but also ham-handed stuff about civil rights at some point — make sure you just go ahead and cover Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the same montage, okay? Also, let’s have Kennedy get shot with three minutes to go and then just end the episode with a BBQ!”

In short, yet again, although this episode had some good scenes in it (Trudy and Gordo’s Hawaiian reunion was effective enough that it caused me to delete a line in my notes that read, “every dramatic instinct this show has is wrong;” Sam Reid, the dude who plays John Glenn, is really naturally sympathetic and does a lot with the little they give him), this show is…really a mess. I actually really REALLY feel for the writers. There is no way this wasn’t an incredibly difficult job — the scope of this series is immense and it is crazy — and I am sure everyone on staff had the “can’t we have them AT LEAST KISS?”/ “NO THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE” argument time and again and are all probably discussing the challenges of this show in therapy. I have moved from being frustrated by this series to wanting to buy all the writers on staff a drink.

Let’s run down the major plot points and then get to the outfits, shall we?

John and Annie Glenn: Continue to be perfect saintlike people with nothing to do other than be strong and do right for America. John does testify in front of Congress that he is worried that women shouldn’t be astronauts because they don’t have the appropriate test pilot training, but if this isn’t a kind of salient point, the show doesn’t do a great job explaining why not. (John notes that although the women have a lot of flying hours, there is a difference between test pilot training and flying a commercial plane, which seems true?) There is a lot of this in the Trudy/Gordo plot, obviously, but it seems (per the show) that the women who were agitating to become astronauts argued that they did better on all the testing that the male astronauts underwent than the men did, and thus wanted to be considered to become astronauts along with them, using this as a way of testing out of the “have to be a test pilot” portion of the requirements. I don’t know the answer to this and I am literally asking: Why weren’t these women arguing that they ought to be allowed to be test pilots also, as a first step toward being tossed into the pile for Astronaut Consideration? Did they try and just get denied? (I should note that I am old enough that I remember when Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, and the fact that it took until 1983 is amazing in a bad way. I am highly Pro Female Astronauts; I just had a hard time following this, because as usual this show doesn’t give you enough background and then basically seems to gloss over something that ought to be the A story for an entire episode.)

Louise and Alan Shepard: Louise decides she wants Alan to be faithful to her and asks him for that, thanks to Important Lessons She Learned from Max Caplan: Reporter, who is moving out to San Francisco to be groovy, who she never kisses nor wishes a meaningful goodbye. MC:R, in fact, tells Louise, “this isn’t how I wanted to say goodbye to you,” which is interesting because HE’S FICTIONAL so he could have at least given her a dramatic and angst-y speech if this show wasn’t worried, I assume, about getting sued by a variety of Shepards? Also, MC:R, YOU’RE A WRITER. WRITE HER A BEAUTIFUL LETTER. Also: WOW that was frustrating, although both actors really did try their level bests. Also also: this show has conceived of Alan Shepard as a cold, cold man who has no feelings and sleeps around, so we never really get why Louise is still so sprung on him. He doesn’t even notice when she’s colored her hair! YOU CAN DO BETTER, GIRL.

Trudy and Gordon: Gordon has to manually land his space ship and it’s looking REAL BAD, apparently, and he’s almost sure to die…but this moment of intense emotional and dramatic tension resolves itself over a commercial break and we’re told about his miraculous perfect landing via news footage. When he arrives in Hawaii, however, Gordo gives all the credit for his safe arrival and his abilities as a pilot to his pilot wife, Trudy, which is awesome. Also awesome is that he takes her out in a military plane after the disappointment of the aforementioned failed congressional hearings and they basically reenact that scene in Top Gun where Maverick does an unapproved fly-by of the base. (This makes Trudy the Goose, which is better in all things except the question of longevity.)  She apparently agrees that Gordo is being awesome, and makes out with him in front of a bunch of reporters, which was actually totally satisfying because AT FREAKING LAST SOMEONE MAKES OUT ON THIS SHOW. We also meet one of Trudy’s best friends, who is in town to testify in front of the congressional hearing (…in Houston? What…is happening? Or do they all fly up to DC, and Best Friend has stopped in to see Trudy to…for….reasons? Whatever) about the aforementioned Wonderful Ladies of Space question, and I really wanted her and Trudy to be secret lovers, but alas it is not to be.

Betty and Gus: It’s really hot in Betty’s house right now.

Jo and Wally: It’s also hot in Jo’s house. So they start visiting a Gemini Wife every day because she has A/C. Don’t worry, at the end of the episode, Nameless Gemini Wife Played By Nora Zehetner does get invited to the BBQ of Togetherness in a Time of National Sadness, so I guess air conditioning and intense historical tragedy brought people together.

Rene and Scott:  Rene has decided she wants to be a journalist, and the editor of the newspaper she pitches is all sexist and patronizing but ALSO makes the wise point that, uh, the only clip she has is one article, about herself. He tells her to write him 20 stories. So she does, which is awesome and excellent, but she also acts as if it’s not realistic for the editor to not want to hire some lady with ONE clip. I hate it when shows like this make me sort sympathize with the sexist jerkweed. Anyway, Rene is about mid-speech to Jerkweed about how his sexism has helped her find her voice when a dude pops into the restaurant to announce that Kennedy has been shot, with like FOUR MINUTES TO GO IN THE EPISODE. HOW ARE YOU JUST TACKING THAT GIANT HUGE MASSIVE MOMENT ONTO THE END OF THIS? At the very least, make it your episode out! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW? (If you want to figure out how to handle the JFK assassination without actually having to have your characters react to it as it happened, see Mad Men. Also, make it your episode out and open the next episode a few weeks later.) Additionally, Yvonne Stahovski’s accent is all over the place — she is both Brooklyn and British in ONE SPEECH and that’s just…I don’t even get it, because her accent on Chuck was flawless. Her wig might be a scootch better this week, though?

Marge and Deke: Are still on the show.

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Fug the Show: Astronaut Wives Club recap, “Liftoff”


In which this show decides, “you know what? WE NEED MORE WIVES UP IN HERE!” You guys, you really really don’t. That said, what this episode failed to do in continuity of character (spoiler: Betty is kind of a ditzy hick now? I don’t know), it more than made up for in VINTAGE BATHING SUITS. I always feel bad for the costume department when they’re doing a great job and the show is bad. They’re never going to get the recognition that they actually deserve. I RECOGNIZE YOU, COSTUME DEPARTMENT!

ANYWAY, let’s run down what’s happening with our Astrowives, with the caveat that no one goes into space this week (…even though the episode is called “Liftoff”). But the Cuban Missile Crisis does happen, even though mostly everyone doesn’t seem that worried, except for Max Caplan: Reporter, because he’s both a journalist and the only character who really gets a clear set of feelings assigned to him weekly.

Marge and Deke: Marge is the drabbest looking Wife all week, and I guess it’s because she and Deke are on a really soul-sucking diet to fix his heart problem? (THAT’S why he quit drinking last week. It was more fun when I decided he was a closet alcoholic.) ANYWAY, he doesn’t get ungrounded, but then the rest of the astronauts do… something … off-camera… that gets Deke elected, like, Head Astronaut? And everyone is happy? I don’t know exactly, but what YOU should know is that basically everything The Astronauts Do happens when they appear to be sitting in an unlit break room at an unspecified Houston location. I’m pretty sure these dudes would have offices AND I’m also pretty sure that AT THE VERY LEAST, all the lights were on at NASA DURING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. Anyway, I don’t care about Marge anymore now that I’m sure there will be no revelation that she was once a geisha.

Annie and John: NADA.

Trudy and Gordo: I realized my issue with Trudy’s character is that they’re trying to make her BOTH the Modern Girl Pilot With Moxie and someone who is sort of prim and uptight with Gordon, and those two emotional stories don’t really mesh. At any rate, they’re totally (still) on the road to getting back together, and now we all know that Trudy has a vibrator. (At the end of the episode, she finds that Gordo has taped a picture of his face to it, which legitimately made me laugh and totally would have made me decide to take him back.)

Louise and Alan and Max Caplan: Reporter: MC:R and Louise are at FULL FLIRT — he dances with her in a barn during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for pete’s sake. (I would like, also, to note that the fact that NO ONE reacted to POSSIBLE NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION by banging is why this show is bad. YOU GUYS. You have a couple on the brink of getting back together. Instead of having Gordo get drunk with his boys and tell them about Trudy’s vibrator, you OBVIOUSLY have the two of them realize we’re all about to die, and accordingly GET IT ON. THAT IS SO CLEARLY CLEARLY CLEARLY how you handle that plot.) Nothing happens, but she’s obviously sort of sweet on him also and blah blah blah this plot will never resolve to anyone’s narrative satisfaction. Also, Louise had a sister who died and she and Alan are raising their niece, who also happens to find condoms in Alan’s Just In Case I Need To Flee Houston bag. At least Alan is using protection, Louise. At least there’s that.

Betty and Gus: Betty is now a woman who mows her own lawn with curlers in her hair while a Space Tour Bus drives by, and at the end of the episode she induces Jo to chainsaw a hole in the fence between their yards so they can run back and forth without being detected. So maybe she’s secretly got Space Madness???

Rene and Scott: Rene wears a series of good outfits and her wig is maybe slightly better this week? Hot Neighbor Wade has two lines.

Jo and Wally: Jo is sort of the crux of this week’s A story, which was nominally about the ladies being accepted into Houston Society; she’s all into joining the Junior League, but in the end they don’t ask her, for reasons that are never clear, in typical frustrating Astronauts Wives Clubs fashion. Do they not like her? Did she make a gaffe? Was it an accident? Was it because Betty was sort of ridiculous at every event? Was it because Jo was sort of scold-y of Betty at said events? WHO KNOWS. And then she’s sad. THE END.

Whatever. TO THE SWIMSUITS.

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Fug the Show: The Astronaut Wives Club recap, “Retroattitude”


Soooooo I totally forgot I hadn’t written this recap until 6pm last night. And given that none of you asked me where it was, I am beginning to suspect this show is not long for the fugcaps. (I also say that every week. I’m like Dread Pirate Roberts over here. “Good night, Astronauts’ Wives’ Clubs. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”)

Topline information about this episode: Everyone’s accents leap all over the place; Yvonne Strahovski’s wig is TERRIBLE; the outfits (on the other hand) are excellent; Hot Neighbor Wade lives through his flight despite a brief moment where he went missing, and then he takes his shirt off; this show has A LOT of exposition that, in the long run, is not really even that important.

As far as the rest of the wives go: Trudy and Gordo have a series of conversations that clarify stuff we ALREADY KNEW (that he still loves her, and he’s not cheating on her) and ends with her telling him that maybe they’ll get back together, via the good line, “we’re all moving to Houston to put a man on the moon. Anything is possible.” That said, Odette Annable’s acting choices in this role are very weird. She really enunciates every line in a way that makes her performance feel a bit like it’s a bravura turn from the most talented kid in a decent high school play.

Annie and John continue to be Holy Saintlike Creatures With No Flaws. He also continues to be very hot.

Other than the above, Rene and Scott have issues with the press because she tells a bunch of them that she isn’t going to be praying for Scott while he’s in space. It comes out that she doesn’t believe in prayer (she may not believe in God at all; for a show that loves exposition, it also forces the audience to fill in certain holes in weird ways, generally emotional ones) because they had a baby who died of SIDS. She ends up writing her own story for Life (freeing up Max Caplan: Reporter to moon over Louise, no pun intended) that does talk movingly about faith in general and I guess fixes their PR problem to boot. Good for you, Rene! I like you, even if you had a whole new speaking voice this episode.

Betty Grissom makes a cheese ball with pretzels stuck in it, like a porcupine.

Alan Shepard is a horndog and even the local hookers know it; Louise secretly wants to bang Max Caplan: Reporter, which would be interesting and therefore will never happen.

Marge and Deke are in a tizzy because he got grounded (and replaced with Scott). HE thinks it’s because NASA is mad that he backed up John Glenn telling Annie she didn’t need to let LBJ in their house; Marge says it’s because of his irregular heartbeat. WE have NO IDEA what the real reason is, and whether or not it has anything do with Marge’s Scandalous Past in Japan, because the show has forgotten that happened maybe. Then Deke decides to stop drinking (was he an alcoholic? WHO KNOWS?!?!) and everything is great.

Lavinia Swire and that dude she’s married to (not Cousin Matthew) are really excited because Not Cousin Matthew is going up next. (In real life, Jo Schirra just died two months ago at 91.)

TO THE OUTFITS! Since I’ve kind of given you the plot already, let’s just look at the noteworthy stuff people wore in this episode and get on with our lives.

 

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Fug the Show: The Astronaut Wives Club, “Protocol”


I continue to have notes. First, I just noticed that this show is actually called Astronaut Wives Club, “astronaut” singular. I totally thought it was plural this whole time, which reminds me of something I read on Twitter when the show premiered, which is that the title FEELS like it ought to have an apostrophe…somewhere. (It is grammatically correct, but I really want it to be Astronauts’ Wives Club, I think, because there are multiple astronauts. I get that they’re playing off the term “Astronaut Wife,” but that’s…not really, like, a phrase? Anyway, I am SURE this was a conversation that was had and possibly argued about many many times before the book even came out but this is the first time I’ve thought about it.)

Second, the passage of time on this show continues to be incredibly confusing. I have no idea how much time ever passes between one scene and the next — a week? A month? In some cases, I was able to look it up (thanks, Real Life History) and it proved to be MONTHS when it felt like a week. It’s not a great idea to maroon your views in some timeless netherworld on a show so much about history.

Finally, I must confess that although I have a ton of notes, I do find this show to be a fascinating failure, because I totally understand WHY it’s such a mess and why it was apparently retooled a bunch of times. The story covers a huge span of time and so people that it’s nearly impossible to tell it well in just a few episodes without axing several of the players (which is, I think, what they should have done). I have to wonder if  they are simply cleaving too close to the book — which I haven’t yet read — when it would have worked better on TV if the creators had decided JUST to focus on one Space Event. Say, the moon landing. I get that, as a producer,  you might feel attached to, say, Betty Grissom, and not want to lose her entirely by focusing on later events, but they could have even started at the moon landing and done a bunch of this in quick flashback if they really wanted to. Don’t ask me why I’m trying to fix this show. Let’s get to the smokey cocktail weenies.

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Fug the Show: The Astronaut Wives Club, “Launch”


Because this show stars Hot Neighbor Wade and involves period costumes, which means it is right in my wheelhouse. That said: I have my doubts that this was widely watched by Fug Nation, so we’ll see if these recaps have a life. Having noted that, boy do I have a lot of notes. This show — which is based on the Lily Koppel book of the same name — was apparently slated for last summer, was then pushed by ABC, and has all the hallmarks of being noted to death by the network. I didn’t wholly dislike it — the outfits are good, and some of the performances were appealing, and you have to give a pilot a LOT of leeway — but (a) it has way too many characters in it (which I understand is historically accurate, but look to Wolf Hall as a brilliant way to weave a casts of hundreds in and out of several one hour episodes) and (b) like TWO YEARS of NASA drama (astronaut selection/training) get telescoped into this one pilot. Which seems…like an insane story-telling decision. If you want to start your story at the moment where this episode ends, start there and use flashbacks, because we were asked in this episode to feel a LOT of feelings that you really only feel if you’ve gotten to know a character for more than 20 minutes.  ANYWAY. Let’s get into it. I warn you that Hot Neighbor Wade (of Hart of Dixie fame) has literally one line tonight.

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