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Series / The Astronaut Wives Club

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The Mercury 7 wives

The Astronaut Wives Club is an ABC miniseries that aired ten episodes in the summer of 2015. It is a fictionalized adaptation of the book of the same name.

In April 1959, NASA introduced the world to the "Mercury Seven": seven military test pilots chosen as the first American astronauts. This series focused on the women at the side of each astronaut, who had stories of their own: cheerful Betty Grissom (JoAnna Garcia Swisher); Trudy Cooper (Odette Annable), a talented pilot herself whose marriage is not what it appears; brassy, outspoken Rene Carpenter (Yvonne Strahovski); gentle Annie Glenn (Azure Parsons) who hides a secret that makes the media attention particularly challenging; den mother Marge Slayton (Erin Cummings), whose past hides damaging secrets; kindhearted Jo Schirra (Zoe Boyle); and proper, chilly Louise Shepard (Dominique McElligott).

3...2...1... Tropes:

  • Age Lift: The actors portraying the Mercury Seven and their wives are clearly younger than the real-life men and women.
  • Amicable Exes: Rene and Scott, eventually.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue conveys this attitude regarding both the later lives of the wives and the continuation of The Space Race.
  • Artistic License History: It's clear through the series that the budget did not allow for much more than the use of Stock Footage of some of the space events. Often, notable moments are out of their actual sequence in time. The series did revolve around the wives and how their husband's lives affected them, of course. The series worked fine with a few issues and changes necessary for the Rule of Drama, but oversimplified others.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Gus Grissom is the most unambiguously kind astronaut, while his best friend Wally Schirra is the prankster of the group. But when trouble strikes, both are fully capable of a terrifying Tranquil Fury.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The marriages of Scott and Rene, and Trudy and Gordo come to an end (in reality, as did the marriage of the Slaytons, though it wasn't mentioned in the show). Alan is the only one of the Mercury Seven to make it to the moon. Betty never remarries. However, Trudy and Rene establish their own successful careers, a woman finally makes it to space, and the Shepards, Glenns and Schirras remain happily married.
  • Dance of Romance: Max and Louise share a tentative but close dance in a barn the night the Cuban Missile Crisis reaches high tension.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Louise's main character arc.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Most of the major historical events in the series, as well as the fates of the Mercury couples, are public knowledge:
    • Alan will eventually make it back into space (to the moon, no less).
    • Louise will not leave Alan or have an affair with Max Kaplan, no matter how much the series might tease it.
    • Despite the attention paid to their relationships during the series, the Carpenters, Slaytons or Coopers will not make it out with their marriages intact.
    • Gus Grissom will not survive.
  • Friendship Moment: Several
    • The Mercury Seven refusing to take John Glenn's place after he tells his wife she doesn't have to talk to the Vice President. Meanwhile, the wives (and Max) stand by Annie, even offering to barricade the door if need be.
    • Annie driving to a beach house to give Rene company when there are complications in Scott's flight.
    • Trudy and Louise flying out of town to find Harriet Eisele's husband and bring him back to her and their dying son.
    • Jo cutting a hole in the fence between her and Betty's houses.
    • The other Mercury Seven's insistence that Deke be the one to select astronauts for the missions.
    • Betty and Marilyn See leaving on a vacation together, to help Betty overcome Gus's death.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Annie and Rene, Betty and Jo (as well as their husbands), and to a smaller extent, Trudy and Louise.
  • Historical Beauty Update: the Mercury astronauts and their wives are portrayed as significantly more attractive than they were in real life.
  • In-Series Nickname: The women who hang around the NASA bases in hopes of hooking up with one (or more) of the astronauts are referred to as "Cape Cookies."
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Amusingly, Gordo. He cheated in the past, but when his wife thinks he's enjoying the attentions of the Cape Cookies, she finds out he actually flirts with them, but anytime he's alone with one of them, starts gushing about how much he loves his wife.
  • Off the Record: When Max happens to be around one or more of the wives in a moment or a discussion they'd rather not be public knowledge, he quietly reassures them that anything they say is off the record, most notably at the end of the pilot episode, when Louise asks him not to reveal how scared she really was.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Rene and Scott, Harriet and Donn Eisele.
  • Parental Abandonment: Donn Eisele inflicts this upon his dying son.
  • The Scapegoat: Gus is initially blamed for the sinking of his craft.
  • Security Cling: A very mild example, since the character doing the clinging is Louise. Although she refuses to let any of the other wives in to watch Alan's first launch with her, Max is there because he has to be for his job. He tries to discreetly leave the room, but Louise grabs his hand, and they remain that way for the duration of the mission.
  • Semper Fi: John is a Marine on the show, as he was in real life.
  • Tagalong Reporter: Of the assigned variety—Max's entire job description for the first half of the series is to hang out with the Mercury 7 families to write pieces on all of them. He does, however, exercise discretion in what he reports and comes to be seen by the families as a friend as well as a reporter.
  • True Companions: the Mercury Seven and their wives.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Max narrates what happens to all of the Mercury families in the last minutes of the finale.