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Ellen Gray: Lifetime's 'Wives' catches up with bar bombing

ARMY WIVES. 10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime. THERE MAY be people tenacious enough to hang from a cliff for more than nine months, but I'm apparently not one of them.

ARMY WIVES. 10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime.

THERE MAY be people tenacious enough to hang from a cliff for more than nine months, but I'm apparently not one of them.

So I confess that it was only when I started screening Sunday's Season 2 premiere of Lifetime's "Army Wives" that I remembered I was supposed to be worried about these women.

Because way back last August, in the first-season finale, some guy did his very best to blow them to bits.

Since then, though, a dozen other series have recorded over that spot on my mental DVR. I'm still processing last week's "Lost" finale - do they really expect me to remember anything before that?

OK, so maybe I'm just the "Samantha Who?" of TV critics, but on the off chance that there are viewers whose memories aren't any better than mine, Lifetime's running a 10-hour marathon of episodes from last season beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Please remember to hydrate.

For those who prefer the SparkNotes version, here's what you need to know:

When Season 1 ended last August, the writers had managed, through a series of increasingly far-fetched contrivances, to put most of the show's major players in harm's way by placing them inside a bar. Not just any bar, mind you, but one that a soldier whose wife is in the process of leaving him has decided to visit while wearing explosives strapped to his chest.

Hilarity does not ensue.

Sunday's episode, the ominously titled, "Would You Know My Name," picks up four days after the bar bombing, in which, we learn, four people were killed and 15 injured, three of them critically.

What we don't learn, at least not immediately, is the identities of all those who won't be coming home. Fans are just going to have to cross characters off the list of potential casualties as they show up.

Even then, you can't always trust what you see.

All this plays out against the backdrop of an all too real anxiety occasioned by the early deployment to Iraq of some of the "Wives' " husbands.

Lack of instantaneous communication has left newlywed Roxy (Sally Pressman) frantic, the more experienced wives less so.

When "Army Wives" began, its strength seemed to be in the ensemble - led by Roxborough's Kim Delaney - portraying women (and men) dealing with the myriad issues that arise in military families, particularly in times of war.

Even the stories that at first seemed far-fetched, like the one that had Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) pregnant with another couple's twins, were rooted in the reality of Army life. (Newsweek reported last month that military wives are increasingly turning to surrogacy to supplement family incomes while their husbands are deployed.)

But as if the day-to-day stresses of military families separated by war weren't enough, there was always the threat of violence on the homefront, with Delaney's character, a colonel's wife named Claudia Joy, at one point even being taken hostage by a distraught soldier.

And that was weeks before the bar went boom.

It's hard to know how much effect a reported shake-up behind the scenes had to do with ratcheting up the threat level on "Army Wives," but I'd like to think that in its best moments, it wasn't trying to outdo "24."

And as someone who looks forward to an hour or two a week when nothing explodes in her living room, I wouldn't mind a season with a bit less firepower.

Discovery's space race

HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" might have been more sweeping and "The Right Stuff" not so well-scrubbed, but for the generation that doesn't remember watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" (9 p.m. Sundays through June 22, Discovery) is an exhilarating primer on the early space program.

Those who do remember, but with static, may see things more clearly, now that Discovery's taken NASA footage and converted it to HD for this six-episode series, narrated by "CSI: NY's" Gary Sinise (whose own National Aeronautics and Space Administration experience was acquired on "Apollo 13").

Not even the footage, though, can compete with the interviews, featuring men who figured out ways to do extraordinary things simply because their president had, perhaps rashly, promised they would.

It's been nearly 40 years since they fulfilled John F. Kennedy's vow, and it's good to get them while they, too, still remember. *

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