Astronaut Wives Club Creator Talks New Wives, Houston Move & More

Astronaut Wives Club Preview

Houston, we may have a problem.

The Mercury wives and their families relocate to Texas in tonight’s episode of  The Astronaut Wives Club (ABC, 8/7c), a move that coincides with two potentially catastrophic events: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the arrival of the wives of the Gemini astronauts.

Betty? Jo? Put another casserole in the oven, because it’s time to circle the (station) wagons.

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“Once the Mercury wives have figured out some of their s—t, they’ve worked out their stuff with each other, here come the Gemini wives,” says series creator Stephanie Savage. “As a general rule, the Gemini astronauts were younger, they were better educated. The Gemini flights were going to be two-man missions. The capsules were much more complicated than the Mercury capsules. So there’s this real sense of [the Mercury guys] feeling like, ‘How are we gonna protect our real estate and our seniority in a world that’s already starting to change and become more complicated?’ And it was the same for the wives.”

In advance of the episode, TVLine chatted with Savage about her space-race series, its heroines and (of course) those retro recipes. Read on for the highlights:

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Astronaut Wives Club Houston

EVERYTHING’S BIGGER IN TEXAS | Expect to see the wives move on up, Jeffersons-style, once they’ve settled in the the Lone Star State. “This is the first time they’re not living in military housing, so they’ll actually have their own home, which is a big deal for them — a house that they bought that’s going to be custom-designed, that can be decorated any way they wanted,” Savage says, adding that the cash from the Life articles “wasn’t a huge amount of money, but it was certainly enough to up their game from the way they’d been living as military families. So they have some fun with that.” Also, living in Houston means being part of a big city — something most of the women have never experienced. “We see them introduced into Texas high society,” Savage says.

YOUR HIT PARADE | “My first thought was, ‘I want to use period music, but I don’t want it to feel like the American Graffiti soundtrack, like every song you hear is a giant hit and everything feels very familiar,” Savage says of the series’ soundtrack. Plus, “[EP] Josh Schwartz and I both love finding new music.” So the pair worked with music director Alexandra Patsavas to scan current tunes with a throwback vibe. “There was a lot of contemporary music that felt period right now, and it seemed like it would be fun to use it,” Savage says. “Also, it felt like it would keep the show accessible for a younger audience that’s interested in finding new music and discovering new bands.” Acts heard on the show include Bleachers, The Cashmen, Ariana Delawari and Ritchie Hart.

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MISSING OUT | Watching characters like Trudy, who’s just as talented as her space jock husband Gordo, get relegated to a wave-and-smile role can be frustrating, and “That was one of the things that made me want to write the series,” Savage says. “I thought about my mom and my grandma. Knowing them as I do, and knowing how similar they are to me, they would’ve found themselves in situations like this… I’m using that as my entry point of ‘How would I feel if that happened to me?'”

ROCK OUT WITH YOUR BETTY CROCKER OUT | The recipes seen in the show — like Jo’s bacon-banana hollandaise (shudder) — come from “a combo platter” of old cookbooks and Savage’s own recollections about comfort-food favorites passed down through the years. “Jell-O salads are still consumed in my family,” she says, laughing. “We don’t turn up our noses at anything that has marshmallows, strawberry Jell-O or crushed pineapple.” The more exotic dishes aside, Savage notes that all of the potluck meals served a greater purpose for the Mercury wives while their husbands were in orbit. “It was a big deal when they had the launches. Everyone brought a casserole,” she says. “And later in the series, when the stakes get higher and things get more serious, they’re taking care of the widows and bringing them casseroles. There’s a lot of meaning in that.”

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STARTING WITH THE SHEPARDS | Louise, Alan Shepard’s closed-off wife, might’ve seemed an atypical entry point to the series, given Rene’s sunny accessibility or Betty’s down-home wholesomeness. But Louise not only helped Savage give the series some symmetry — “We start with Alan’s Mercury mission, and the last mission we see in the show is Apollo 14, which is when Alan gets to the moon” — she also proved a measuring stick for the audience. “I enjoyed the challenge of writing a character that was so reserved and using her to tell the story of this sisterhood, this coming-together,” Savage says. “Because in a lot of ways, she has the farthest to go.”

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  1. NP says:

    So is this just a one season show? I really don’t get how you cover Mercury, Gemini and most of Apollo in one season – there’s so much content there

    • Katherine215 says:

      I was wondering that, too. I’m disappointed they’re moving so fast.

      • Dan says:

        I agree. There was one episode so far where I think they fast-forwarded two years in just one montage. WTF?

        • Allison says:

          You must be talking about the first episode which to be fair, covered starting when they were all named up through Shepard’s flight. There was about 2 years from the time they were named to when that flight happened. After that first flight, they came pretty quickly every few months (May 61, July 61, Feb 62, May 62, Oct 62, May 63) so there haven’t been any big time jumps.

    • Carla Krae says:

      It’s based on the book of the same title.

    • Allison says:

      I’m pretty sure I remember reading that originally the show was only going to cover the Mercury years when they first pitched it. At some point in the process it was decided that they would cover Gemini and Apollo too. I don’t know if ABC pushed that or the producers decided they didn’t have enough material to just focus on Mercury or what. That change was why the show got pushed back so they could rework the scripts. I think it would have been kind of hard for them not to also include Gemini since those families came on the scene before Mercury even finished and several of the Mercury Astronauts stayed with NASA through the Apollo program so I guess it kind of makes sense. I haven’t read the book but my understanding is the book goes through Apollo too.

      I don’t think they ever intended it to be more than one season. Remember this is actual events, it’s not like they can invent flights or make up Astronauts. I think once they determined it was only going to be a one shot deal with these 10 episodes, they probably decided to burn through the whole era in one shot. It’s going fast but I’m really enjoying the show!

      • C. Davis says:

        This show tonight – where in the world did they get that song, “Oh My Angel”? I lived through the Apollo-Gemini years and never heard it. They could have used a much more beautiful songs – there were many at that time! I wonder if they will mention the big “Blue Book” that was being passed around for everyone to read, including IBM employees. It was about UFO’s.

        • jbj says:

          If you read the article, Stephanie Savage mentions that they used retro-sounding contemporary music, and for a reason.

  2. Pia says:

    Bon Appetit had a great article on the food in the series.

  3. Dan says:

    Translation regarding the music: “Retro-sounding” music by new indie bands that no one has ever heard of is A LOT cheaper than getting the rights to real ’60s music by the Beatles, Supremes, etc.

  4. Lenora Fitzsimonds says:

    Is one of the wives Shyanne from the Reba’ show? She looks and sounds like her but older?

    • Dan says:

      Yeah, JoannaGarcia Swisher played Shyanne and plays Betty Grissom on this show (she’s the redhead that was mowing her lawn with her hair in curlers). She also is Ariel, the Little Mermaid, on Once Upon a Time! :)

  5. frothy333 says:

    Am I missing something? I’ve watched all the episodes and this one was out of order. The “previous” snippet at the beginning was from episodes that haven’t been aired. When going to TWC on demand, it says this was season 1 – episode 9? Not 4.

  6. Sure why not. Cover 12 years in 10 episodes with a huge, huge, huge cast. Smart plan. SMH

  7. Jeri says:

    Keeps getting better & better, hope it sticks around. Hate to have it hook us, then be gone. Lots of small events lead to the large events in history, there is lots to tell here and keep us watching.