Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Spectacularly putting the lie to the old stereotype about "British reserve," the ribald ITV drama series Footballers' Wives was literally awash with sexual intrigue and hanky-panky. The stories focused on the Earls Park Sparks, a pro football team (the British brand of football, that is) owned by Frank Laslett (John Forgeham) and managed by Stefan Hauser (Philip Bretherton). The bulk of the plot contrivances and convolutions were dictated by the wives of the Sparks players, and although the series was essentially an ensemble piece, the principal catalyst for most of the carnal capers was bed-hopping, coke-snorting Tanya Turner (Zoe Lucker), who in the tradition of such American TV icon as J.R. Ewing and Alexis Carrington was The Character You Loved to Hate. In the first season, Tanya was the wife of Jason Turner (Cristian Solimero), the Sparks' volatile captain, but that didn't stop her from canoodling with anyone in pants (or out of pants!) As the series progressed, Tanya managed to land Frank Laslett as her second husband (after first trying to murder him), then blithely stole team member Conrad Gates (Ben Price) away from his Bollywood-starlet bride Amber (Laila Rouass), who was quite a piece of bitchy work in her own right! All that kept Tanya from wreaking more havoc were her periodic arrests on drug charges, one of which briefly landed her on an entirely different British series, the "women behind bars" epic Bad Girl. Other passing in and out of the scene were Donna Walmsley (Katherine Monaghan), the once faithful but ultimately libidinous wife of workaholic ballplayer Ian Walmsley (Nathan Constance); Chardonnay Lane (Susie Amy), former topless model and latterly the wife of straight-arrow player Kyle Pascoe (Gary Lucy); Kyle's randy mother Jackie (Gillian Taylforth), who bore the child of the far-from-virtuous Jason Turner, then went on to marry new team manager Roger Webb (Jessie Birdsall); Shannon Lawson (Sarah Barrand), the facelift-addicted wife of player Harley Lawson (Jamie Davis), yet another of Tanya's conquests; over-the-hill player Bruno Milligan (Ben Richards) and his restless wife Lucy (Helen Latham) Hazel Bailey (Alison Newman), the players' sharkish, bisexual business agent; Janet Dunkley (Julie LeGrand), sinister senior-center nurse who somehow knew where all the bodies were buried; and stud-muffin bachelor ballplayers Salvatore Biagi (Daniel Schutzmann) and Darius Fry (Peter Ash). Perhaps there were those who took all of this seriously, but most of the series' fans reveled in the campy, over-the-top plot twists and florid, flamboyant characterizations. Making its UK debut on January 8, 2002, the weekly, hour-long Footballers' Wives picked up a whole new contingent of fans when it was brought to the US via the BBC America digital-cable service. And in 2005, several of the principal characters were transferred to an ITV spinoff series, Footballers' Wives: Extra Time.