So I’m sure that by now, you’ve probably heard (and/or ignored) about the new HBO drama “Big Love” and clucked about how controversial it is. And you’d be wrong. In fact, it doesn't even seem to be controversial enough to gt HBO viewers to like it.
The show is so incredibly far out in left field on everything that no one can really get a full grasp of what would upset them. This seems to be a problem for HBO’s viewers, who seem to have absolutely no interest in the show. And that’s the real puzzle.
Much like its lead-in “The Sopranos”, “Big Love” revolves around the dual lives of mild-mannered polygamist Bill Hendrickson (Bill Paxton). Sure, he has three wives and seven kids who share a backyard in a society that rejects and criminalizes polygamy…but that isn’t his problem. Bill also happens to be a successful businessman who has some serious "mob ties" threatening to bring him down - only in this case, the “mob” happens to be the polygamist sect in which Bill grew up and the “boss” out to get him happens to be both a creepy spiritual leader and a father-in-law.
Of course there’s a lot of sex (it is HBO after all). There’s a great deal of family drama (and an open door to the soapy hijinx of a “Melrose Place”). And I think it is because of the appearance of such "normal" drama that HBO viewers just don’t seem to care for it (yet).
Anyone who switches off HBO after “The Sopranos” because they see a show preview filled with feuding wives, weeping women and Bill Paxton’s ass is cheating themselves of the real fascination behind “Big Love”: The completely fucked-up world of polygamy.
Bill has three versions of a wife living essentially under one roof: The sensible mother figure (Jeanne Tripplehorn), the scheming drama queen (Chloe Sevigny) and the childlike baby momma (Ginnifer Goodwin). The balance of power between the women and of Bill over them never ceases to be absolutely awe-inspiring in its old-school carnality– it’s like watching a Discovery Channel segment on lions.
And the scenes from the backward polygamist compound where Bill grew up are so odd you’ll want to watch them over again for a repeated shock value. There we have child brides, warlord geezers, and wives and kids galore – every week serving as the token explainer for why polygamy is a bad idea. It’s delightfully creepy.
Of course, the only people really ticked off about the series are the Mormons. They don’t like even tangentially being connected with polygamy – let alone hyper-sexed polygamy. They’d rather you forgot about their history, so they want to send polite emails
to have it cancelled. They seem to think this is NBC and that the network will cave to any hint of religious controversy (don’t do it, HBO).
Because of (not in spite of) that – all people who pride themselves for being super-special HBO viewers need to watch “Big Love” and make it a certifiable hit. Give it a place alongside the shows that “glorify violence” (“The Sopranos”), “demean women” (“Entourage”), encourage sexual misconduct (“Sex in the City”) and “revel in bad language” (“Deadwood”). Prove that no one loves vice more than you do.
After all, you don’t want the weirdoes who ruined network TV to come after you and the shows you pay extra to see. Do you?