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October 4, 2015

Big Love: Pilot

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Mar 13th 2006 11:26AM

After having been transfixed by last night's episode of The Sopranos, I was pretty much in the mindset that anything following the show would be a tremendous letdown. Well, the premier episode of Big Love certainly did not come remotely close to The Sopranos, but I was still rather intrigued by what I saw.

Now we all have to remind ourselves that when we watch anything on TV, we have to accept dramatic (or comedic) license and have to suspend reality. In the case of Big Love, you're going to have to kick reality out of your house. When you watch this program, you have to constantly remind yourself that this isn't real--at least you don't think it is. It's hard to believe in this day and age that polygamy still exists, and in this particular case, that it seems almost normal.

Bill Henrickson owns a chain of home improvement stores, and he is doing his best to keep his own house in order. Make that three houses in order, because he has three wives--Barb, Nicki, and Margene--and seven children who all live together in a trio of houses joined by a common backyard. It doesn't take long to see who among the three wives seems to yield more of the power. Barb aka "Boss Lady" pretty much runs the entire show, and comes across as the most logical wife of the bunch. Nicki seems to be the most unstable (if you can believe that) of them all, constantly seeking out attention and making her jealousy over Barb rather obvious. Margene, the youngest wife, trips over herself to get Bill's attention, and is ready to satisfy him at every opportunity. Bill manages to move from house to house to house to wife to wife to wife to family to family to family without much effort. Just picture a typically dysfunctional American family and multiply it by three.

Bill is on the verge of opening a new store when his estranged brother calls him and says that their father is terribly ill and that he needs to come up to "the commune" right away. Then we follow Bill, Barb, and Nicki up to a remote area in Utah where a number of people live together in this ramshackle commune where religion and polygamy abound. After learning that Margene can't seem to run a house for even a day, a 14-year-old girl marries an older man, and that Bill's mother may be poisoning his father, your head starts to spin like a centrifuge.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of Big Love. The acting was good and the dialogue was snappy and to the point. However, I felt incredibly weird after watching it, sort of the same way I felt after watching The Book of Daniel when it was on NBC. Are the writers and producers trying to shock the audience first and somehow develop a story around it? That approach hasn't worked before, and it's doubtful if it will ever work. The disclaimer at the end of the show said the Mormon Church has disavowed the practice of polygamy, but in modern day America, does this type of culture still exist?

I'll tune in next week for the curiousity factor alone, but if we're going to be subjected to multiple storylines that don't go anywhere and are only intended to shock viewers, then I may not stick around for too long. We'll see what happens next Sunday.

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First, the show is not about polygamy as polygamy infers that he was legaly married to the three women. There's no evidence that he's married to any of them. So, he could be married to one and just living with the other two. Or he could have been "religiously" married to all three but only legaly married to one. I know, nitpicking, but the devil's in the details. If he was married to all three of them he would be jailed if found and it appears that they wouldn't want that.

As for men being "married" to more than one woman, in a religious sense: yes, it happens all the time here in the US. I've spoken to a couple of muslims that have claimed to have three and four "wives" in separate dwelings as well as a couple in one dweling - the maximum, as they claimed, is eight. And, I'm sure, there's more than one cult that practices it. I have also have had aquaintances who have lived with more than one woman while being married with one of them.

I have had the pleasure of meeting a few, less than ten, mormons from SLC and they have all been very nice, polite, people.

As for the show, I like Bill Paxton and have yet to see him in anything that I didn't like. But this one seems to have a redundant plot, so I will not bother with the rest of it.

I'm going to have to disagree with polygamy being equal to gay marriage there. Someone brainwashed into a cult mentality does not, normally, act in a sober fashion (then again, most of us don't act our in a mature manner anyway) and would thereby not be considered a consenting adult even if they where adults - less so if they where under age. Not to say that consenting adults can't enter into a polygamous marriage if it where legal. I wouldn't have any problem with it; but this is not the case in a situation where people are indoctrinated into feeling that this is normal. Why would you compare it to gay marriage?

March 18 2006 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Midnight Penguin

I've been a reader of these boards since right after it's inception, but nothing has brought me to write a response until now. I have not watched this show (as I don't have HBO) but I still would like to respond to response #8 from Aaron Peck...albeit petty and not exactly a television response, but I think it is deserved.

If you really did sit down and watch the mini-series "Angels in America" from HBO, then you would not have made such an offbase comment that HBO "has something against Mormons" as you put it. Not only have you only mentioned two shows within the entire programming list of HBO, but all HBO did was take a well-attended play by Tony Kushner and allow Mike Nichols to work wonders adapting it to screen.

The central message from this movie was NOT the Mormon aspect, but instead the struggle varying AIDS patients had in it's early inception, and the battles on the emotional and physical level they had, despite their "classification" in life. Since the movie was divided into two chapters of three parts each, I fail to see how this characterization was primarily Mormon. At most 1/3 was devoted to them, if you even consider the playwright had intended to "classify" Mormon's as one of the AIDS-recipient groups.

For the readers out there that don't know much about "Angels in America", my review of it, with some story arc spoilers, are here: http://dvdspot.com/dvd.php?d=1407702371

It, in my opinion, "Angels in America" is not "against Mormons" as related in the earlier comment, and is highly recommended on an intellectual level from myself.

*steps off soapbox now*

March 16 2006 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Bill Paxton character did not have a picture on his office wall, but did gaze out the window with a temple clearly visible inthe near distance. I asked my wife (who lived in SLC for a time) if that was the Mormon temple and she said it looked like it but couldn't be sure from the angle it was shown. But, if not, it's clearly intended to be.

As for calling some scenes "soft porn" is laughable.

March 15 2006 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Bill Paxton character did not have a picture on his office wall, but did gaze out the window with a temple clearly visible inthe near distance. I asked my wife (who lived in SLC for a time) if that was the Mormon temple and she said it looked like it but couldn't be sure from the angle it was shown. But, if not, it's clearly intended to be.

As for calling some scenes "soft porn" is laughable.

March 15 2006 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
B.J. Millican

I too thought the show was facinating.

Some people are going to take it too seriously and get their feelings hurt. That is already evident in only 17 comments on this show.

Lighten up- it is only a television show.

As for the show itself. I thought the characters were great and the acting was very good. Since "Walk the Line" I can't see enough of Ginnifer Goodwin, I will keep watching for her at the very least. And I thought Bill Paxton did a good job in his character as well. I will certainly add this show to my "must watch" list.

March 15 2006 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R.A. Sylvester

It's "WIELD" more of the power, not "yield"

March 14 2006 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ellis Hade


You didn't watch the show, and your critisism is off base. If you actually watched the show, you'd probably have a different take on it. The sex scenes were hardly gratuitous, I was surprised at the lack of them being as its HBO. It was more of a comedic angle than a sexual one. Actually the show is pretty tame for HBO's standards. And I think they made it very clear that these people were not affiliated with the mormon church and if they were discovered, they'd be in big trouble. Watch the show, then you can criticize. Otherwise you just come off sounding like another close-minded, brainwashed mormon.

March 13 2006 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just had to say that the real issue I see with the show in connection to my faith(I'm LDS (Mormon) and didn't see the pilot) is mainly the fact that it's filled with scenes of gratuitous sex.

Aside from that the only thing I've heard that's really bothersom is that I've heard that the 'Roman' character has the image of the Salt Lake Temple somewhere in his office (which doesn't make much sense, in my mind, for a break away apostate group) which seems like either a misdirected attempt to accent his office or an intentional attempt to blur the lines between true LDS and apostate polygamous groups.

But I think the main issue is that idea that their trying to pass off 'soft porn' as beinlinked ti an institution that, while we don't currently practice it, still regard as sacred. It's an attempt to make something seen as sacred in our eyes as monogomous marriage is in our eyes and in the eyes of our traditional Judeo-Christian brothers and sisters to seem like something that is principaly about sex. Sex is a key element in monogomous or divinely commanded polygamous relationships but it is not intended to be published abroad like some apetite enducing fast food comercial. That's the issue I have with it. It cheapens sexual intimacy and the overall integrity of any kind of divinely sanctioned marriage setup, whether you're a Christian bishop or Jacob/Israel married to Leah, Rachel etc..

March 13 2006 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Couple of comments

first Aaron Peck, the show made a point to show that not only is Bill's family not mainstream mormon, but the "compound" is even less so. It couldn't be more obvious is they put a disclaimer at the end of the episode.

Oh wait they did.

It's pretty obvious the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (NOT "The Mormons") and their leader Warren Jeffs are the inspiration for it. (http://www.rickross.com/reference/polygamy/polygamy360.html)

As for the "Mafia" angle, I think that's just a cult leader's personality. They have to get people to follow them by hook, crook, or threat.

March 13 2006 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Depends on if you are comparing a gay marriage to some guy who just wants a bunch of wives, or comparing it to the practice of arranging for marriages with children and socially acceptable child molestation I suppose.

The practices of these sects cannot be compared to your average gay couple. That's a political issue. The type of nonsense practiced by these sects is about power and control under the guise of religion.

It's a false analogy to compare the two. I could honestly care less what two (or more) consenting adults do of their own volition to be quite honest. Arranged marriages to children is another story altogether.

March 13 2006 at 5:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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