Monday, Apr. 25, 2011

Big Love (2006-11 TV series)

In one sense, Big Love was an anomaly among HBO series, in that it avoided the obligatory nudity and rarely allowed a curse stronger than "G.D." Still, it was your basic HBO theme: families who love one another, in complicated ways, but have this one little quirk. (Dad's a Mafia boss, our relatives are vampires, etc.) Polygamy is the secret in that nice Mormon Henrickson family — Bill (Bill Paxton) and his wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and his wife Nicolette (Chloë Sevigny) and his wife Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin). In 53 episodes over five years, creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer achieved a fine, pure, complex serial epic whose tone spanned a half-century of TV, from Father Knows Best to Twin Peaks and beyond. They did it by convincing viewers that the Henricksons' form of plural marriage was the new normal.

The real crazies were the polygamy fundamentalists who lived in Juniper Creek, the crackpot compound Bill was raised in and escaped from. And the real villains were the elders of the mainstream LDS, practicing their own form of pressure and prejudice against God-fearing, middle-class decent people whose views of multiple wedlock were the deepest matters of faith. Big Love took these matters seriously. Belief in "the principle," however loco to most viewers — and an outrage and embarrassment to a Mormon church that was founded on polygamy but renounced it in 1890 — was Bill's lodestar, and he was such a decent, driven soul that viewers thought, honest to gosh, let the fellow live by it.