Sunday, March 20, marks the series finale of HBO’s Big Love, the greatest polygamy series in TV history. It’s not a competitive field.
TLC’s Sister Wives barely counts because, A. Patriarch Kody Assclown isn’t technically “married” to all of his “wives,” making the “reality” of that show about as “real” as Ghost Hunters, and B. Sister Wives sucks, even by reality TV and TLC standards. It’s a real feat to produce a dull polygamist show, but the former Learning Channel has somehow lazily stumbled into it. And how am I the only one who sees the entertainment gold in a Sister Wives crossover event with TLC’s lone noncrap series, What Not to Wear?
Big Love, on the other hand, has seen nary a dull moment since it debuted in March 2006. Season 1 introduced the Henrickson clan: Salt Lake City businessman Bill (Bill Paxton), exiled Lost Boy, maverick Mormon and owner of a chain of home-improvement stores; original wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who’s not fully on board with Bill’s plural marriage vision; second wife Nicki (Chloe Sevigny), a prairie-dress traditionalist straight from Bill’s former Juniper Creek polygamist compound; and third wife Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young—later to be revealed very young—woman who once babysat for Bill and Barb.
The first season was all about Bill juggling the needs of his wives, children and extended family tree (a nasty and knotted one, at that), as well as his business and his steely devotion to God and The Principle, all while keeping the whole polygamy thing a secret in nosy suburban Sandy. The four subsequent seasons have maintained that Mormon multitasking while piling on (but not limited to) the following: Nicki racking up thousands in credit-card debt due to a “shopping addiction,” Bill investing in a video-gambling company, Barb being outed as a polygamist’s wife (at least a dozen times), Margene getting pregnant (ditto), Bill courting a Serbian waitress, Bill banging said waitress and then attempting to make her Wife No. 4, the original three wives jockeying for power within the family at all times, Bill launching a “family-friendly” casino, the aforementioned waitress turning up pregnant and then being paid off to split the country, Bill running for a Utah Senate seat, Margene becoming a home-shopping TV star, Bill announcing that he’s a polygamist upon winning his Senate bid, Margene losing her TV gig and jumping right into multilevel marketing, the Henricksons becoming an overnight pariah and Bill an impeachment target, Barb becoming a wino and seeking the priesthood, a depiction of a Mormon endowment ceremony, a shootout in the Utah Capitol ...
And that’s not even touching on the FLDS mafia conspiracies and power grabs, Henrickson children drama, Henrickson grandparent drama, backyard start-up churches, Viagra abuse, Big Gulp abuse, Mexican bird-smuggling, covert gay encounters, Christian rock dalliances, Frankenstein fertilization practices, random City Weekly cameos and enough covered-up murders to do Tony Soprano proud. The Utah Tourism Office should be kissing HBO’s ass for making this state look so exciting.
But how will Big Love end on Sunday? Strangely paralleling Showtime’s Californication, of all shows, Bill’s facing jail time for unwittingly bedding a minor (Margene) years ago—you can get away with a lot in the Utah Senate, but probably not being a polygamist and a statutory rapist. Even if he does slip the charges, Bill’s likely going to lose his seat and his stores, if not his wives, and—most shocking after all of this—his belief in The Principle.
The Only TV Column That Matters™ doesn’t believe Big Love would go out on a bummer note like that. The most depressing thing to happen in the final episode will be Dixie Chick Natalie Maines’ “re-imagining” of Big Love’s original theme song, the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.”