Not in a million years would I trade places with Bill Paxton's character in the new HBO series which premeires this Sunday, Big Love. Bill Henrickson owns a hardware store that's just branching out into a chain. Which is keeping him busy enough. But he's also got his wife Barbara to think about (Jean Tripplehorn). And his wife Nicolette (Chloe Sevigny). And his wife Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin). Plus all their kids. And his parents. And a ton of in-laws.
The way the series is set up, it looks like Bill and his immediate family (a phrase that takes on a different meaning here) broke free of a religious commune, run by Nicolette's father, Roman (Harry Dean Stanton). The commune practices polygamy, and it looks like Bill & co. took that on the road. But in the outside world, they've got to keep it secret.
I got to see a preview of the series tonight (with my friend Steph) and it looks like it'll be a helluva show. I won't get to see it for a while, since I don't have HBO, but I'll consider renting the DVDs. It's got nice tension -- familial, marital, and just a hint of legal (which will surely grow as the series progresses). It'll be interesting to see more of the wives' relationships with each other, and of Bill's private relationship with each wife. One of Jean Tripplehorn's lines -- "are you going to wear pajamas to bed all the time, or just on my nights?" illustrates what a crazy tightrope he'll be walking throughout the show.
Oh well. He made his beds.
UPDATE: (Just to add a little meat to this post, since it seems to be getting some attention.) Based on the premiere, Big Love is a good show – it looks like a well-realized drama about the troubles of a polygamous family. And while it’s bound to delve into some disturbing territory (Roman’s teenage bride being the example placed front-and-center in the premiere), it’s not a documentary. It’s a TV show presented as entertainment. Which probably means that some aspects of polygamy will be glossed over, or not shown in the most disturbing light possible. And other aspects of the show will be unrealistic, in order to make the premise work and be relatable to a general audience.
This isn’t a bad thing. Someone can make (and doubtless has made) documentaries about the true state of polygamy. I’d be interested in seeing one. But I can say for certain that it will never get the kind of audience a show like Big Love gets. But while Big Love may pull some punches, it will almost certainly be disturbing enough to bring polygamy onto the radar of people who never gave it a second thought. And it may even drive a percentage of viewers to seek out more information about the issue. Is it really fair to ask for more from a cable drama series?