Polygamy Series Proffers Some Strange Attractions

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Before men start suggesting the idea of additional wives to their lady at home, they might want to think about the challenges faced by Bill Henrickson, the polygamist in Home Box Office’s new dramatic series Big Love.

In addition to turning the volume way up on in-laws, this husband of three counts seven children, four car payments, three mortgages and utility bills to go along with each of his residences. To top it off, Henrickson (Bill Paxton, Titanic, Twister) — who had to turn to Viagra in order to keep from spreading himself too thin in the bedroom — must remember when to sleep in which house on what night with the corresponding wife.

Set in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, the series focuses on Henrickson, the owner of home-improvement store Home Plus, whose books are under the watchful eye of his father-in-law’s (Harry Dean Stanton) church group, which is seeking its tithe.

Henrickson is the dutiful husband of Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn, The Firm), Nicki (Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line). The spouses, with about 20 years between the oldest and youngest, and their children live in new side-by-side houses in an otherwise very single-family home neighborhood, where keeping their way of life under wraps is a constant challenge.

In giving viewers a peek about polygamists in 21st century America, Love, through the first five installments HBO made available for review, comes up big in terms of presenting highly entertaining story lines and great character development.

But the families’ sense of normalcy and righteousness carries a brow-furrowing, displaced tone. While the premium network provides a disclaimer saying that though the Mormon Church states that it officially banned the practice of polygamy in 1890, a report from the Utah and Arizona attorney general’s offices from July 2005 states that “approximately 20,000-40,000 or more people” still continue the practice.

Whether one approves or disapproves of polygamists’ beliefs, the series is just too odd to turn away from. The debut figures to benefit from a good start provided by the lead-in from the season six premiere of The Sopranos.

Big Love premieres on HBO on Sunday, March 12, from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.