MikeInWeHo is an old friend of BCC, and currently serves as our Special Media Correspondent, providing commentary on TV shows we can’t watch because we’re too cheap to pay for cable. His past work can be seen here, here, here, and here.
Sunday night brought the premier of the new series Sister Wives on The Learning Channel. The affable Kody Brown and his three wives have opened their home to the world, and we get a new take on contemporary polygamy. This is billed as a reality series, but are these people for real or is this TV with an agenda?
Polygamy has gotten a lot of media attention in recent years, from FLDS compounds in the news to HBO’s hit drama Big Love. These portrayals mostly range from bizarre to fictional. Who can relate to the swoop-haired wives of the FLDS compound? They are a curiosity at best, creepy cult at worst. Meanwhile, Big Love has devolved into an over-the-top dramatic mess like some Mormon Melrose Place. Entertaining, sure, but not reality.
This time the message is different and much closer to your Utah home. Sister Wives makes two major impressions on the viewer. First, this family sure as heck seems Mormon, gosh darn it. Kody attempts to set the record straight by explaining “We’re a fundamentalist Mormon family, not a (sic) LDS or Mormon family.” He continues by saying “They quit practicing polygamy a hundred and twenty years ago. Big difference from us and them, similar to Catholics and Protestants.” The average non-Mormon viewer might be forgiven for finding this denominational distinction a bit difficult to navigate. “Fundamentalist Mormon” is the label that sticks to these people.
The second major impression is that this family is healthy, loving, and strong. They’re exuberant, likeable, and not weird at all. First wife Meri speaks into the camera “I hope that our kids do what they want to do in their life, whether it’s live our lifestyle or have no religion at all. As long as they are strong and firm in what they want to do, and what they want to believe and that they’re not following somebody else.” Second wife Janelle chimes in “The biggest thing is that if we raise productive, contributing members of society who are moral and ethical, that’s our final goal whatever their path is.” Where do I sign up?
The Brown family is so over-the-top nice, they’re like a latter-day Brady Bunch. Any serious problems have been edited away. Third wife Christine refuses to use a toaster because “more people die from toasters than sharks every year.” When she incinerates bread by leaving it under the broiler too long, the family rallies in the smoke-filled kitchen to provide cheerful moral support. Add a bad laugh track and it could have been a scene from an old TV sitcom.
Dramatic tension is provided by Kody’s announcement that he is courting a potential fourth wife. How will the kids react? Will intra-wife jealousies finally emerge with the arrival of the younger, sexier Robyn? The premier leaves us hanging, but based on the tone of this episode we can predict that the Brown family will do just fine.