HBO kicked off the new season of Big Love with big hopes that it will replace The Sopranos as its primary moneymaker. The series has received excellent reviews, lots of positive buzz, and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. The executives at HBO are good at what they do.
If HBO succeeds and the show is a hit, it may present PR issues on a scale never-before encountered by the contemporary Church. Why?
This season, the gloves are off. These characters are portrayed as Mormons. Big Love was always chock-a-block with Mormon imagery, but there are significant differences this year:
The disclaimer stating that polygamists are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been dropped. On the contrary, the complete name of the Church is actually mentioned in the dialogue. Polygamist sect leader Roman Grant asks an investigative officer of the state if he is a “man of faith.” The officer’s reply: “I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Roman nods approvingly. Roman is a very nasty man.
At another point, the show’s main character is shown reading scripture and praying. The camera zooms in on the book that Bill Henrickson lays down. It’s a hardcover blue missionary edition of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. At another point, “Brother Henrickson” is shown teaching his children something about the BoM and Central American geography. Later, his priesthood is mentioned.
It goes on and on, but you get the picture. This season, it’s out in the open. Big Love is all about Mormons. The Church can issue all the style guides it wants, but if the show obtains a mass audience tens of millions of people around the world will identify “Mormon” with the fictional, polygamous Henricksons.