Let's dispense with the business at hand up front – if you're looking a for quality drama that makes an hour seem like 15 minutes and has you hooked from the first episode, watch "Big Love" on HBO. Here's why:
I first saw previews and teasers, I think, sometime shortly after my beloved "Six Feet Under" left HBO's airwaves, and "Deadwood" was in perpetual limbo. I like Bill Paxton, adore Jeanne Tripplehorn, and think Chloe Sevigny is wildly underrated. So, I figured, why not? Plus, there's a good chance I'll get a glimpse of Paxton's ass. Because, after all, this is HBO.
Three seasons in, I'm still just as confused as ever as to who is related to who at Juniper Creek, the ficticious Mormon compound that's home to Roman the "Prophet," played scarily well by Harry Dean Stanton. Unreal or not, it's a richly detailed environment, full of scheming sister wives, men disappointed in their sons, Mama Bear types who are insanely defensive of their brood and the mentally unbalanced on the verge of becoming completely unhinged at any moment. Take, for example, Bill's (played by Bill Paxton) mother always trying to kill her loathsome husband, played by Bruce Dern.
Bill is married to Nikki, the scheming-but-with-the-occasional-heart-of-gold daughter of the Prophet, Roman. Forever destined to be Wife #2 to Jeanne Tripplehorn's Barb, she's nearly taken the family down in debt, ratted out Barb to the Utah Mother Of The Year Committee, and just helped Daddy escape jail time.
Then there's playful wife #3, the former babysitter, Margene. Ginnifer Goodwin lays her to a tee, and this season has spent considerable time fleshing out her character, as she struggles to find a place outside the three-ring circus that is the Henrickson homestead.
There's fun for the kiddies, too! Well, not your kids - this isn't a show for the middle school set. But if you like a little teen angst to go with your adult drama, Big Love's got it – teens dealing with the sexuality, pregnancy, life outside a polygamous family, runaways, keeping the family secret...you name it.
What draws me the most to it though, isn't the window dressing that is the hoopla surrounding a polygamous storyline. The characters are rich and complex, and the inter-personal relationships are so intriguing and painstakingly real. Mother to child, husband to wife, sister to brother, friend to friend, it's an engrossing hour. Check it out!