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Big Love

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Title: Big Love  
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Subject: Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, Dustin Lance Black, Daveigh Chase, Grace Zabriskie, Ginnifer Goodwin
Collection: 2000S American Television Series, 2006 American Television Series Debuts, 2010S American Television Series, 2011 American Television Series Endings, American Drama Television Series, Big Love, English-Language Television Programming, Films Shot in Salt Lake City, Utah, Hbo Network Shows, Mormon Fundamentalism, Mormonism and Polygamy, Polygamy in Fiction, Portrayals of Mormons in Popular Media, Serial Drama Television Series, Television Shows Filmed in Santa Clarita, California, Television Shows Set in Utah, Works About Polygamy in Mormonism
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Big Love

Big Love
Promotional poster for Season 1
Created by Mark V. Olsen
Will Scheffer
Written by Mark V. Olsen
Will Scheffer
Patricia Breen
Dustin Lance Black
Starring Bill Paxton
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Chloë Sevigny
Ginnifer Goodwin
Douglas Smith
Grace Zabriskie
Mary Kay Place
Matt Ross
Cassi Thomson
Amanda Seyfried
Shawn Doyle
Mireille Enos
Željko Ivanek
Melora Walters
Joel McKinnon Miller
Daveigh Chase
Jolean Wejbe
Bruce Dern
Harry Dean Stanton
Opening theme "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys (Seasons 1-3)
"Home" by Engineers (Seasons 4-5)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 53 (list of episodes)
Running time 50 minutes
Production company(s) Anima Sola Productions
Original channel HBO
Original release March 12, 2006 (2006-03-12) – March 20, 2011 (2011-03-20)
External links

Big Love is an American television drama that aired on HBO between March 2006 and March 2011. The show is about a fictional fundamentalist Mormon[1][2][3] family in Utah that practices polygamy. Big Love stars Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin, as well as a large supporting cast.

The series premiered in the United States on March 12, 2006 following the sixth-season premiere of the HBO series The Sopranos. The show was a success for HBO, running for five seasons before concluding its run on March 20, 2011.[4]

Big Love received widespread critical acclaim, and earned several major awards and nominations throughout its run. The third season was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and the first three were nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Drama. For acting, Chloë Sevigny won a Golden Globe Award for her supporting role, and Bill Paxton was nominated three times for his leading role. At the Emmys, Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Mary Kay Place and Sissy Spacek were all nominated for their recurring roles. Creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer won the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama.

The series left behind a legacy as one of television's most complex studies of American family life, and has been the subject of seminal pieces in top academic journals including the Columbia Law Review, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law and Law and Contemporary Problems. Several publications listed the series' first three seasons as among the best television of the decade 2000-09, and its final season ranked among the best-reviewed scripted series of 2011.


  • Overview 1
  • Music 2
  • Cast and characters 3
    • Leading cast 3.1
    • Henrickson family and friends 3.2
      • Extended Henrickson family 3.2.1
      • Dutton family 3.2.2
      • Grant family 3.2.3
      • Bill's business partners and associates 3.2.4
    • Recurring 3.3
  • Plot 4
    • Season 1 4.1
    • Season 2 4.2
    • Season 3 4.3
    • Season 4 4.4
    • Season 5 4.5
  • The United Effort Brotherhood 5
  • Production and crew 6
  • Episodes 7
  • Soundtrack 8
  • DVD releases 9
  • Critical reception 10
    • LDS Church response 10.1
    • Academia 10.2
  • Awards and nominations 11
  • Family tree 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


The show was co-created by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, who also served as executive producers. Olsen and Scheffer spent almost three years researching the premise of the show,[5] with the intent of creating a fair portrayal of polygamy in America without being judgmental.


The theme song for the final two seasons of the series was "Home" by the band Engineers. During the first three seasons, "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys played during the opening titles. The musical score for the series was composed by Anton Sanko. Mark Mothersbaugh composed music for the first season, while David Byrne was in charge of music during the second season.

Cast and characters

Leading cast

  • Bill Paxton as Bill Henrickson – Husband to Barb, Nicki, and Margene. He is a practicing polygamist and, at the end of season 4, was elected as a Utah Republican state senator.
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn as Barbara "Barb" Henrickson – Bill's first wife; mother of Sarah, Ben, and Tancy ("Teeny"). She is also the only wife to whom he is legally married.
  • Chloë Sevigny as Nicolette "Nicki" Grant – Bill's second wife, Barb's former caretaker (during her bout with cancer), and Roman Grant's daughter; mother of Wayne and Raymond (with Bill), and Cara Lynn (with J.J.).
  • Ginnifer Goodwin as Margene "Margie" Heffman – Bill's third and youngest wife; mother of Lester, Aaron, and Nell.
  • Amanda Seyfried as Sarah Henrickson – Bill and Barb's first daughter, struggling with her father's polygamy. She married Scott Quittman despite her parents' initial reservations.
  • Douglas Smith as Ben Henrickson – Bill and Barb's son. In the third season, he expresses his sexual attraction and love to Margene, his third mother, who rejects him as she loves him as a son. He has stated his desire to follow The Principle—to practice polygamy, as his father does.

Henrickson family and friends

  • Branka Katić as Ana Marković – Bill's fourth wife. She and Bill marry, then she divorces the family.
  • Jolean Wejbe (replaced by Bella Thorne in Season 4[6]) as Tancy "Teenie" Henrickson – Bill and Barb's younger daughter.
  • Keegan Holst as Wayne Henrickson – Bill and Nicki's eldest son.
  • Garrett Grey as Raymond Henrickson – Bill and Nicki's second son.
  • Ailish and Julia O'Connor as Nell Henrickson – Bill and Margene's daughter. (Season 4)
  • Aaron Paul as Scott Quittman – Sarah's husband.
  • Tina Majorino as Heather Tuttle – Sarah Henrickson's co-worker and best friend; Ben's girlfriend for a short time

Extended Henrickson family

  • Shawn Doyle as Joey Henrickson – Bill's brother, Wanda's husband. Former professional football player with the Dallas Cowboys. He attempts to enter into polygamy like Bill and his forefathers, albeit reluctantly at first. (Seasons 1-4)
  • Melora Walters as Wanda Henrickson – Bill's sister-in-law, wife to Joey Henrickson, and sister of Nicki's first husband, J.J. Wanda's psychological problems surface when she poisons people who cross her or her family. (Seasons 1-4)
  • Bruce Dern as Frank Harlow – Bill's abusive and domineering father who exiled Bill from Juniper Creek at age 14. In a strong, perennial, and sometimes violent feud with his wife, Lois.
  • Grace Zabriskie as Lois Henrickson – Bill's mother. In a long-time feud—and even attempted homicide—against Bill's father, Frank Harlow.
  • Brian Kerwin as Eddie Henrickson – Lois' younger brother, Bill's uncle.
  • Aidan Gonzales and Andrew Gonzales as Joey Henrickson Jr. – Joey and Wanda's son.
  • Christopher Randazzo and Zachary Randazzo as Joey Henrickson Jr. – Joey and Wanda's son. (Season 4)
  • Mireille Enos as JoDean Marquart and Kathy Marquart – Kathy is Joey's second wife-to-be until her death in a car accident while being chased by Roman Grant. She lived in Joey and Wanda's home and assisted with the care of their infant son. Her twin sister, JoDean, is Frank's newest wife. (Seasons 3-4)

Dutton family

Grant family

  • Harry Dean Stanton as Roman Grant – Nicki & Alby's father, self-proclaimed Prophet, and leader of the Juniper Creek compound. He is smothered to death by Joey Henrickson to avenge Roman's involvement in the death of Joey's fiancée, Kathy.
  • Mary Kay Place as Adaleen Grant – One of Roman Grant's wives and Nicki and Alby's mother. Although sixth wife to Roman, Adaleen is his most trusted confidante and is able to influence Roman's political decisions. After Roman's death, Alby sends Adaleen to be a wife of J.J., against Adaleen's and Nicki's wishes.
  • Daveigh Chase as Rhonda Volmer – A young sociopath teenager who was to be married to Roman Grant. During Roman's trial, Rhonda was bribed to go away so she would not take the stand and damage the defense's case.
  • Matt Ross as Alby Grant – Roman Grant's closeted gay son and the heir-apparent 'Prophet' of Juniper Creek. Takes over the compound after Roman dies.
  • Anne Dudek as Lura Grant – Third and favorite wife of Alby. She helps Alby try to kill Roman in both the second and third season.
  • Željko Ivanek as J.J. Percy Walker – Nicki's first husband and father of Nicki's eldest daughter, Cara Lynn. J.J. is domineering, and with Alby's pull, forces the widowed Adaleen to marry him.[7]
  • Cassi Thomson as Cara Lynn Walker - Nicki and J.J.'s daughter.

Bill's business partners and associates

  • Joel McKinnon Miller as Don Embry – Bill's business partner and best friend. A polygamist until two of his wives ran away, leaving him a monogamist both in spirit and in fact. He was asked by Bill to take a 'bullet'—by confessing his polygamy to a reporter—to allow Bill's state senate candidacy to move forward.
  • Wendy Phillips as Peg Embry – Don's wife, Home Plus' head bookkeeper.
  • Kyle Gallner as Jason Embry – Don and Peg's son, Ben's best friend. Jason isn't fond of polygamy.
  • Annie Fitzgerald as Verna – Don's second wife.[8]
  • Renee Albert as Julep ("Jo-Jo") – Don's third wife.[8][9]
  • Lawrence O'Donnell as Lee Hatcher – Bill's attorney.
  • Jim Beaver as Carter Reese – Business acquaintance of Bill.
  • Jodie Markell as Wendy Hunt – Bill's secretary and the company's junior bookkeeper.
  • Adam Beach as Tommy Flute – Jerry Flute's son and a manager of the Blackfoot Casino.
  • Luke Askew as Hollis S. Green – Patriarch and proclaimed Prophet of a rival polygamist group. Hollis serves as one of show's antagonists. His sect frequently uses violence and kidnapping for its ends.
  • Sandy Martin as Selma Green – Hollis' first wife and partner, Roman's youngest sister. A woman, but usually dressed in a man's suit with a male hairstyle and a masculine-deep voice.
  • Gregory Itzin as Senator Blake Barn – The Republican Senate President of the Utah State Senate.[10]
  • Sissy Spacek as Marilyn Densham - A powerful political lobbyist who becomes enemies with Bill.


  • Robert Patrick as Bud Mayberry – Leader of a polygamist fringe group.[11]
  • Mark L. Young as Franky – Frank's son with Nita. Despite the significant age difference between Bill and Franky, Bill considers Franky to be as much his brother as Joey is. Franky is the boyfriend of Rhonda Volmer during the first half of the third season.
  • Carlos Jacott and Audrey Wasilewski as Carl Martin and Pam Martin – Neighbors of the Henricksons'.
  • Sarah Jones as Brynn – Ben's ex-girlfriend.
  • Carli Coleman as Brandy Thissel – Bill's ex-con cousin.
  • Robert Beltran as Jerry Flute – Business representative of a Native American reservation that wants to build a casino with Bill's collaboration.
  • Noa Tishby as Ladonna Flute – Jerry's assertive, opinionated wife.
  • Michele Greene as Sheila Jackson White – Channel 9 TV reporter.
  • Charles Esten as Ray Henry – Head Prosecutor for the Roman Grant case. Had a flirtation and went on a date with Nicki before he learned of her true identity.
  • Ben Koldyke as Dale Tomasson – Alby's lover, who hanged himself after Lura revealed his affair to his wife and family.
  • Kevin Rankin as Verlan Walker – Cousin to Cara Lynn. He was kicked out when he became a teenager. It is revealed that he is married to Rhonda Vollmer with whom he has a child.
  • Christian Campbell as Greg Ivey – Cara Lynn's high school math teacher and later lover.[12]


The series revolves around Bill Henrickson, his three wives (Barb, first/legal wife; Nicki, second wife; and Margene, third wife) and their (combined) nine children. Henrickson lives with his family in three neighboring houses in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. On her character, Chloë Sevigny says, "There is definitely a power struggle that goes on between the wives." In January 2009, reported that the series had incorporated the YFZ ranch raid into the story line.[13]

Season 1

Season 1 introduces the main characters and revolves around the family's struggles to live their polygamous lifestyle while keeping it a secret from the outside world. While Bill goes about expanding his chain of home improvement stores ("Henrickson’s Home Plus"), he struggles to balance his three wives and his strained relationship with Nicki's father, church prophet Roman Grant. From his compound on Juniper Creek, Roman seeks to gain a greater share of the profits from Bill's business ventures. Bill, who is resentful towards Roman for expelling him from Juniper Creek as a teenager, opposes this, and joins with his brother Joey, who returned to Juniper Creek after alcohol addiction, to gain a seat on the Church's board of directors in order to undercut Roman's considerable influence and to maintain a level of autonomy from his controlling grasp.

Bill's first wife, Barb, is shown to be the anchor for the plural Henrickson family, but has mixed feelings about the concept of polygamy, and only her love for Bill makes her stay. Second wife Nicki (daughter of Roman) struggles to fit in with modern life outside the compound and her own desire for power within the family. Nicki compensates for her isolation by developing an addiction to shopping, accumulating massive credit card debt. Third wife Margene, 21 years old, struggles to find her place within the family, as both Barb and Nicki look down on her due to her immaturity.

Most of season one focuses on the family's struggle to keep their secret from their friends, neighbors and coworkers. However, things come to a head when Barb is nominated for a "Mother of the Year" Award, resulting in her marriage being outed as polygamous. Meanwhile, Joey's mentally unstable wife, Wanda, poisons Alby Grant (Roman's son and chief minion) when Alby discovers that Bill is using Joey as a pawn in his scheme to undermine Roman's power, and threatens the two.

Season 2

In the second season Barb temporarily leaves home, and Bill seeks to ensure his financial security by trying to buy Weber Gaming, an electronic gambling company, after he uses his seat on the Juniper Creek board to vote down Roman's plan to do the same. Political battles heat up at Juniper Creek as Roman instructs Alby to ignore Wanda's attempt to poison him, planning instead to use Wanda and Joey as leverage against Bill. Alerted by Alby, the authorities arrest Joey (who tries to protect Wanda by claiming responsibility for the poisoning) and raid the compound.

Big Love promotional photo featuring (from left to right) Jeanne Tripplehorn, Bill Paxton, Chloë Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin.

Meanwhile, Roman's newest intended bride, 16-year-old Rhonda Volmer, secretly leaves the compound, and the Henricksons take her in, thinking her an innocent trying to escape forced marriage. Rhonda is revealed as a pathological liar exploiting Roman's legal troubles to get media coverage for herself. Bill manipulates Roman and the Greenes (a renegade polygamist sect) against each other in order to claim Weber Gaming. Roman is shot after the police try to arrest the Greenes and is hospitalized. Alby seizes power, and Roman is arrested for violating the Mann Act. When Alby's mother flees Juniper Creek, Bill doesn't challenge Alby's assumption of prophethood.

Bill sends their son to a distant Catholic school where Bill is unknown and can falsely claim Nicki as his sole wife, while Margene and Barb contend to be "head wife", while Nicki worries about her son fitting in at the Catholic school, despite Bill's assurances he and Nicki will raise him in their church. But Margene befriends Ana, a Serbian dental hygienist working as a waitress, after witnessing Bill flirting with her. Seeking an ally against her co-wives, Margene encourages Bill to take Ana as a fourth wife. Barb reasserts herself by telling nosy neighbors the family is polygamous, advising Bill that she will leave him if he tries to marry a fourth wife.

Sarah, seeking help through a support group for ex-Mormons, meets Scott Quittman, who, though considerably older, becomes her boyfriend. Initially Sarah will not sleep with him, but by the end of the season she does so. Ben embraces his father's views on polygamy and begins dating twin girls from Juniper Creek, leading Barb to consider sending him away to live with her nonpolygamist mother.

Season 3

In the third season Bill pursues Ana, despite his pledge to end the affair. Barb agrees to allow the marriage after coming to see her as a confidante without Margene's childishness or Nicki's manipulativeness, but Ana chafes at Bill's authoritarianism and "divorces" herself from the family, suggesting that her staying would destroy the fragile bonds among Bill's three wives.

At Adaleen's request, Nicki infiltrates the prosecution office, working under Margene's identity to protect her own and learns that the chief witness against Roman Grant is Joey's intended second wife Kathy, forced to marry when she was only 14. Witnesses are intimidated or paid not to testify. Kathy's twin sister JoDean claims that she has no birth certificate and that Juniper Creek never celebrates birthdays, so the sisters had never agreed on how old they are. With the prosecutor unable to prove that Kathy had been underage at marriage, Roman is acquitted. Nicki shoves her father down a flight of stairs and flirts with Ray Henry (Chip Esten), who is prosecuting her father.

Sarah discovers that she is pregnant by her now ex-boyfriend Scott and tells Ben and Heather but not her parents or Scott. After considering her options Sarah decides to keep the child but then miscarries. Nicki convinces her to admit the pregnancy and miscarriage to the family. Bill attempts to support Sarah by buying her a car, but Barb's relationship with her is damaged.

Joey tells Bill that he, Kathy, and Wanda are getting married, and he asks Bill to seal them. Roman tries to force Kathy to marry his brother-in-law, Hollis Greene, as a way of punishing and controlling her after her betrayal - intending to ship both of them off to Mexico. She attacks Hollis's wife Selma with a pitchfork and flees in a stolen pickup, but Roman rams the vehicle and she is killed, her death made to look like an accident. Joey accuses Roman of murdering his intended wife and attempts to coerce information from Adaleen.

Nicki becomes romantically entangled with Ray Henry, but Margene exposes their relationship after she discovers her identity has been used; Ray denounces the entire family and vows to prosecute Nicki for her illegal actions during the Grant trial. Bill separates from Nicki and she goes to the compound and renews her relationship with Alby, while Sarah reconciles with Scott and proposes marriage to him.

Elsewhere, Bill and Alby broker a deal with Bill's brother-in-law Ted, who is seeking a Mormon document implying that the LDS Church faked its renunciation of polygamy at the time of Utah statehood. With Bill and Barb estranged from her family, the LDS Church excommunicates her. The Greenes, who also want the document, kidnap Ted's adopted daughter to get it, but they learn it is a forgery created to swindle the church.

Plotting to kill his parents to avenge a prior attempt on his life. Alby and his wife Lura make a letter-bomb, which injures Alby and a hotel maid. Arrested for kidnapping, Selma tells police of Roman's murder of Kathy. At the compound Joey appears to have suffocated Roman, avenging Kathy's death. Learning that her 14-year-old daughter, Cara Lynn, is about to be married off, Nicki and Cara Lynn return to Bill's family, while Bill declares himself leader of his own brand-new church.

Season 4

Viewers learn that Adaleen has hidden Roman Grant's body in a freezer for several weeks. Alby and Lura move the body to Idaho to the Henricksons' newly opened casino, still under construction. Bill keeps the FBI from finding Roman's body before he returns it to Juniper Creek for burial. Bill faces two challenges—his campaign for public office and his growing rift with his eldest son, Ben. Bill seeks a seat in the Utah State Senate as part of a plan to legitimize polygamy—which faces renewed and widespread public animosity. Bill learns of Ben's growing attraction to Margene, and agrees that Ben should spend some time away from the house, which Ben interprets as being 'cast out' of the family. This shocks Bill's family, who have recently discovered Bill's criminal past, publicly revealed by Bill's political opponent. Bill must also grapple with Marilyn Densham (Sissy Spacek), a conniving lobbyist whom he likens to a common criminal.

The season also develops a plotline involving J.J. marrying Adaleen. At first resistant, Adaleen accepts being "sealed" to J.J. and finds herself pregnant. Nicki is told she's infertile, even when treated by J.J.'s son, a fertility specialist. Eventually, it is revealed that J.J. has been using eugenics and inbreeding on an isolated community he leads in Kansas and that Adaleen's pregnancy is a product of that program.

On the eve of elections, Barb unsuccessfully tries to sabotage Bill's potential win by leaking the paternity report of Ana's child, thus proving Bill's extramarital affair to the media. This brings the growing rift between Bill and Barb to fore, with Barb declaring that she does not feel a need for Bill anymore, although this fails to achieve Barb's goal of deep-sixing Bill's senate run as the media fells it causes little sensationalism. Angry over J.J.'s experiments on her family with in-vitro fertilization, Adaleen sets fire to a fertility clinic office where she has trapped J.J. Walker and his cancer-stricken wife. Bill wins the election for the Senate seat and publicly reveals his plural marriage with Barb, Nicki and Margene, wishing to create greater acceptance of plural marriage, but resolves to attack godlike compound leaders who abuse their leadership.

Season 5

The final season centers on Bill's Senate service, where Bill faces an attempt to impeach him over his polygamy. Even some polygamists have attacked Bill, unappreciative of their lifestyles shoved into the spotlight due to his announcement. Bill pushes a plan to help Juniper Creek, but then has the compound demolished after Alby attempts to murder Don. He plans to build a church where UEB members can worship in safety. The Senate proffers charges of statutory rape against him, since Margie had been only 16 at her marriage. Alby attempts to murder Bill in the Utah State Capitol, but he is stopped and incarcerated. Lois develops dementia due to a sexually transmitted disease contracted from Frank. The Henricksons try to take care of her, but her hunger strike forces the family to take her back to the compound. Frank finds out how much the disease has affected her after he breaks his hip and Lois only gives him a pillow.

Barb tells the household she believes she had a testimony to be a priesthood-holder. She begins attending a Reformed LDS church that recognizes female priesthood but realizes it isn't what she wants, because her family will not witness her baptism there. She joins the family at Bill's church for Easter service. Nicki, now the sole parent of Cara Lynn, wants Bill to adopt her, but he and Nicki must be legally married. After much discussion, Barb and Bill divorce so this can happen. Discovering that Cara Lynn is in a relationship with her teacher, Nicki tries to send her to a strict boarding school without letting the rest of the family know. Margie, desperate to make friends, becomes a successful salesperson; realizing there is more to life than her marriage, she decides to go on missions to help the poor.

On Easter Sunday, 500 people from across the state come to Bill's church. At the service, Bill has a vision of the old pioneers and Emma Smith (Joseph Smith's wife), which reassures him that he is making the right decision.

In the final episode, Bill is released from jail, goes to the Senate and pushes for a bill to legalize polygamy. Lois has told Frank that she would like him to help her have a merciful death. Frank holds her and reminisces about their early life together after injecting her with drugs that will grant her final wish.

Later, Bill is confronted by his neighbor, Carl, who is angry because Bill re-sodded Carl's yard. Distorting Bill's generous act, Carl thinks Bill has implied that he can't take care of his wife and home. Carl shoots Bill at close range with a pistol. The three wives run outside to help the dying Bill, who asks Barb for her blessing, showing her that he believes she holds the priesthood. As Barb performs the blessing, Bill dies in her arms.

Some 11 months later, Sarah and Scott have returned to the family home. Barb has presided over a baby blessing for Sarah's son, who is named after Bill. Ben has married Heather, and Margene is leaving on a mission to Central America to help the poor. In the final scene, all the women embrace one another in the dining room, as the hazy spirit of Bill sits at the end of the table watching them. Bill's spirit can be seen smiling.

The United Effort Brotherhood

The show's fictional fundamentalist group, the "United Effort Brotherhood", or UEB, is similar to the actual "United Effort Plan" established by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and taken over by the state in 2005.[14] The FLDS is one of the most prolific and well-known polygamist groups and regards itself as the legitimate successor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially discontinued polygamy in 1890.[15][16] Creators Olsen and Scheffer included a drive through the twin FLDS towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, as part of their research for the show.[17] Like the FLDS, the UEB has the distinction of possessing a temple of its own on its Kansas compound. The raid on Juniper Creek is reminiscent of the Short Creek raid, an actual historic event from 1953 where Arizona state police and National Guard troops took action against polygamists in Colorado City. Many of the businesses owned by the 'UEB' are similar to businesses owned by the Latter Day Church of Christ (aka the Kingston Clan), another Mormon fundamentalist church. The concept for the cable show was influenced by a 2003 article published in Utah on the Darger family, who are Independent Fundamentalist Mormons.[18]

Production and crew

Although set in Utah, the series was primarily filmed at the Santa Clarita Studios in Valencia, California. The location used for filming "Henrickson’s Home Plus" scenes was The All American Home Center in Downey, California.

The outside scenes of the three homes that Bill owns were filmed on location on Shady Lane, in the small town of Fillmore, California.[19]

The mall scenes from season one were filmed in the Fox Hills Mall, in Culver City, California. Other exterior shots were filmed in Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah and Sandy, Utah, as well as northeast Los Angeles, California.[20]

The head writers for the series are the co-creators: Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer. The writing staff includes Patricia Breen,[21] Dustin Lance Black, Doug Jung,[22] Eileen Myers, Jennifer Schuur, Doug Stockstill, Jeanette Collin,[23] Mimi Friedman,[24] and Julia Cho.

Directors of the series include Jim McKay, Adam Davidson, Rodrigo Garcia, Charles McDougall, Sarah Pia Anderson, Dan Attias, Burr Steers, Michael Spiller, Alan Taylor, John Strickland, Mary Harron, Steve Shill, Julian Farino, Michael Lehmann, and Alan Poul (former executive producer of Six Feet Under).

The show's producers are Alexa Junge,[25] Ann Holm, Ron Binkowski, Bernadette Caulfield,[26] Jeanette Collins, Mimi Friedman, Shane Keller,[27] David Knoller,[28] Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer, Gary Goetzman,[29] and Tom Hanks.


Season Episodes Season premiere Season finale
1 12 March 12, 2006 June 4, 2006
2 12 June 11, 2007 August 26, 2007
3 10 January 18, 2009 March 22, 2009
4 9 January 10, 2010 March 7, 2010
5 10 January 16, 2011 March 20, 2011


David Byrne recorded a complete soundtrack to the second season, released as Big Love: Hymnal on August 19, 2008. The theme song to the series from Seasons 1 through 3 was The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows". As of Season 4, the song "Home", performed by the British band Engineers, was adopted as the show's theme song along with a new title sequence. "God Only Knows" was covered by Natalie Maines for the series finale.

DVD releases

DVD Name Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1 October 17, 2006 April 27, 2007 September 5, 2007
Season 2 December 11, 2007 September 12, 2011 July 2, 2008
Season 3 January 5, 2010[30] January 23, 2012 March 3, 2010
Season 4 January 4, 2011[31] April 16, 2012[32] May 4, 2011[33]
Season 5 December 6, 2011 August 6, 2012 July 11, 2012
Big Love: The Complete Collection December 6, 2011 August 6, 2012 TBA

Critical reception

Review aggregate Metacritic indicated positive critical response for all five seasons. The average scores for the first through fourth seasons were 72/100, 71/100, 79/100, and 70/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The fifth and final season received an average score of 85/100, or "universal acclaim".[34]

Upon its debut, reaction to the series was mixed-to-positive. Initial raves came from publications such as Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News -- James Poniewozik named it a "first-rate drama"[35] and Dorothy Rabinowitz called it "seriously compelling"[36]—and publications such as Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, Variety, the Boston Globe and the Hollywood Reporter were all positive as well.[37] Notable detractors included Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times, who said it ultimately "didn't convince";[38] Doug Elfman of the Chicago Sun-Times who felt its quality didn't match its concept;[39] and John Leonard of New York Magazine, describing it as "more soapy than salacious".[40]

By the arrival of the second season, critical reception had warmed. Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post and noted critic Alan Sepinwall remained ambivalent towards the show; otherwise, however, critics' were uniformly positive. In particular, several critics noted improvements from season one. Gillian Flynn of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Big Love has dropped the last vestiges of its ostentatious quirkiness and fashioned itself into a rich and grounded family drama" and Diane Werts of Newsday said that "'Big Love' does more this year than you might expect, and more richly, more provocatively, more dramatically and amusingly, too."[41] The second season was cited among the best shows of 2007 by a large number of publications, including PopMatters,[42] the San Francisco Chronicle,[43] Time Magazine,[44] Entertainment Weekly[45] and NPR.[46]

Season three vaulted Big Love to universal critical acclaim. Notably, Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly gave the season's early episodes an 'A' grade, and Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times went so far as to say, "If there's a better written, better acted, more originally conceived show on television, I defy you to name it."[47] After two years of popping up spottily on critics' 'Best Of' lists, season three was recognized as one of the top seasons of television from 2009. In aggregating Top 10 lists from every major television critic, Metacritic reported that an astounding 10 critics had cited the series, tying for the eighth-most mentions (and, in particular, Big Love ranked third on that list among series in their third season or later).[48]

Though only its first three seasons aired in the 2000s, multiple critics cited Big Love as one of the best series of the decade. They include the Huffington Post,[49] Ain't It Cool News[50] and the AV Club, who wrote "Big Love has proved to be one of the most ... earnest studies of religion and morality ever to air on television."[51]

Returning in 2010, Big Love was met with mixed critical response for a shorter fourth season. General consensus dictated that the series was focused too much on plot, with character development suffering as a result. The Washington Post identified a lack of energy in the actors, looking "alternately confused and pooped, empty shells of the characters they used to play".[52] Putting it into perspective, Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote "In this new season the show is spinning off into too many directions. None, taken individually, is terrible, but altogether these myriad plots create a lack of focus."[53] The AV Club, who just a year earlier cited the drama as one of the previous decade's top 20 shows, described the fourth season after its finale as "The season that virtually obliterated Big Love's dramatic credibility".[54]

Returning for its fifth and final season the next year, reaction was extremely enthusiastic. Big Love received the best early reviews of its entire run. Mary McNamara wrote, "Big Love quickly reclaims its astonishing ability to balance the insightful and the absurd, hilarity and heartbreak and the personal with the political.".[55] Similar raves came from Nancy DeWolf Smith of the Wall Street Journal, who called the final season "mesmerizing", and the New York Post, who awarded the final season a perfect four out of four stars.[56] Overall, the final season of Big Love tied as the fourth-best reviewed returning show of 2011, trailing only Breaking Bad, Louie and the animated comedy Archer. It was the tenth-best reviewed scripted series of the year overall.[57]

Response to the series finale, "When Men and Mountains Meet", was extremely passionate among top publications. Jace Lacob of the Daily Beast called it the "perfect way to close out this series" and described his reaction to it as "emotional".[58] James Poniewozik wrote for Time Magazine that "In the end ... Big Love came back full circle to the core relationships ... We closed on a moving if messy note for a moving if messy series."[59] Mary McNamara, of the Los Angeles Times dubbed it "a perfect finish to an astonishingly ambitious show that often careened through genre, narrative structure and believability like they were false walls on a stage". In her rumination on the finale, Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times noted that "[Big Love] was always at its most compelling as an indictment of the mindless spiritual avidity and the bizarre displays of self-exoneration that can go on in the name of faith," and celebrated the finale for committing to that theme. She also wrote that the series had "achieved the resonance of [HBO's] other heralded series".[60] Writing for TV Squad, Dr. Ryan Vaughn was less enthusiastic about the finale but said "I'm not going to let a great series be sullied with a mediocre finale."[61] Finally, the AV Club awarded the series finale, and the series as a whole, a B+, writing that its first three seasons in particular qualified as "remarkable television".[62]

LDS Church response

In March 2006, [63] In March 2009, the LDS Church stated that HBO's writers, producers, and executives were displaying insensitivity to church members by choosing to display simulated segments of the LDS Church's Endowment ceremony in an episode of Big Love.[64][65][66] The LDS Church also stated that the show had continued to blur the distinction between the LDS Church and "the show's fictional non-Mormon characters".[64]


Since its premiere, Big Love has been the subject of several seminal studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Dr. Cheryl Hanna explored "the problem of categorical exclusions to the consent doctrine in private intimate relationships" through the lens of Big Love, specifically citing its "beautifully explored" tensions between individual autonomy and state interests. In her conclusion, she wrote "the future of feminist legal theory depends on its ability to remain ambivalent about the tensions presented in the consent doctrine as applied to contexts such as polygamy, prostitution, sadomasochistic sex, obscenity, and domestic violence. Big Love seeks to persuade us to accept ambivalence and to be open to changing our minds because of the complicated nature of women's (and men's) lives; feminist legal theory ought to persuade us to do the same."[67]

For the Columbia Law Review, Dr. Adrienne D. Davis assessed legal debates surrounding polygamy after the premiere of Big Love and how it was being likened to same-sex marriage. She wrote, "The highly acclaimed hit series self-consciously invites viewers to consider analogies between same-sex and polygamous families. In the show's much-anticipated second season, the invitation became more pointed and persistent, with intermittent references to 'coming out,' 'closeted families,' and 'the state' as repressively surveilling nonconforming 'big love.'" However, she claimed that Hollywood and television critics' desire to interpret the polygamy in Big Love and beyond as representative of American "quirky families" was a miscue. Ultimately, she argues that the dichotomy presented by Big Love works when viewed in terms of "intimacy liberty, privacy, autonomy, and agency, or even an incipient constitutional respect for 'sexual minorities.'"; the very essence, as Davis notes and commends, of the series' themes.[68]

Dr. Brenda Cossman examined Big Love closely in her study of "migrating marriages" for Law and Contemporary Problems. In addition to asserting that "Just as in Big Love, same-sex marriage is never more than one degree away of separation from polygamy," she found that the series adds crucial insight to the understanding of marriages that exist between legal and cultural recognition. As she explains, "These cases can be seen through the lens of ... Big Love, in which marriages are produced as the culturally real in the here and the now, even when legal recognition remains elusive." By exploring the movement seeking to culturally legitimize same-sex marriage, she concluded Big Love served as a most powerful, unique allegory: "Big Love plays on an even more decisive gap: polygamous marriages are not legal in Utah or anywhere else in the country. Yet the point and the poignancy of the show is to depict a 'real-life' family. Bill Hendrickson and his three wives struggle with all of the daily trials of contemporary family life: parenting, finances, intimacy, and sex. The sympathetic portrayal of their family is as culturally real, although it suffers by virtue of its nonlegal recognition."[69]

Big Love was also studied as a part of Andrew Atkinson's study of HBO programs and the post-secular humanistic themes they elicit. In writing of Big Love, Atkinson too draws on the parallel between gay rights and polygamist rights illuminated by the series, but focuses more on the series' influential humanistic elements. In fact, he somewhat rebuffs earlier assertions made: "The attention that is paid to the minute details of Mormon ritual, theology, and historical disputes demonstrates that HBO's writers are uncomfortable with the supposed dichotomy that constructs homosexuality as by default areligious." Atkinson focuses on the ending, interpreting Barb's blessing of Bill as a "ritual innovation [that] indicates that FLDS Mormonism must shed the trappings of patriarchy if it wants to legitimate polygamy in a post-feminist society", and the fall of Alby, the closet homosexual, as a powerful interpretation of "the future theo-political and sexual tensions that Mormonism, and by extension, the broader American polity, will face as the post-secular matures". In concluding, Atkinson makes the case that Big Love and other HBO shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Six Feet Under "contribute to a fuller conception of humanity" than other forms of art and entertainment.[70]

Awards and nominations





Family tree

See also


  1. ^ Vince Horiuchi, "Dern turns to Utah's 21st governor for HBO role", Salt Lake Tribune, 2006-04-14.
  2. ^ Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa, "Mitt takes hit on 'Big Love'", Boston Herald, 2007-08-29.
  3. ^ Rebecca Dana, "Raise the Red-State Lantern", New York Observer, 2006-03-12.
  4. ^ HBO Cancels "Big Love", Variety, October 28, 2010
  5. ^ 'Big Love': Real Polygamists Look at HBO Polygamists and Find Sex
  6. ^ Nellie Andreeva (September 4, 2009). "Big Love gives bigger role to Bella Thorne". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  7. ^ "Big Love: Homepage". HBO. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  8. ^ a b "Big Love Episode Guide Viagra Blue". Archived from the original on 25 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-30. 
  9. ^ """Episodes Cast for "Big Love. Retrieved 2006-07-30. 
  10. ^ "Big Love"Gregory Itzin joins
  11. ^ Robert Patrick"Terminator activates Big Love"
  12. ^ Big Love Casting News,, 2011-01-05
  13. ^ Friedman, Emily (Jan 18, 2009). "HBO Drama Inspired by Real Polygamist Raid". Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  14. ^ "Judge rules for court supervision in UEP case". Deseret News. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  15. ^ "Chronology of Church History". Archived from the original on 28 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Official Declaration 1". Archived from the original on 28 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  17. ^ Adams, Brooke (2006-03-08). "The real sources behind Big Love". The Polygamy Files: The Tribune's blog on the plural life (The Salt Lake Tribune). Retrieved 2006-08-12. 
  18. ^ Darger, Joe; Darger, Alina; Darger, Vicki; Darger, Valerie; Adams, Brooke (2011). Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage.  
  19. ^ Shady Lane, Fillmore, CA on WikiMapia
  20. ^ San Fernando Road: As Seen on TV, Atwater Village Newbie, June 13, 2007
  21. ^ Patricia Breen at the Internet Movie Database
  22. ^ Doug Jung at the Internet Movie Database
  23. ^ Jeanette Collins at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ Mimi Friedman at the Internet Movie Database
  25. ^ Alexa Junge at the Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ Bernadette Caulfield at the Internet Movie Database
  27. ^ Shane Keller at the Internet Movie Database
  28. ^ David Knoller at the Internet Movie Database
  29. ^ Gary Goetzman at the Internet Movie Database
  30. ^ HBO: Big Love
  31. ^ HBO: Big Love
  32. ^ Big Love - Complete HBO Season 4
  33. ^
  34. ^ Big Love (HBO) - Reviews from Metacritic.
  35. ^ Poniewozik, James (March 5, 2006). "Television: Take My Wives, Please". Time. 
  36. ^ Rabinowitz, Dorothy (March 10, 2006). "High Note". The Wall Street Journal. 
  37. ^ "Critic Reviews for Big Love Season 1".  
  38. ^,0,3660789.story?coll=cl-tvent-util
  39. ^ "Chicago - Chicago : News : Politics : Things To Do : Sports". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  40. ^ Leonard, John (March 13, 2006). "Polygamy for Dummies".  
  41. ^ "Critic Reviews for Big Love Season 2". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  42. ^ "High Redefinition: The 30 Best TV Shows of 2007".  
  43. ^ Goodman, Tim (December 31, 2007). "TV's best and worst of 2007".  
  44. ^ Poniewozik, James; Top 10 New TV Series;
  45. ^ Flynn, Gillian (December 21, 2007). "The 10 Best TV Shows of 2007".  
  46. ^ Bianculli, David (December 24, 2007). "The Best Television Programs of 2007".  
  47. ^ "Critic Reviews for Big Love Season 3". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  48. ^ Dietz, Jason (January 2, 2010). "The Best TV Shows of 2009 ... and the Decade". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  49. ^ Potts, Kim (December 7, 2009). "Best TV Shows of the 2000s".  
  50. ^ "Herc Picks The Best TV Of 2009 and The Decade!!".  
  51. ^ Bowman, Donna; Handlen, Zack; Modell, Josh; Murray, Noel; Pierce, Leonard; Rabin, Nathan; Tobias, Scott; VanDerWerff, Todd; Zulkey, Claire (November 12, 2009). "The best TV series of the ’00s".  
  52. ^ Stuever, Hank (January 10, 2010). "Hank Stuever previews 'Big Love': Season 4 is a tangle of story lines".  
  53. ^
  54. ^ Gillette, Amelie (March 7, 2010). "": "End Of DaysBig Love".  
  55. ^ McNamara, Mary (January 15, 2011). "Television review: 'Big Love' Season 5".  
  56. ^ "Critic Reviews for Big Love Season 5". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  57. ^ "Best TV Shows for 2011". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  58. ^
  59. ^ Poniewozik, James (March 21, 2011). "Big Love Watch: God Only Knows What We'd Be Without You".  
  60. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (March 21, 2011). "In 'Big Love' Finale on HBO, a Comeuppance for the Man". The New York Times. 
  61. ^
  62. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (March 21, 2011). "": "When Men And Mountains MeetBig Love". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  63. ^ a b "Church Responds to Questions on HBO's Big Love", press release,, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006-03-06.
  64. ^ a b Jennifer Dobner, "HBO Vs. The Mormons In Battle Over Temple Ceremony", Huffington Post, 2009-03-11.
  65. ^ Vince Horiuchi, "LDS Temple secrets? 'Big Love' TV episode angers Mormons: TV show to air Sunday reportedly depicts faith's endowment ceremony", Salt Lake Tribune, 2009-03-12.
  66. ^ "LDS Church comments on 'Big Love'", Deseret News, 2009-03-09.
  67. ^ Hanna, Cheryl. "Rethinking Consent in a Big Love Way." Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 17:1 (2010, pg. 111-156)
  68. ^ Adrienne D. Davis, "Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules, and Bargaining for Equality." Columbia Law Review 110:8 (2010, pg. 1955-2046)
  69. ^ Cossman, Brenda. "Betwixt and Between Recognition: Migrating Same-Sex Marriages and the Turn Toward the Private." Law and Contemporary Problems 71:3 (2008, pg. 153-168)
  70. ^ Atkinson, Andrew. "When You Walk Through the Garden: HBO and the Cross Pressures of Post-Secular Humanism." Journal of Religion and Popular Culture
  71. ^ a b c d e f g Cast and crew. Big Love. Retrieved on 2007-06-20.
  72. ^ Season 1, Episode 8, "Easter" Lois (Bill's mother) tells Sarah (Bill's daughter) that Maggie drowned in Lake Mead, Nevada
  73. ^ Sixteen birthday referenced on Episode No. 3, Season two, broadcast June 25, 2007

External links

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