Promotional poster for Season 1
|Created by||Mark V. Olsen
|Written by||Mark V. Olsen
Dustin Lance Black
Mary Kay Place
Joel McKinnon Miller
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|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||53 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||50 minutes|
|Original run||March 12, 2006– March 20, 2011|
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 family in Utah that practices polygamy. Big Love stars Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Seyfried, Douglas Smith, Bruce Dern, Grace Zabriskie, Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Kay Place, Matt Ross, and Cassi Thomson.
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, 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.
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, ABCnews.com reported that the series had incorporated the YFZ ranch raid into the story line.
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.
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. 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.
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". 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.
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 to learn 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 and tells Ben and Heather but not her parents or Scott, the 28-year old father. After Sarah miscarries, Nicki convinces her to admit the pregnancy and miscarriage. 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, intending to ship both of them off to Mexico. She attacks Hollis's wife Selma with a pitchfork and tries to flee 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 entangled with the prosecutor, but Margene exposes their relationship; Ray denounces the entire family and vows to prosecute Nicki for her illegal actions during the Grant trial. Nicki separates from Bill, goes to the compound and renews her relationship with Alby, while Sarah proposes marriage to Scott. 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. 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.
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. 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.
The final season centres on Bill's Senate service, where Bill faces an attempt to impeach him over his polygamy. 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.
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.
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, Jr.'s wife), which reassures him that he is making the right decision. Bill is later 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. 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.
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. In the final scene, all the women embrace one another in the dining room, and the spirit of Bill sits at the end of the table, watching them.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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 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.
The head writers for the series are the co-creators: Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer. The writing staff includes Patricia Breen, Dustin Lance Black, Doug Jung, Eileen Myers, Jennifer Schuur, Doug Stockstill, Jeanette Collin, and Mimi Friedman.
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, Ann Holm, Ron Binkowski, Bernadette Caulfield, Jeanette Collins, Mimi Friedman, Shane Keller, David Knoller, Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer, Gary Goetzman, 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|
|This section requires expansion. (August 2008)|
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 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||January 23, 2012||March 3, 2010|
|Season 4||January 4, 2011||April 16, 2012||May 4, 2011|
|Season 5||December 6, 2011||August 6, 2012||July 11, 2012|
|Big Love: The Complete Collection||December 6, 2011||August 6, 2012||TBA|
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".
Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com said of Big Love, "There are elements of this new series that have a quirkiness that might seem deliberate or overly clever against a different backdrop, but that feels natural in its own gracefully odd environment."
However, the Phoenix New Times's Robert L. Pela called the show a "hot-soccer-mom fantasy" and "about as down and dirty as the old sitcom Three's Company", and said its portrayal of polygamy was "just as tidy as a deodorant commercial".
In March 2006, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) issued a public statement citing concerns over the program's depiction of abuse, polygamy, use of stereotypes, and television's depiction of moral and civic values in general. Among other things, the church stated, "Despite its popularity with some, much of today’s television entertainment shows an unhealthy preoccupation with sex, coarse humor and foul language. Big Love, like so much other television programming, is essentially lazy and indulgent entertainment that does nothing for our society and will never nourish great minds." 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. 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."
The second season was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series in 2007. Bill Paxton was also nominated for the Best Actor in a Television Drama Golden Globe for his role as Bill Henrickson.
In 2010 Chloë Sevigny won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a TV role for her portrayal of Nicolette Grant in season 3 of Big Love.
||traditional or legal marriage|
|Unnamed Man||Unnamed Woman|
|Eddie Henrickson||Rae Henrickson||Unnamed Walker||Unnamed Walker||Adaleen Hallstrom Grant||Roman Grant
(b. 1930 - d. 2009)
|Selma Grant Green||Hollis Singer Green|
|William Orville "Bill" Henrickson
||Margaret "Maggie" Henrickson
|Joseph "Joey" Henrickson
|Wanda Walker Henrickson||JJ Percy Walker||Nicolette Eugenia "Nicki" Grant
||Albert "Alby" Grant
|Joseph Henrickson Jr.||Cara Lynn Walker||Wayne Grant||Raymond Grant
|Mr. Dutton||Nancy Davis Dutton Johanssen
||Ned Johanssen||Unnamed Father||Virginia "Ginger" Heffman (deceased)|
|Ted Price||Cynthia "Cindy" Dutton Price||Barbara "Barb" Dutton Henrickson
||Margene Gretchen "Margie" Heffman
||Goran Petrovic||Ana Mesovich|
|Kim Lee Price||Scott Quittman||Sarah Henrickson Quittman
||Benjamin "Ben" Henrickson
|Tancy "Teenie" Henrickson||Aaron Heffman||Lester Heffman||Nell Heffman||Unborn Henrickson Child|
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