Big Love — HBO's beguilingly wonderful melodrama about a family living on the fringe — returns for its fourth season on Sunday night. You really should watch it. If you initially wrote it off as unsympathetic, give it another chance.
We'd been excited for the show's premiere back in 2006, it just sounded so intriguing and Under the Banner of Heaveny. Mormons and polygamists and evil sect cults! But then it aired and it was just so... angular and strange. None of the characters were likable, not abhorrently misogynistic patriarch Bill (played by Bill Paxton with his usual dead-eyed drawl), and not his wives — long-suffering first wife Barb (marvelous Jeanne Tripplehorn), second fundie wife Nikki (the sneaks-up-on-you Chloe Sevigny), and third chipper child bride Margene (delightfully annoying Ginnifer Goodwin). There was just nothing to grab onto, nothing to relate to in any tangible way. These were antiquated people living in an understandably condemning modern world. Why would we want to root for this family when the very structure of the clan was so inherently fucked up?
The show just didn't have any of the sly universality of a masterwork like The Sopranos, a series about even worse monsters that still managed to seem simpatico with us regular Americans. Big Love was as weird and alien and quietly menacing as the rocky state in which it's set. We know lots of people who, after a few episodes, said 'Nunh uh' and turned the channel to something less opaque and less ugly. And we didn't blame them for it! But for some reason we stuck with the show, hoping for two seasons that it would evolve from solidly-made moral thriller into something as grand and sweeping as HBO at its best.I started watching Season one of Big Love and I was hooked from the first episode. No, it's no Sopranos, but NOTHING is or ever can be the Sopranos. I'm now on Season Two of Big Love so don't ruin anything for me.