Take My Wives, Please
Alston, Joshua, Newsweek
Byline: Joshua Alston
A reality TV shows gives polygamy a pass. Why? It's all in the family.
The Browns are a fairly typical, supersize, reality-TV family, with 12 kids (and another on the way), astronomical grocery bills, and the burden of having to approach a visit to McDonald's as a full-blown logistical crisis. The difference with the Browns, as explained in terms as goofy as possible by head-of-household Kody, is that "she's a sister from the same mister," he says, wrapping his arm around his daughter, "and he's a brother from another mother," doing the same with his son. Translation: the Browns are polygamists.
The Browns, who live in a single-family home that is secretly three conjoined apartments, star in the new TLC show Sister Wives, which captures the family's day-to-day life. It's essentially an unscripted answer to HBO's Big Love, but unlike that show, in which the harried patriarch Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is practically crushed under the weight of his tripled domestic duties, Sister Wives casts a more favorable light on polygamy. We don't see Kody popping so much Viagra that he should keep it in a King Solomon Pez dispenser, as on Big Love. It's a sunny slice of life that borders on becoming an infomercial.
Given reality television's tendency to trade in subtle (if not overt) mockery, the Browns should, by all rights, be withered by the camera's cynical eye. Take, for instance, A&E's Hoarders, which documents the filthy, cluttered lifestyle of compulsive pack rats. These people are invariably depicted as psychologically troubled loners who have alienated anyone close to them with their aberrant behavior and must be set right. …