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Darrel Manson

Big Love

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Anybody catch the new HBO series? A man and his three wives. He's broken away from a compound of polygamists and strange offshoot Mormons, but is still living the polygamy life.

The first week, of course, is busy introducing characters and a few of the conflicts that will be fleshed out in time. This is no Six Feet Under by any means. We'll probably give it another week or two to see if anything gets going, but not sure there will be much there.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Darrel, I had the same observations. They never did refer to the cult as Mormon or the such the entire episode, did they?

The only plot line I'm interested in is between the daughter and her friend at the fast food place. (Well, that, and both are Veronica Mars alumni.)

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That's the same plotline that I think shows potential, the friend seems to be into religion and her dad is a state cop.

I don't think the word Mormon was used, but it seemed fairly clear that that is the environment. I think it's also clear that these are not mainstream Mormons (not that most people would know what mainstream Mormons are.)


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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We'll probably give it another week or two to see if anything gets going, but not sure there will be much there
Yup. I watched it and thought it was merely OK, after the novelty of the initial premise wore off, which for me was about ten minutes into the thing. I will note that the casting is great, the acting decent (Paxton, who is normally wooden, is actually pretty convincing here) and, like many of these HBO/SHO series, it has its own, fully developed sense of style already.

Same goes for the L Word, another which i recently started watching... Strong style, not much substance.


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I wish I had HBO. I live in Salt Lake City, and based on the promotions I saw from my hotel TV when I was out of town a couple of weeks ago, it looked pretty much fabricated from the ground up, like some L.A. writer's fantasy of what it would be like to have a passle of hot wives. I'm curious, though, to see if the life they are supposedly living in SLC is anything like the actual lives that are lived here.


Sara Zarr

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Of course it's fabricate and nothing like you'll find in SLC. I don't think the producers have any desire to make it look like mainstream Mormonism. That doesn't negate the value of the story (if it does turn out to have value.)


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Of course it's fabricate and nothing like you'll find in SLC. I don't think the producers have any desire to make it look like mainstream Mormonism. That doesn't negate the value of the story (if it does turn out to have value.)

I'd agree. If anything, it's like that group in Arizona. Paxton's character seems to be the guy who wants to have one foot in the mainstream world and one foot in the compound, so to speak.

Strangely, the "prophet" character is similar to Warren Jeffs, the Arizona Mormon Fundamentalist who is wanted by the FBI for sex crimes against children.

Edited by Clint M

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Of course it's fabricate and nothing like you'll find in SLC. I don't think the producers have any desire to make it look like mainstream Mormonism. That doesn't negate the value of the story (if it does turn out to have value.)

You never know. It's fun to watch things that are set here, because sometimes there are little shout-outs to SLC residents re: the goofy things that only happen here. That's all I really meant.


Sara Zarr

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sarazarr.com

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Week 2 didn't improve -- may have declined a bit. It's week to week at our house, but I'm starting to sense we won't be around long. How many weeks do you figure before Bill has

a viagra induced heart attack

? I'd say week 6.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Week 2 didn't improve -- may have declined a bit. It's week to week at our house, but I'm starting to sense we won't be around long. How many weeks do you figure before Bill has

a viagra induced heart attack

? I'd say week 6.

Week 12. They have to have some sort of cliffhanger on all these HBO shows. ;)

I'm giving it one more week.

BTW, if you have HBO In Demand, you can watch episode 3 before it shows next week.

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it looked pretty much fabricated from the ground up, like some L.A. writer's fantasy of what it would be like to have a passle of hot wives.

I wouldn't call it that! The husband is not living a fantasy life. (Unless LA writers have different fantasies than I do, which is certainly a possibility! :))

I'm curious whether the show will eventually lean "for" or "against" polygamy. After two episodes it seems like it could go either way.

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Been catching up on this a little. It's starting to grow on me. Still interested in daughter and her friend. Episode I saw last night leads me to wonder if it's going to venture into a little lesbian experimentation. Starting to see some of the conflict within the family, also more of the conflict from the compound.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Don't know where most of you all are in this series, but we've caught all segments so far. Now, it may not be life as polygamist sects live it, but it doesn't seem to be a fantasy at all. In fact, it seems to me like common marriage/family problems multiplied by three (until the inlaws get involved, in which case the problems, rather than the fun, multiply).

As to the Mormon connection, the promotion took great pains to say that the Henricksons WERE'NT Mormons from the beginning of the promotion.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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An interesting note: listed among producers are Jill and Karen Sprecher (13 Conversations About One Thing). They also wrote a couple of episodes


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I caught the entire run. It started out quite nicely, with conflicts and family drama, but they tipped their hand too early.

Wrapping up the store issue in episode eight or nine, then starting a plot where Paxton's character tries to earn control of a seat of the board

was a case of doing too much with too little. And the way the season ended,

with people in the community finding out that they were polygamists

, felt like a forced attempt to create a cliff-hanger ending.

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Now that I've finished the first season (which starts on reruns tomorrow night), I've posted a review.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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So, I've had a library copy of the first season sitting on my shelf for weeks, if not months. And then I heard the other day that HBO was cancelling the show after it finishes its fifth season. So, naturally, I decided now was as good a time as any to start watching.

And lo and behold, I'm rather enjoying it.

I'm about eight episodes in, but I'm really liking the complexities of the family dynamics (including not only the man, his three wives and their kids, but also the way the parents of the various adults are brought into the picture). It doesn't feel like the show is "for" or "against" polygamy, at least not yet: it just shows a lot of the potential problems involved, and leaves it to the viewer to decide whether those problems are deal-breakers where polygamy is concerned.

FWIW, one of the many things I find interesting about the kind of polygamy we see here is that it represents an awkward mixture of traditional and modern attitudes towards marriage. Traditionally, there were certain genders and they played their roles, and sometimes within those roles it was possible for a man to have multiple wives and to let each of those wives serve their wifely/motherly function (i.e. sex and procreation). But the modern attitude towards marriage places a strong emphasis on romance -- you love someone and THEN you marry them, not vice versa -- and so the husband here has to demonstrate his "love" for each of his wives in a way that makes her feel special etc.

You see this especially in the way the husband tells Wife #3, in one of the early episodes, that she "completed" him and/or his family when she came into their lives. But then, starting around episode five, the husband embarks on an "affair" with Wife #1 (behind the backs of the other wives) because he's become smitten with her all over again. And what of Wife #2? Well, she recently announced that she wanted to bring another baby into the family, and so the sex with her husband is kind of scheduled around that -- but she doesn't seem to be treated to the same sorts of endearments that the other wives have been getting lately. Which is not to say that her husband doesn't love her -- it's just that he doesn't seem to be "smitten" with her, or to "swoon" over her, the way that he sometimes does with the other wives.

Anyway. One e-pal tells me that he stopped watching the show after season two, so I don't necessarily expect to enjoy this show all the way through, but for now I'm really liking it.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just realized something: The series' main character is played by Bill Paxton, who co-starred in Aliens, and the father-in-law who gives him so much grief is played by Harry Dean Stanton, who co-starred in Alien. Hmmm.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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So, did anyone see the series finale last night?

I didn't, because I don't get cable TV and I haven't watched season 4 yet, much less season 5. But I've read some of the spoilerific commentaries that some people have written in response to the finale, and I find them intriguing.

I have also watched the final scenes, via YouTube (and remember, *** THERE BE MAJOR SPOILERS HERE ***):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FVQejq0RDo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mxM8H5-Fk8

As for responses to this finale... well, Matt Zoller Seitz @ Salon.com has written a really interesting article:

I love stories that reject "either/or" thinking and embrace "both/and" instead, and "Big Love" was absolutely one of those stories. It reimagined the component parts of a monogamous relationship by fracturing them into facets and distributing them among four major characters -- and it did it within one of the most unabashedly spiritual frameworks in network TV history. Even when the series got lost in its own often-tangled and distracting subplots, it never relinquished its distinctive viewpoint on religious people living in an increasingly secular nation -- a viewpoint that was detached and matter-of-fact but never cold or doubting. We always got the sense that there was a world beyond the one we were looking at, and that everything that happened in this world was affected by, and leading toward, that other existence.
Margene's final change of direction in the kitchen -- heading for the door, then turning in slow-motion for one more embrace; Bill visible at the table behind his wives, out-of-focus but unmistakably there --
was a knockout, and consistent with the series' style and tone over the years.

The producers also make some really interesting comments to NPR's Fresh Air:

In the final episode, family patriarch Bill — who has already weathered extortion plots, an affair, an exile and an election — is shot and killed by a crazed neighbor. It's an unexpected plot twist, says Olsen, and one that was designed to have Bill leave the show as a hero.

"We wanted to give him a Gary Cooper exit from the show, but it went much deeper than that," he says. "We didn't want Bill to go out a loser or a failure or an unrepentant fundamentalist. And we wanted to find that thing that would render his life's existence the most successful. We felt [that] the greatest testimony to Bill would be that he had created a family that endured."

Surely enough, after Bill's death, his three wives — who'd slowly become more independent as the season progressed — decide to stay together. The closeness of the three widows, says Scheffer, was something Big Love's writers really wanted to highlight.

"The big secret of the show is that it's always been a feminist show," he says. "And even though it was dramatizing this very patriarchal system in some ways, the opportunities that women found — particularly in this very abusive system — to support each other was what drew us to the material in the first place, and gave us reason to want to explore it. ... We felt that there were opportunities for women to find support in one another."


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I have missed this entire season (the only one I've missed), but my wife broke the finale to me yesterday. I agree totally with the general analysis of your hidden spoiler. Irrespective of the polygamy angle, there is a solid and respectful treatment of a variation of the "in the world, but not of the world" theme that could have become prurient, or condescending, but didn't. Even the challenges to polygamy within the family were done quite sympathetically as well. This was great series and I just have to find the time to finish it.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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So I was watching Season 4, Episode 6, and hey, look which A&Fer is apparently the new face of the religious right!

post-46-130660255248_thumb.png

post-46-130660256879_thumb.png

post-46-130660258583_thumb.png


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A thought occurs to me.

Several of the people who created this show are gay -- including its co-creators, who are a couple, and Dustin Lance Black, who was a writer and producer on the early seasons before his Oscar-winning screenplay for Milk launched him into the feature-film world.

So, not surprisingly, the show has alluded several times to the comparison that some have made between gay marriages and polygamous marriages: both are of dubious legal status, both are often hidden from the public, and so forth and so on.

It occurs to me, though, that by framing the analogy this way, the producers might be moving the discussion around homosexuality away from the argument over whether gays are "born that way" and back to something like "lifestyle choice".

Don't get me wrong: I don't think for a second that the producers would argue that gay people aren't "born that way"; in the four seasons that I have seen, there have already been multiple storylines involving gay characters, some of whom have tried "reparative therapy", all to no avail.

But of course, no one is born polygamous, so by invoking polygamy as an analogy of sorts, the show does seem to be throwing down the gauntlet and saying it doesn't really matter whether anyone is "born that way"; the important thing is that the heart wants what it wants, and no one should judge the heart for it -- whether the heart wants someone of the same sex, or to enter into a polyamorous relationship, or whatever.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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