Tuned In

Three Wives, Five Seasons: Big Love Ending

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HBO today announced a premiere date (Jan. 16) for the fifth season of Big Love, and announced that the season will be its last. I’m filing this under Things I Sort of Thought Were Already Announced; it had at least been intimated for a while that the polygamy drama would wrap up with five seasons. And while I’ve been a fan of the show—albeit frustrated by the previous season—it’s probably about time.

I’ve always looked at Big Love a little like I look at Glee. (No, stay with me on this.) That is: it’s often implausible and over the top, but I love the show in spite, and in some ways because of, its risks and inconsistencies. I’ve enjoyed how it combines domestic melodrama with something close to comedy; I’ve been engrossed by the bizarre, Lynch-like world of the Juniper Creek polygamy cult; and above all, I’ve loved how the show is, for all its sometime preposterousness, a deeply felt look at faith and the difficulty of following it. The Henricksens are not perfect people—Bill is, at times, not even a good man—but they sincerely believe in the way of life they’ve chosen and in their commitment to lead a lifestyle both outside mainstream society and outside the compound.

To me, season three, culminating in Barb’s crisis of faith, was the apex of the show. Season four, which introduced Bill’s State Senate campaign out of nowhere and piled on twist after twist to no good purpose, got badly off track. (It was also apparently rushed by a reduced episode order, but I don’t think all the time in the world could have fixed it.)

I’m hoping that the producers had time to anticipate the show’s end and wrap up season five the way it should be: with a return to focusing on the dynamics of the plural marriage, and an examination of the family’s spiritual journey. Lately Big Love has seemed to think it needed to throw bombshell after bombshell to keep our attention. But its real subject—can a family keep faith and love, outside the support of a larger community, without getting lost?—is plenty big enough. I hope the ending does it justice.

The HBO statement:

The acclaimed HBO drama series BIG LOVE will return for its fifth and final season SUNDAY, JAN. 16, it was announced today by Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming.

“It has been an honor and pleasure to work with series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer on this unique and provocative series, and I’m happy that they will be able to bring the story to its close the way they always envisioned,” noted Lombardo.  “We look forward with great anticipation to collaborating with Mark and Will on their next venture.”

“When we created BIG LOVE in 2002, we had a strong conception of the journey the Henrickson family would make over the course of the series, of the story we had to tell,” said Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer.  “While we were in the writers’ room this year shaping our fifth season, we discovered that we were approaching the culmination of that story.

“BIG LOVE has been our all-consuming labor of love for the past eight years.  We are very grateful for HBO’s continuing support and for the collaborative effort of our partners at Playtone, our producers, our fine cast and our fellow craftsmen and crew for making this show the exceptional and joyful experience that it’s been.  This coming January, we look forward to presenting our audience with the most vibrant and satisfying final season of a television series that we can produce.”

“BIG LOVE has been a truly rewarding experience in every way for Tom Hanks and me,” observes executive producer Gary Goetzman.  “We’ve been so fortunate to have had such a tremendous cast over the five seasons, and we’ve never been less than amazed with their brilliance and willingness to take risks.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our partnership with Will and Mark and have always been blown away by their storytelling abilities.  We believe this final season of BIG LOVE will be the best ever.”

BIG LOVE tells the story of Salt Lake City businessman Bill Henrickson, who balances the needs of his three wives – Barb, Nicki and Margene – their nine kids and three houses, and his own entrepreneurial ambitions.  Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin star in the series, which is executive produced by Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, David Knoller, Bernadette Caulfield and series creators and show runners Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer.
Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer have a continuing relationship with HBO, and their next project for the network will be announced when it is confirmed.