Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bye, Bye LOVE

Didn't Fred MacMurray have a TV series where he played a polygamist? Yeah, you know...

MY THREE WIVES.


Oh, silly me. That was Bill Paxton in BIG LOVE. My goof.


The saga of Bill Hendrickson and his hat trick marriage came to a sad, but somehow fitting conclusion on HBO. I'll miss this ragtag bunch of Utah-ites and their plural relationships. Boy, talk about extended families... As uneven as this show could be, BIG LOVE was always a better show all around than the similarly formatted DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, often airing at the same time, ironically enough. HOUSEWIVES bills itself, at least for Emmy consideration, as a comedy, but I've always found the humor, well, desperate. It was never as good as its first season. BIG LOVE, on the other hand, played it straight, even at its soap operatic craziest. It helped that it was always fast paced, sometimes at such a quick clip that it lost control. But it never strayed far off track always thanks to its core themes of family, faith and richly developed characters portrayed by a finely honed ensemble cast. Bill Paxton reinvented himself with BIG LOVE as patriarch Bill Hendrickson. Before this, Paxton was probably the most reviled (not by me) character actor of the last twenty five years.

He believably conveyed the strong moral fiber and inflexibility of a man who was willing to sacrifice anything for his family and proved it right up the very end. As the wives, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin and particularly Chloe Sevigny as the duplicitous and eternally conflicted Nicky worked like an Olympic acrobatic team, balancing both comedy and tragedy effortlessly. BIG LOVE also gave sensational old pros another chance to shine, some brighter than ever. Harry Dean Stanton was sensational as the villainous Roman Grant, ably abetted by a soberly droll Mary Kay Place as his first wife. Bruce Dern chewed up the scenery ravenously as Paxton's rat bastard father. And Grace Zabriskie had her day in the sun every episode she appeared as Bill's mother, a typification of absolutely pure and true grit.

Yeah, I'm going to miss these wacky folk, but the writing was on the fall for the conclusion to this saga before it ran completely out of gas. The ending was handled rather clumsily however with the fate of one its main characters sacrificed in a too abrupt manner, almost as an afterthought to get to the final wrap-up. But I'll be damned if they didn't make it work just like they always did on this show. The tears at the end of BIG LOVE were well earned and the final reprise of The Beach Boys'"God Only Knows", covered by Natalie Maines was a perfect bookend to the best show about plural marriage ever. Take that, SISTER WIVES.

P.S. For more Mormon fun that you can shake a stick at, I recommend Jon Krakauer's book


P.S.S. I just scored a couple of tickets to THE BOOK OF MORMON, the brand new Broadway musical written by those irascible South Park boys, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Can I hear an AMEN?
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