The first American TV drama series devoted to the subject of polygamy, HBO's Big Love starred Bill Paxton as Bill Henrickson, the owner of a hardware-store chain headquartered in Salt Lake City. Although Bill was no longer an active member of the extremist Mormon sect United Effort Brotherhood, he remained married to three different women at the same time, who lived in neighboring houses with one connected backyard. Jeanne Tripplehorn played Bill's first -- and only "legal" -- wife, Barb, who loved her husband and respected his religious beliefs but wished that she could be certain that she was foremost in his heart. Wife number two, played by Chloë Sevigny, was Nicki Henrickson, who because she had grown up at the United Effort Brotherhood's Juniper Creek compound was somewhat ignorant of the ways of the outside world -- as good an explanation as any for her monumental credit-card bills. The youngest of the wives, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, was Margene Henderson, who was understandably confused and disoriented by the unique situation in her household. Because he lived and worked in a country where polygamy was a crime, Bill was forced to jump through hoops to keep his multiple-marital status a secret, thus enabling wife Nicki's father, Roman (Harry Dean Stanton), self-styled "prophet" of Juniper Creek, to blackmail Bill into giving him a sizeable chunk of his business profits. Also in the cast were Bruce Dern and Grace Zabriskie as Bill's parents, Franklin and Lois, who still lived at Juniper Creek, as did their other grown son, Joey (Shawn Doyle), who in turn had given up a promising football career to remain at the compound with his wife, Wanda (Melora Walters). Other main cast members included Daveigh Chase as Roman's new child bride, Rhonda; Joel McKinnon Miller as Bill's best friend, business partner, and fellow polygamist Don Embry; and Amanda Seyfried, Douglas Smith, and Jolean Wejbe as Bill and Barbara's children, Sarah, Ben, and Tancy. Though the basic situation was frankly nothing to laugh at, a great deal of wry and risqué humor arose from the byplay amongst the many cast members, and from the tortuously twisted plot convolutions. Created by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the weekly, hour-long Big Love debuted March 12, 2006.
by Hal Erickson synopsis