Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, Feeling the 'Big Love'

Mark Olsen, Will Scheffer on the set of HBO's 'Big Love' i i

hide captionMark Olsen (left) and Will Scheffer hit upon the idea of exploring the dynamics of the American family through a polygamous foursome shortly after the second George W. Bush inauguration. They say they were offended by political rhetoric about what makes a family.

Ron Batzdorff/HBO
Mark Olsen, Will Scheffer on the set of HBO's 'Big Love'

Mark Olsen (left) and Will Scheffer hit upon the idea of exploring the dynamics of the American family through a polygamous foursome shortly after the second George W. Bush inauguration. They say they were offended by political rhetoric about what makes a family.

Ron Batzdorff/HBO

Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer created the HBO series Big Love, now in its second season.

It's about a man (Bill Paxton) and his three wives (Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin). They've broken from the Mormon church and still practice polygamy — a tradition disavowed by mainline Mormons.

Olsen and Scheffer are credited as writers and producers on the series. This year, they won a Writer's Guild Award for their work.

HBO's 'Big Love': My Three Wives

From left, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny. i i

hide captionThe Big Love cast: From left, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny.

Ron Batzdorff
From left, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny.

The Big Love cast: From left, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny.

Ron Batzdorff
Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton i i

hide captionHarry Dean Stanton, sitting, plays the patriarch of the polygamous compound where Bill Paxton's character was raised.

Ron Batzdorff
Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton, sitting, plays the patriarch of the polygamous compound where Bill Paxton's character was raised.

Ron Batzdorff

HBO introduces a new show in a prime slot — immediately following the season premiere of The Sopranos. Like The Sopranos, Big Love is the story of an unusual family. HBO is hoping that viewers drawn to the inner world of the Mafia will be equally hooked on life in a polygamist family.

Big Love follows the lives of polygamist Bill Henrickson, his three wives and their many children as they try to live life as normally as possible in a typical American suburb. Except for his lifestyle — and that's a pretty big exception — Henrickson (played by Bill Paxton) is an average guy.

Head of a successful business, he's a good employer, a devoted — if overextended — father and a man who really seems to want to make his wives happy. The wives — ranging from level-headed wife No. 1 to giddy, immature wife No. 3, with very high-maintenance wife No. 2 wedged in between — vie for their husband's attention both in and out of bed.

Though set in Salt Lake City, both HBO and the show's creators have taken pains to make it clear that the Mormon church has banned polygamy and excommunicates anyone who practices it. And while the family is seen praying, Big Love has a largely secular tone as it explores the messiness of a polygamous family's life and all that entails: conflicting needs, financial worries and petty jealousies.

Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, the show's co-creators, say they are not trying to push an agenda with Big Love. They just think of it as a show about what it means to be a family.

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