I’m always a little jealous of people who rally around low-rated, low-wattage TV shows that ultimately manage to claw their way back for one more round. For instance, I absolutely loathe Scrubs, but damn if you fans out there aren’t some lucky ducks with your eighth season and all. Be proud of yourselves! Every time I latch on to an overlooked series–Once and Again, Swingtown, The Comeback–I get my heart broken. Which is why today’s news that HBO’s Big Love has been renewed for a fourth season made me so giddy.
Big Love is an oddity in HBO’s primetime lineup. It’s not a flashy, headline-grabbing cultural phenom like Sex and the City or The Sopranos, but it’s also not a cerebral, limited-appeal oddity like Tell Me You Love Me or (urp!) John from Cincinnati. Emmy voters always ignore it, and its viewership is steady if unimpressive. But who cares? It is, in my opinion, the best one-hour drama on TV. Earlier this week, The New York Times’ Stanley Fish wrote a great think piece about how wonderfully Big Love has confounded expectations–after all, a series about Mormon polygamists initially screams ATTENTION-GRABBING, SENSATIONAL MESS! But Fish notes that the Henricksons, the family at the center of the series, are normal, likable, and worthy of our support. Then he makes, um, a Waltons comparison.
I wasn’t a Waltons watcher (though I did see Richard Thomas at Disneyland once–big up to John-Boy!), but Fish does seem to be on the right track. At a time when quietly compelling, quality family dramas are all but extinct from the TV landscape, Big Love carries on the tradition beautifully. So let’s raise a glass of caffeine-free soda to the folks at Big Love, and congratulate them on another year of braided hair, creepy compound leaders and ever-expanding broods. And if you’re a fan, let’s talk about the current season. Which storylines are you loving? Should Ana join the Henrickson household? And which one of the compound’s batty sister-wives do you love the most: Adaleen, Lois, or Wanda? Me, I’m on Team Adaleen.