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TV Review: "Sister Wives," Married to the Media

by Caryn James
March 14, 2011 3:18 AM
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How many wives does it take for a guy to get arrested?

The husbands were in legal trouble on last night’s second season premiere of Sister Wives, TLC’s reality show about a Utah man with four wives, and Big Love, the next-to-last episode ever of HBO’s dramatic series about a Utah man with three wives, two symbiotic series that reveal a vicious circle of fictional and real polygamists.

It’s hard to imagine Sister Wives without Big Love leading the way, but now the real-life Browns are living the dream of the fictional Henricksons, appearing on every show from Oprah to Today to George Lopez, the wives chatting about the shared housework and the shared man. And to think that last season on Big Love it seemed absurd when Bill decided to reveal his wives to the world, hoping to make them seem like some ordinary supersized family.

The Browns, of course, are nothing like an ordinary family; if they were, they wouldn’t have a TV show, and a successful one at that. In the first season, Brown had three wives approaching middle age, and through the season added a fourth (like latest-wife Margene on Big Love, more glamorous than the others) with children of her own. That brought jealousy, drama and a wedding to the series, and the total kid count to 16.

But where Big Love has flourished on its rich, conflicted characters, from the start of Sister Wives Kody Brown has just glowed with self-satisfaction. His religion seems like an excuse for a harem, and frankly, he seems like an egotistical jerk. His wives are more likable but seem either self-deluded or pursuing some warped emotional trajectories of their own. In an hour-long special before last night’s show, host Natalie Morales asked Brown if he was the playboy he seemed to be last season and he answered he was more of “a party boy with my four girls.” Oh good, that clears it up.

Last night’s episode existed in a time warp, as we saw the Browns heading to New York to appear on Today and other shows, coming out as polygamists in a big media blitz. These are the very shows we saw when they were promoting season 1, so - deja vu, what were the producers thinking?

We also learned what we already knew from the news, that the Utah police are considering charging them with bigamy. Nothing has come of that investigation legally, but as a result the Browns decided to move to - no kidding – Las Vegas, apparently missing the irony of landing in glitzy pop-culture central. By the end of the episode, Meri, wife number 1, cries and worries about whether the publicity will hurt the children (now they worry about the kids?) but says she doesn’t regret going public because they want to live more honestly and gain acceptance. Maybe.

You never know what reality-show producers can create through editing, or what kind of personality the subjects are willfully putting out there, but you get the sense that the Browns are trying very hard to give the cameras what they want. Their attempt at scrubbed-wholesome polygamy leaves a chemical, manufactured-for-TV aftertaste about the adults and a queasy sense of voyeurism about the kids, though. However many spouses are involved, they are truly married to the media.

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  • Jess | September 23, 2011 6:51 AMReply

    I do enjoy the show. I hate to admit it. Its a guilty pleasure. It's hard to walk away from any train wreck. It is fascinating to see how it all works. But I think the reason it IS fascinating is because of watching how unnatural it all is. The repressed jealousy about sharing Cody, Meri's inadequacy about being able to have more children. Its actually all quite sad and not a little disturbing. It cannot possibly be sanitary to be sharing fluids. I mean, let's face it, Cody doesn't wear condoms. Even if there are no STD's involved, women have different PH's. Gross. I find it really hypocritical that Cody can have all the tail he wants under the premise of religion and that he scoff's at and is angered that any of them would suggest even jokingly taking a lover. SICK SICK SICK.

  • Denitsa Yotova-Green | June 7, 2011 4:44 AMReply


    I am creating an electronic/PDF newsletter for our Campus Life division at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and would very much like to use the photo of Sister Wives I found on your website (Sister Wives: married to the Media review)
    Would you permit that given that I provide a link to your website?

    Many thanks and best regards,

  • Brandon | May 29, 2011 4:20 AMReply

    I find it quite hilarious some of your failed and ignorant attempts to put down a family based on welfare they received once. Have you or anyone close to you ever received anything from the government? Has anyone you know ever filed for bankruptcy? By your statements, are you implying that someone who does these things is not a good person? There are plenty of people who have, and who will continue to seek aid from our government many years to come. I guess people who do that, which accounts for about 70 percent of everyone in the United States and probably yourself as well, are all "bad" and incompetent people.

    Personally I have not, but wouldn't be ashamed if I had to. Times are tough these days. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Before this family was even on the show, they owned that huge house and took care of those kids just fine. Think about it. This guy has to support 16 kids, 4 wives, and himself. That's 21 people; I'm guessing you can't count. If he only had to apply for food stamps one time, i would say that's pretty damn good. He can obviously take care of his family. I'm guessing you have a hard time just supporting you, your one wife, and maybe 2 or 3 kids; or maybe just yourself. You probably can't do a very good job of it with 4 or 5 people. Maybe you should think, " I wonder how this guy supports all those kids and wives, and what can I do in my life to make more than 40 grand a year?"

    Pull your head out of your *** and take all that frustration you have for this family and use it to better yourself and your own family. The fact is, nothing you think or say about them, no matter how much, is going to affect how they live their lives. Quit wasting your breath. Worry about yourself and take care of your own affairs. You'd be surprised how far you get when that very tiny head, and even smaller brain gets pulled out of your *** and finally gets put to use.

  • T | May 16, 2011 6:40 AMReply

    Everyone should do themselves a favor and read "Stolen Innocence" and "Escape". Two books that will also shed some light on just how "wonderful" these people are. It makes me sick to watch such a loving family share a husband. I went to an all girls school for most of my life, and the founders of that school would roll over in their grave to see how digressive polygamy is! And it's happening right before our eyes! Just because Kody relocates his family to Nevada does not mean an investigation can't be launched there. Illegal is illegal, no matter how you dress it up. They seem nice, but so did all those kids on TV when that compound was raided. They are brainwashed and immersed into a culture they can't escape.

  • Serena | April 11, 2011 7:07 AMReply

    This show set women's rights back a hundred years. There are women who ought for equality, and here in 2011, exists this archaic model of women, and people love and accept it. A relationship should be based on equality, but that sure doesn't exist here. Husband Kody is allowed to have 4 wives, but the women are not allowed to have multiple partners. He says that love should be multiplied, but that's only if he's doing the multiplying. On a date with first wife Meri, he got visibly upset at the thought of his wives having lovers, yet they're supposed to accept sharing him with other women in a sexual and emotional way.

    All of the wives have discussed having to get over natural feelings of jealousy. You can see how they struggle with it. Christine talks about how she felt inadequate when Robyn came along; she felt that she wasn't good enough. This kind of marriage doesn't build self esteem. Meri discusses the pain she felt at only being able to have one child. It couldn't have been easy to see the other breeders (wives) churn out 6 kids each. You can see how inadequate she feels knowing that they were able to give Kody more kids. There's a lot of pain in her face. How could one of the other wives have felt knowing that while she's pregnant with his child, he's out courting other women? He's wining, dining and romancing Robyn while she's home with morning sickness and swollen ankles. How could she deal with getting up in the night with their newborn, while he's having passion with another woman? How come he's the only one who gets to go on dates and feel the exhileration of being with a new person? How did the wives really feel on his wedding night with Robyn? One of them states that she wishes it was her. Total inequality.

    Kody and Meri were the only ones who had jobs. There is no way they could have supported so many people on 2 salaries. Kody states he works in sales. Could they have agreed to do the show because of the money they get from TLC? Surely they're not doing it for free. Meri discusses the sadness she felt in losing the job she enjoyed, because of Kody's decision to make their lifestyle public. What do these women see in him, anyways? He comes across like an ignorant baffoon. Why would any self respecting woman even want to marry him, let alone share him with other wives?

    Now he's a celebrity. Sad.

  • l;kajflkasdf | April 11, 2011 1:20 AMReply

    is adam and eve and adam and eve1 and eve2 and eve3 and eve4

  • megan | April 8, 2011 10:13 AMReply

    This show for me bugs me to no end. For one I think its degrading women. Two, why do men need four wives??? I don't get it, i don't see why they need a show about this.

  • Suzanne | March 28, 2011 10:42 AMReply

    For those of you who think these people are so wonderful, it might interest you to know that ALL of them have filed for bankruptcy and "wife" #3 collected food stamps. She then went on to have yet another baby she couldn't afford because creepy Kody bribed their oldest daughter $100 to talk her into it and he never paid up. They have been on numerous talk shows lying their a**es off about how frugal they are and support themselves. Exactly how thrifty is it to drive a luxury sports car and to have a motorcycle? He also dated other women before "marrying" Robyn, shouldn't he have been concerned about fixing his "wife" #2's junky car window held together with duct tape first?

  • Mel | March 28, 2011 7:40 AMReply

    Morman Fundalmentalist are not Mormans.

  • Jessica Baldwin | March 22, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    I love this show, its not the lifestyle that i wanna live but you know its for them not me. and like really do the cops not have better things to do, like messing around with a HAPPY family. They are a HAPPY family the kids are in no danger. They love ALL there kids even if the are not there children. They are LOVING AND CARING PARENTS.... they shouldn't have to be taking away from there family like Meri said it scares her to death. It may not be my lifestyle but its for them not me. I really don't thing it is any different then being a lesbian or gay. in my way i don't see the difference :) Soo all you haters out there if your going to say rude thing about about them think about it before you say it...or if you wanna say it say to Kody, Meri, Jannelle, Christines, And Robyns face.

  • Tara | March 22, 2011 5:49 AMReply

    I love this show, but to tell you the truth it wouldn't be my kind of lifestyle. What's the differance him having"sisterwives", who he supports or having some guy out there getting three or four woman pregnant, and forgets who his own kids are. At least Kody and his wivesand kids all get along as one big happy family. Leave them alone, or go out there and stop all the many welfare babies whose moms don't even know who the father of their babies are.. Go after some of them, and leave Kody and his sisterwives alone.!!

  • Deanne | March 21, 2011 5:33 AMReply

    I do not believe in SHARING MY HUSBAND..

    I do believe in being in a happy marriage. I would not be able to cope if my husband had an affair with or without my knowledge.


    It is not illegal to cheat but it is GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE!!!! and not to mention IMMORIAL...

    I was in love and was cheated on in the past... and true when it happens to you , you are a little nieve. Always thinking it's your fault so on.....


  • aprile cowley | March 20, 2011 12:59 PMReply

    I don't have any crazy things to say. I am a christian from Texas. However, I have been watching the shows. I think this is a phenomial family. Having other wives to share all the duties of being a wife and mother does sound appealing. I say its their life and if this is what makes them happy, so be it. I know families that are worse off than the family that Kody, Christine, Mary, Janelle and Robin have created with one father and mother. I am happy for them.

  • Diane | March 19, 2011 1:11 AMReply

    First let me say I do not believe in multiple marriages. That being is not illegal to be married and have affairs. It is not illegal to have children as a result in those affairs. Nor is it illegal to move your mistress into your home to take care of your wife and children, should your wife become ill. So what is the difference? Only the title of whether you call your mistress a sister wife or a mistress! If Utah wants to arrest someone, or make laws against the practice go after the horrible ones. Make compounds illegal, where Social Services and the Police cannot gain access. Make arranged marriages illegal. Let the people who live the "sister wive's" lifestyle claim their wives and children legally. Let the children and wives carry the husband's name so that Welfare will KNOW there is a father to support them. The problem with the compounds is that the children rarely are recognized legally, so that the father cannot be compelled to support them.

    True Mormoms do not believe in welfare. They believe in having enough money in the bank to hold them for a long period of time. They believe in having enough food for a year. Can the rest of society claim this. Middle America is one paycheck away from Food Stamps.

    I, personally have learned a lot from shows like this. Last year I begain to "collect" food buying only what is on sale. I can proudly say I have about 6 months of food. Both my son and I are disabled. We live on our Social Security ONLY. I do not need to go to food banks, etc.

    I believe the Brown's are up and up. At least Cody has been able to provide decent housing for his family. Their homes are very nice. All this was acquired BEFORE the family went on TV.

    Like I said, I would not choose this lifestyle, but I do not see anything really illegal about what the Brown's have done. They were all consenting adults. Key word is ADULTS. The only thing illegal is the Title they have chosen for their lifestyle.

  • Boots | March 15, 2011 12:57 PMReply

    The Browns have been on government assistance in the past as well. This "lifestyle" is unsustainable. I will also point out that polygamy is a felony in all 50 states of our union for a very good reason. Every empirical medical research study ever completed on the "lifestyle" shows higher incidences of negative outcomes for women and children, worldwide. The Browns don't live in a vacuum and their efforts to see this practice decriminalized should send a cold chill down the back of every Muslim American woman who thought she was safe from this sort of emotional abuse by coming to a civilized country with laws protecting her from the practice.

    Do you really believe this show is "reality?" If you do, then I suppose you believe Jersey Shore and other "reality shows" are reality as well. The Browns have been interviewed and admit that they tell the camera crews when to leave their children alone and stop filming. You will never see the reality of how little girls are raised to believe they will burn in an eternal Hell if they don't grow up to agree to share their husband's with sister wives as well.

    The author is right. Now you think about your kids? Really?

  • Chatelaine | March 15, 2011 12:44 PMReply

    I would not draw any conclusions about polygamy and the Mormon fundamentalist polygamous lifestyle based on a TV program. The vast majority of polygamous families in the US live below the poverty level. Many need food stamps and are dependent on Medicaid. The Browns are the exception, not the rule in polygamy in terms of economics. The Browns are members of the AUB polygamy group which teaches that black people were evil in the pre-existence and now have dark skins as a result, and the AUB also teaches that women need to be plural wives or they are to be "destroyed" in the afterlife. (See Mormon Scriptures - Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132) How can a woman make a "choice" for polygamy when her religion teaches she is to be "destroyed" if she does not participate in the practice ??

  • B | March 15, 2011 6:07 AMReply

    I am also in the same boat as the browns But people have no right to pass judgement upon us would you rether see a drugie on tv talking about high they get or see a nice family It takes a kingdom to raise a family in todays time please lease us all alone
    I dont look at is i am shareing my life its about love and life i live my sisters no matter what

  • Jancis M. Andrews | March 15, 2011 5:59 AMReply

    I am amazed that these foolish women would put themselves AND THEIR CHILDREN in such a precarious financial position. Only Kody's first (and legal) wife is legally entitled to share in his health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, pensions and tax benefits. The remaining 3 women, who are nothing more than concubines in Kody's harem, cannot be included. God help them if they or their children have a serious heath problem, such as cancer. They will have to shoulder a crippling debt by themselves. And what happens to Kody's 16 children if they all want to go to university? They can't expect any help from Daddy. These women seem to fear that they will be unable to run a household on their own, but need the help of 3 other women, which includes lining up for sex. Kody gets 400% sex from his harem, the wife and concubines get 25% of him. Does he ever lend a hand with the housework? Or does he loll at ease, watching TV, knowing he's got four built-in housemaids to do the housework, cooking, etc., for him. What a pathetic narcissistic little boy he is. Wake up, ladies, and smell the coffee! You deserve better.

  • Rebeckah | March 15, 2011 2:25 AMReply

    Until women outnumber men 3 to 1 polygyny should remain illegal. Every country which has legalized polygyny and every society which practices it ends up with child brides. Polygyny is harmful to all involved, it is not a sustainable lifestyle and, most importantly, it isn't healthy for children. Everyone who condones polygyny is part of the problems you see with Warren Jeffs, Tony Alamo, and the atrocities in the Middle East -- because THAT is what is being condoned.

    Homosexuality and polygyny are vastly different situations and it amazes me when people compare them.

    Oh, and Honneybuns, abused children often look happy. No, I'm not saying the Brown's children are abused -- however I am saying that you can't assume the children are happy because they look happy. I can tell you from personal experience that children can look happy in the midst of terrible pain.

  • stacey | March 15, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    i love this show also. look how many marriages fail these days and the browns are awsome they all work together as a family. What better way! have sisters and alot of kids that can make it. love is the most important thing in this world we r to love all as they r not judge so let them be

  • jlh | March 14, 2011 12:14 PMReply

    i really like this idea--i wish i would of known about it around 30 years ago when i was younger. i would of loved this life style, huge family people to share everything with. i think it's great.

  • True Red | March 14, 2011 12:07 PMReply

    I think this is sick. What woman wants to share a man's prive parts with another woman. Just think about this a minute. He is with one each night and he leaves one bed to move on to another. SICK, SICK, SICK.

  • Nancy | March 14, 2011 9:57 AMReply

    Where do we as a people draw the line? What is right and what is wrong? There seems to be no boundies in society any longer. This is against the law !

    I grew up in Utah ! Just because this family appears to be normal. Does not make it normal. This goes on all over Utah and there is abuse involved with it.

    Young boys are dropped off on the streets of Las Vegas. Young girls are married off to old men.

    Dig a little deeper in to what is going on in Utah. Take a trip to Wal-mart in St. Geogre Utah or Cedar City Utah on any given Saturday.

    What makes this ok and what happened in TX wrong ?Why is Warren Jeffs in prison for the same thing. While Sufer Boy struts his stuff on national TV.

    Because these people dress main stream? Because he is a good looking? Wrong is wrong it does not matter what it wears.

  • Honneybuns | March 14, 2011 7:59 AMReply

    It saddens me know that police have nothing to better to do with their resources and time then to drum up some charges on the Browns....Seriously! I might not believe this is the idea family but the children look find and HAPPY....move on! I appreicate the Browns willingness to allow the public to view this form of life style! Keep your spirts up Browns!

  • Sue | March 14, 2011 7:20 AMReply

    The Browns seem alot more healthy and better parents than for instance, The Duggars. Talk about exploitation and control, look at the way the Duggars have children raising children, and raise daughters to be mothers only, discouraging them from going to College. The Browns look like really down to earth people, trying to keep their family together. I would much rather see this type of afmily on T.V. rather than Kate Gosselin, now theres kids I feel sorry for. The Brown children look healthy, well adjusted, and most importantly HAPPY

  • marie | March 14, 2011 6:33 AMReply

    I watch the Sister Wives regularly and I really enjoy it. Whether you agree with the lifestyle or not, they seem to be a loving, supportive family. I like the opportunity to get a glimpse of this kind of family and how it works. As far as the wives seemimg to be in denial or deluded, they are getting the love, companionship, and support from eachother and I understand that. Life is stressful, and raising a family is tough, whats wrong with pulling together? Each one of them could walk away if they wanted and they choose to stay. Kody seems agrreeable, kind, and genuinely loves his children, even the children who are not biologically his. we are asked to be tolerant of all different types of love as far as gay couples and others, I choose to live and let live in this case.

  • Louise | March 14, 2011 6:09 AMReply

    After watching last nights episode I truly feel for the Browns. I agree with Misty, to each their own ..... before there was no such thing as gay marriages or gay parents and now there is ... most society have learned to accept, or at least not be VOCAL about it. I wish all the best to the Browns they seem like real down to earth people.

  • Misty | March 14, 2011 5:58 AMReply

    I love this show. I wouldn't be able to share my husband with other wives but to each there own. At least he's not a dead beat dad and they work, they're not milking the system in welfare. How can they be in trouble he's only married to one legally and the others only in Gods eyes. What about people who are still married but living with there girlfriend how is that diffrent?

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