Both HBO and Tom Hanks have an impressive track record on television. In addition to "The Sopranos," HBO earned critical acclaim with "Six Feet Under" and "Sex in the City." Hanks also produced the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" and "From the Earth to the Moon." HBO received 124 nominations for the upcoming Emmy Awards, far more than any other network.
"Big Love" is a modern-day portrayal of a fictional polygamist family living in an "upscale development" in Utah, according to the script of the pilot episode. The pilot was shot last May in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Bill Paxton, who last starred in "Thunderbirds" and was the lead meteorologist in the disaster epic "Twister," plays the polygamist with three wives, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn (''The Firm"), Chlo' Sevigny (''Boys Don't Cry") and Ginnifer Goodwin (''Mona Lisa Smiles" and the television show ''Ed").
Actors Bruce Dern ('Monster") and Grace Zabriskie ('Twin Peaks") play his parents. The series also co-stars Harry Dean Stanton (''Alien") and Melora Walters (''The Butterfly Effect").
The show is a day-to-day look at one family that strives to be an even-handed depiction of the polygamist culture, according to a source with the network.
It wasn't known if any polygamist families were consulted for the series. But Mary Batchelor, director of the advocacy group Principle Voices of Polygamy, said filmmakers associated with the production requested to sit in on a Bluffdale meeting of the Apostolic United Bretheren - the Owen Allred group - to learn more about how polygamists dress.
"I look forward and am hopeful it will be an honest portrayal. I'm reticent. I'm wondering what their sources are," said Batchelor, a former plural wife who still believes in the principles of polygamy. "Without talking with people who have personal experience in the lifestyle, they can't get an honest portrayal."
Vicki Prunty, director of Tapestry Against Polygamy, a support group for those leaving polygamous families, is reserved in her opinion about the show.
"It just really depends on how it's put together," said Prunty, a former sister wife to Batchelor. "We would hate to see a production that misleads people into polygamy if they glamorized it, if they showed that the grass was greener on the other side. We'll just have to watch and see."