Polygamy Documentaries and TV Shows
Polygamy has a way of raising everyone's curiosity, usually because plural marriage is so different from anything they have been exposed to. For some, the more they learn the more they realize that they want to try to find a polygamist relationship of their own. For others, it remains an interesting curiosity and expands their knowledge of the world.
We'll list the best, and worst, polygamy TV shows and documentaries as well as discuss how realistically they portray plural marriage.
Polygamy TV Shows
TLC's Seeking Sister Wife
TLC's Seeking Sister Wife is an ongoing series that premiered in 2018 and it is our favorite polygamy TV show. Each season follows the lives of several couples searching for a sister wife and chronicles their journey.
With a flair for the dramatic and too little focus on the perspectives and reasoning of the potential sister wives, the show still manages to be entertaining and remain relatively realistic.
The show lacks depth but it makes up for it by showing a wide variety of aspiring polygamists, with equally diverse motivations for pursuing polygamy. Covering the stereotypical Mormon polygamist family to couples that think becoming polygamous will somehow improve their marriage and polyamorists, it's easy to see that there is no one type of polygamist.
While it would be a much better TV show if it more deeply explored the perspective of the women that want to be sister wives, it is still worth checking out.
TLC's Sister Wives
TLC's Sister Wives is a train wreck of a TV show that premiered in 2010 and is ongoing. The series started as a peek into the lives of a polygamous family in Utah. Following the life of Kody Brown and his four wives, the show quickly becomes more about disfunction and mental disorders than plural marriage.
Kody's wives (Meri, Christine, Janelle, and Robyn) live separately, with Kody essentially visiting them in rotation. From very early on, the sister wives seem to mildly tolerate each other and the only thing that seems to bond them is their dislike, disregard, and disrespect for him.
In the midst of this, Kody seems to have no discernable level of testosterone and rarely has an opinion on anything, at least not that he can't be berated out of in short order.
If this was the only example anyone was shown of plural marriage, it would make an excellent argument for why it should be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, what the show portrays is nothing remotely close to a realistic portrayal of a polygamous family.
Avoid this TV show, it's a waste of your time, and neurons, and has very little to do with polygamy, in spite of its branding.
Big Love (HBO)
Big Love premiered in 2006 on HBO and ran until 2011, garnering much media attention and fan loyalty. Even a decade later, it is quite well known and stirs up a lot of interest in plural marriage.
As a TV drama, Big Love focuses mostly on the potential friction between a fundamentalist Mormon group (loosely based on the FLDS) and a polygamous family. While this makes for an interesting TV drama, it does a poor job of accurately representing polygamy in the United States.
Plural marriage, and the relationships between the sister wives, are used as points of drama and tools to aid the storyline, but the show gives little insight into real-world polygamous families.
As entertainment, Big Love may be worth your time. If you have a legitimate interest in learning more about plural marriage, you should probably focus your attention elsewhere.
My Five Wives (TLC)
TLC's My Five Wives follows the life of Brady Williams, his 5 wives, and their 24 children. The series aired for two seasons, beginning in 2014 after the success of the Sister Wives show.
Featuring far less drama and a much more functional polygamist family, the show failed to garner the viewership of its predecessor.
Starting the series, Brady's wives all live in separate houses and they are fundamentalist Mormons. As it progresses, they realize they want to leave the church, which makes them outsiders among the local polygamist community.
My Five Wives follows the family through worry about being persecuted to the elation of a legal victory decriminalizing polygamy in the state of Utah.
Showing a polygamist family that actually loves each other, My Five Wives is worth checking out.
Three Wives, One Husband
Three Wives, One Husband is a six-part documentary series available on Netflix. It gives insight into the lives of a polygamist family in Rockland Ranch, Utah.
The documentary follows the lives of Drew Foster, his 2 wives, and 14 children for a year as they contemplate adding a new wife to the family.
As one of the more honest and unpretentious representations of polygamy, this documentary is worth your time.
Polygamy on YouTube
There are quite a few interesting YouTube videos by real polygamists, which can give much more real-world insight into polygamous life. These are the best YouTube polygamy videos that we have found:
- How One Polygamous Family Changed the Law | Counter-Narratives | The New Yorker
- We Have the Perfect Polygamous Relationship | This Morning
- Spotlight on a Young Polygamist Family | Our America with Lisa Ling | Oprah Winfrey Network
- The Winder Family
- Ameera & @Rivah TV Discuss Polygamy | Live Stream :: November 10th, 2021 | Ameera
- How Common Is Polygamy In Indonesia? (Street Interview) | ASIAN BOSS
- The Controversial Rise of Polygamy in Indonesia
- Polygamy in Kazahkstan (RT)
You will notice that almost all of the portrayals of polygamy on TV and in documentaries are of fundamentalist Mormon polygamists. While this was the only way a polygamous lifestyle was lived 50 years ago, it is no longer the most common form of plural marriage and it's sad that TV networks do not feel comfortable showing modern polygamous relationships.
Another detail that will stand out is that all polygamist wives are portrayed as living in separate houses. While this may be common for Mormon polygamists, it is not the most common living situation for polygamists.
We would love to see more attention given to non-religious polygamy and the everyday lives of people that are not pursuing plural marriage for religious reasons. It is glimpses of this type of plural relationship that has given the show Seeking Sister Wife success and what interests most viewers.
Hopefully, TV and documentary producers will see the same and we will update this list as new shows and documentaries about polygamy are released.