Reality Bites: Sister Wives
The assumption that one man having multiple spouses is in and of itself freaky enough to warrant a reality show is correct in the sense that Hollywood has decreed things once considered mundane (styling hair, fishing) are worthy of putting on the air. I imagine production meeting discussions along the lines of: "Hey, this guy auctions abandoned storage units." "Oh yeah? Well *this* guy has four wives." It's a no-brainer.
But looked at another way, the main criticism of Sister Wives appears to be: without the gimmick, there's nothing to recommend the show at all. Every one of the principals is dull beyond belief, with little to no drama to otherwise keep us engaged. The lack of [televised] conflict among the women would almost be refreshing here in Year 7 A.R.H. (After Real Housewives), except for the whole shared husband thing.
And in the end, this may be polygamy's ace in the hole concerning wider acceptance and/or legalization: on the surface, it looks just as boring as regular marriage.
Even before watching Sister Wives, I was desperately concerned about how Kody Brown and his four spouses were evading arrest for their flouting of matrimonial laws. How relieved I was to learn he's only "legally" married to first wife Meri. The others are bound to him through "spiritual unions," which sounds like something out of City of Angels (a movie almost as distasteful as fundamentalist Mormonism itself).
Defenders of this sort of thing like to point out everyone involved in the show had entered into the arrangement voluntarily, presumably to distance the Brown family and their ilk from less savory practitioners (read: Muslims). All well and good, except for the fact three of the Brown "wives" themselves had polygamist upbringings. Objectively, we all know America is the land of the free and the home of the Whopper, but I don't think anyone would argue growing up under those circumstances might lead to certain predilections.
The third season of Sister Wives is gearing up to start this spring, so I caught a few reruns from seasons one (involving Kody's courtship of Robyn, the fourth wife and Kody's first in 16 years) and two (the Browns move to Las Vegas, with attendant ramifications for the couple's 17(!) kids). Yeah, 17 children. Jesus, Mary and Joseph Smith, that's a brood right there. To their credit, at least they didn't give them all names starting with "K."
"Do you, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe, take this Earthling Dale Arden, to be your Empress of the Hour?"
Initially, it's hard not to think Kody is sitting in the proverbial catbird's seat: there's no worrying about babysitters when he wants to take one of the four out (Janelle is the only wife with an outside of home job), his child-rearing duties are largely limited to providing sperm and one gimmick episode, in which the wives go out for the night and he demonstrates just how unwise having a dozen plus five children really is. At one point, Kody mentions, "we haven't screwed any of them up yet." Presumably because they so docilely perform the chores set out before them. Apparently breeding your own servants makes housekeeping a lot easier.