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What's next for television?

HBO's daring new drama about a polygamous family

SPECIAL REPORT

(TIME) -- What's the next cool thing on TV? It may prove to be "Big Love," an HBO drama scheduled to debut in June 2006. Like many TV series, it is an intimate look at marriages in the suburbs. Unlike other TV series, each marriage on this show involves the same husband.

"Big Love" focuses on the indefatigable Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton), A Utah polygamist. He keeps his wives Barb, Margene and Nicki (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin and Chloe Sevigny) in separate, adjacent houses, where they run the extended household jointly but harbor simmering jealousies. He has to keep the arrangement semi-secret because polygamy is illegal in Utah and banned by the mainstream Mormon Church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Co-creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer say they were interested in the conflict within Bill, who came from a rural polygamist compound but is trying to make his way in the LDS-Mormon suburbs of Salt Lake City. The fundamentalists, says Olsen, "look at The Church of Latter-Day Saints as sellouts and apostates." Whereas mainstream Mormons, he says," wish the compounds would go away."

The big question for HBO is whether viewers will find "Big Love" a fascinating place to visit. After a string of period pieces ("Carnivalé," "Rome," "Deadwood") that drew niche audiences, the show aims to return to contemporary drama, as with "The Sopranos."

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