Sister Wives is a big hit for TLC, and its origin is just as interesting as the drama seen onscreen. In September 2010, audiences were introduced to the Brown family, including family patriarch Kody and his three wives: Meri, Janelle, and Christine. Early on, the show chronicled the courtship and marriage to Kody’s fourth wife, Robyn.
Nowadays, depictions of alternative structures of families are mainstream, with Sister Wives still on the air thirteen years later. However, at the time of its premiere, challenging the concept of the traditional nuclear family was trailblazing. Viewers were shocked to see the Brown family flee Utah to preserve their right to this alternative lifestyle because polygamy was illegal in that state. While today Kody is widely considered a bad, controlling husband, at the time, his doting on his four wives was refreshing and endearing.
The depiction of the Brown family on TLC changed all of their lives. Sister Wives started with the production company Puddle Monkey. In 2009, producer Timothy Gibbons decided to create a television series about plural marriage. He approached fundamentalist Mormons, many of whom practice the spiritual approach of polygamy. He connected with Anne Wilde, leader of a fundamentalist organization promoting plural marriage, and discussed his idea for a reality show.
Inspired by such large family series as Jon & Kate Plus 8 and 19 Kids and Counting, Gibbons found a home on TLC for his concept. He wanted to document a unique family in a similar vein, without judgment and via a faith that had little exposure to the public. Throughout much of its run, Sister Wives remained relatively controversy-free and wholesome.
As for the subjects of the series, which could make or break it, Gibbons asked Wilde to approach the Brown family for him after seeing them in a BBC news clip. Kody was receptive to this idea of documentation of his unique family on TLC. Sister Wives season 1 started with nine episodes, and audiences were captivated by a family who, while unusual in faith and structure, struggled and loved familiarly. The top-rated show on cable television that year has continued to be popular for 17 seasons now.
However, the series’ fate is now up in the air with the Brown family in the midst of turmoil. Kody is no longer married to Christine, is separated from Janelle, and appears to be estranged from Meri, with his only intact marriage now with Robyn. With the disintegration of the family structure, it’s yet to be seen how Sister Wives will continue in its current form. However, the origin of the series shows why the public has always had a fascination with a nontraditional family whose struggles they can relate to.
More: Sister Wives: Why Some Fans May Be Idolizing Christine Way Too Much
Source: TLC/YouTube, Puddle Monkey Productions, TLC/YouTube