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Sister Wives

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Sister Wives
Sister Wives TV series logo.jpg
StarringThe Brown family
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons14
No. of episodes167 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Timothy Gibbons
  • Bill Hayes
  • Christopher Poole
  • Kirk Streb
ProducerDeanie Wilcher
Production locationsLehi, Utah (2010–11)
Las Vegas, Nevada (2011–18)
Flagstaff, Arizona (2018–present)
Camera setupMultiple
Running time42 minutes
Production companies
  • Figure 8 Films
  • Puddle Monkey Productions
Original networkTLC
Picture formatNTSC
HDTV 1080i
Original releaseSeptember 26, 2010 (2010-09-26) –
External links

Sister Wives is an American reality television series broadcast on TLC that premiered on September 26, 2010. The show documents the life of a polygamist family, which includes father Kody Brown, his four wives (Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn) and their 18 children. The family began the series living in Lehi, Utah but has since moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2011 and the unincorporated township of Baderville, Arizona (northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona) in mid-2018.[1][2]

Brown and his four wives have stated they participated in the show to make the public more aware of polygamist families and to combat societal prejudices. Brown believes his polygamist arrangement is legal because he is married legally to only one woman (Robyn), while the other marriages (to Meri, Janelle and Christine) are "spiritual unions".


The Sister Wives cast interviewed on the Valder Beebe Show in 2019

The show follows the lives of Kody Brown, his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, and their 18 children.[3] In the first season, the show televised Kody's courting of and marriage to his fourth wife, Robyn, in 2010.[4][5][6] Robyn was the first new wife to enter the family in 16 years.[7]

The only legal marriages have been between Kody and Meri, until their legal divorce in September 2014, and Kody and Robyn from December 2014, in order for Kody to legally adopt Robyn's three children, Dayton, Aurora and Breanna. Kody's marriages to Janelle and Christine (for their entirety) and to Meri (after their legal divorce) are considered "spiritual unions".[5][8] As of 2020, Kody has been married (formerly legally and now spiritually) to Meri for 30 years, Janelle (spiritually only) for 27 years, Christine (spiritually only) for 26 years, and Robyn (formerly spiritually and now legally) for 10 years.[9] Kody and Meri have one daughter, Mariah. Kody and Janelle have six children: sons Logan, Hunter, Garrison and Gabriel, and daughters Madison and Savanah. Kody and Christine have six children: daughters Aspyn, Mykelti, Gwendlyn, Ysabel and Truely, and son Paedon.[10][11] Robyn has three children from her first marriage (which was monogamous): son Dayton, and daughters Aurora and Breanna. Kody legally adopted them in June 2015. Kody and Robyn have two biological children: son Solomon and daughter Ariella. Kody and his wives have three grandchildren, Axel and Evangalynn (both Madison's children), and a third from daughter Mykelti.

Meri, Christine and Robyn were all raised in polygamist families, but Janelle was raised in a monogamist family. Months before the marriage of Janelle and Kody, however, Janelle's mother entered into a polygamous marriage with Kody's father.[7] Although Christine's mother left the faith, she remains supportive of the family dynamic. The Brown family belonged to the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), a Mormon fundamentalist group. For years before the series, the family kept their polygamist lifestyle what they called a "quasi-secret".[12]


In the Autumn of 2009, independent producers Timothy Gibbons and Christopher Poole approached Figure 8 Films, a North Carolinian company, with the concept of a reality series about the Brown family. Bill Hayes, the president of Figure 8 Films, said the company agreed to the idea after meeting with the Browns and deciding their lives would make a great story. Camera crews shot footage of the family in mid-2010 to be used in the first season,[12] ending in May with the marriage of Kody Brown and Robyn Sullivan.[13] The crews continued to film them afterwards in case the series was picked up for a second season. Sister Wives was publicly introduced on August 6, 2010 at the Television Critics Association summer media tour in Beverly Hills, California. The series' first episode, an hour long, was broadcast on TLC on September 26, 2010 and the first season continued with six half-hour chapters until October 17, 2010.[12][14]

The broadcast of Sister Wives came at a time when polygamy and multiple marriages were a prevalent topic in American pop culture. Big Love, the hit HBO series about fictional Utah polygamist Bill Henrickson, his three sister wives, and their struggle to gain acceptance in society, had already been on the air for several years. In early September 2010, the drama series Lone Star, about a con man on the verge of entering into multiple marriages, premiered on Fox but was quickly canceled after two episodes. When Sister Wives debuted, actress Katherine Heigl was in the process of developing a film about Carolyn Jessop, a woman who fled from a polygamist sect.[15]

In October 2010, TLC announced it had commissioned a second season, which began in March 2011.[16] A TLC interview with the Brown family was broadcast on October 31, 2010,[17] and a one-hour program featuring the honeymoon of Kody and Robyn Brown aired on November 22, 2010.[18]

The series led to the Brown family being investigated for possible prosecution. The family later sued the state of Utah, challenging its criminal polygamy laws. The Browns prevailed in the district court in a 2013 ruling, but a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ordered the case to be dismissed on standing grounds in 2016.[19]


  • Kody Winn Brown
  • Meri Caroline Brown (née Barber)
  • Janelle S. Brown (née Schriever)
  • Christine Ruth Brown (née Allred)
  • Robyn Alice Brown (née Sullivan)


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
19September 26, 2010 (2010-09-26)November 21, 2010 (2010-11-21)
211March 13, 2011 (2011-03-13)June 5, 2011 (2011-06-05)
312September 25, 2011 (2011-09-25)November 27, 2011 (2011-11-27)
411May 13, 2012 (2012-05-13)June 24, 2012 (2012-06-24)
58November 18, 2012 (2012-11-18)December 30, 2012 (2012-12-30)
620July 21, 2013 (2013-07-21)February 23, 2014 (2014-02-23)
79June 8, 2014 (2014-06-08)July 27, 2014 (2014-07-27)
810January 4, 2015 (2015-01-04)March 1, 2015 (2015-03-01)
913September 13, 2015 (2015-09-13)November 22, 2015 (2015-11-22)
1010March 13, 2016 (2016-03-13)June 5, 2016 (2016-06-05)
1112November 27, 2016 (2016-11-27)January 29, 2017 (2017-01-29)
1214January 7, 2018 (2018-01-07)April 1, 2018 (2018-04-01)
1313January 20, 2019 (2019-01-20)April 21, 2019 (2019-04-21)
1415January 5, 2020 (2020-01-05)April 12, 2020 (2020-04-12)
1511March 13, 2021 (2021-03-13)June 5, 2021 (2021-06-05)
16TBANovember 21, 2021 (2021-11-21)2021 (2021)


Critical reception[edit]

Considering its sensational subject matter, TLC's "Sister Wives" has been refreshingly modest. The stars [have] a natural, honest presence in a genre fabled for the camera-hogging antics of Jersey Shore. Rather than merely emphasizing what's different about the Brown family – most obviously, their "plural marriage" – Sister Wives shows us how normal they seem: loving and good-natured around their children, occasionally prone to envy and feelings of betrayal.

Schuyler Velasco, Salon[20]

Sister Wives drew national media attention after its first season[21] and garnered generally mixed reviews from critics. Washington Post staff writer Hank Stuever called it "refreshingly frank" and found most interesting the small details of the family's everyday life, such as the food supply, division of labor, and minor arguments.[8] Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara said she was intrigued by the matriarchal nature of the polygamist family, a unit that is traditionally considered patriarchal. McNamara said the wives form the center of the family and that "their bonds appear far stronger and more vital than the casual fondness with which they all treat Kody".[22] Salon writer Schuyler Velasco praised Sister Wives for introducing viewers to unfamiliar subject matter and called it "refreshingly modest" considering its controversial subject matter. Velasco said it has "a natural, honest presence in a genre fabled for the camera-hogging antics of Jersey Shore".[20] Shelley Fralic of The Vancouver Sun called it fascinating and surprising and was impressed with the sensible and articulate way in which the family defended their lifestyle.[7] When the Brown family made an October 2010 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, talk show host Oprah Winfrey said she found particularly fascinating the relationship between the sister wives.[23]

Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald criticized Kody Brown for opening himself and his family up to potential criminal prosecution by appearing in the series, describing him as "a lawbreaker who is risking himself and the family he claims is so precious just to star in his own TV show".[9] Elizabeth Tenety of The Washington Post called the series "one part domestic drudgery, another part sensationalism" and claimed it relied on a "familiar reality TV recipe" shared by other TLC series such as 19 Kids and Counting and Kate Plus 8.[3] Religion Dispatches writer Joanna Brooks shared Tenety's perspective, criticizing the show for presenting polygamy in a manner that "is about as interesting to me as Kate Gosselin's latest makeover." In this vein Brooks criticized the show for not engaging the theology of plural marriage and for letting Kody Brown's superficial comments about the dissimilarity of Fundamentalist and mainstream Mormonism pass onto the viewers without any critical scrutiny or added nuance.[24] Shari Puterman, television columnist with the Asbury Park Press, felt the sister wives had issues with jealousy and self-worth, and she compared Kody to a cult leader. Puterman added, "I can't speak for everyone, but I believe in the sanctity of marriage. It's sad to see that TLC's capitalizing on people who don't."[25] Former prosecutor and television personality Nancy Grace criticized the show and said she believed Kody Brown should go to jail, but she expressed doubt he would, based on Utah's history of overlooking polygamy.[26] Christine Seifert, an associate professor of communications at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, said the show could give viewers who are unfamiliar with the LDS church the incorrect assumption that polygamy is accepted by the mainstream church.[21] Several commentators have taken notice of the fact that the family's religious convictions are downplayed in Sister Wives.[22][24][27]


According to Nielsen Media Research, the 26 September 2010 one-hour premiere episode of Sister Wives drew 2.26 million viewers,[28] a strong rating for the network. It marked the biggest series debut for TLC since Cake Boss launched in 2009 and was a stronger rating than any of the season premieres for HBO's Big Love.[29] The remaining episodes of the first season were each half an hour long, with two broadcast together each Thursday. In the second week, the first episode drew 1.88 million viewers, while the second drew 2.13 million.[30] The third week drew similar results, with 1.89 million viewers watching the first episode and 2.05 million watching the second.[31] Sister Wives drew its strongest ratings during the fourth and final week of the first season, with 2.67 million viewers for the first episode and 2.74 million for the season finale.[14] As a result of the 2.7 million average viewership for the two episodes, TLC ranked first among all ad-support cable channels in the 18–49 and 25–54 age groups. The series drew double- and triple-digit ratings gains in all key demographics and ranked second in ad-supported cable network shows during its time period.[32]


Kody Brown, along with his wives, filed a legal case in the United States federal courts challenging the State of Utah's criminal polygamy law.[33] The Browns prevailed in the district court in a 2013 ruling, but a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ordered the case to be dismissed on standing grounds in 2016.[34] The Tenth Circuit concluded that, because local Utah prosecutors had a policy of not pursuing most polygamy cases in the absence of additional associated crimes (e.g., welfare fraud or marriage of underage persons), the Browns had no credible fear of future prosecution and thus lacked standing.[35][36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nextdoor". Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  2. ^ Wittenberg, Alexandra. "#5 - Aug. 01: TLC's 'Sister Wives' have moved to Flagstaff, for real(ity)". Arizona Daily Sun. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Tenety, Elizabeth (September 26, 2010). "'Sister Wives': polygamy 'comes out' on TLC". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 30, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  4. ^ Keck, William (September 23, 2010). "Keck's Exclusives: Meet the Real Big Love Bunch". TV Guide.
  5. ^ a b Katz, Neil (September 27, 2010). "Sister Wives (PICTURE): Could You Survive a Polygamous Marriage?". CBS News. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  6. ^ Houk, Kimberly (September 27, 2010). ""Sister Wives" program could lead to legal trouble". KTVX. Archived from the original on September 30, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Fralic, Shelley (September 26, 2010). "Sister Wives and the puzzle of polygamy". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on October 9, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Stuever, Hank (September 25, 2010). "TLC's 'Sister Wives': Frank, entertaining TV about polygamist Browns in Utah". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Perigard, Mark A. (September 26, 2010). "It's all four one, one four all in TLC's 'Sister Wives'". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on September 29, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  10. ^ Seidman, Robert (August 6, 2010). "Love is All in The Family on TLC's New Series Sister Wives Premiering Sunday, September 26". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 24, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  11. ^ Lamar, Michelle (March 13, 2011). "'Sister Wives': Meet the Browns, TLC's Polygamist Family". Babble. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c Horiuchi, Vince (August 6, 2010). "Utah polygamists star in reality TV show". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  13. ^ Belloni, Matthew (October 7, 2010). "Bigamy investigation threatens TLC's "Sister Wives"". Reuters. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Seidman, Robert (October 19, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: Kardashians Lead; Mad Men Finale Up; Rubicon Finale Down; Broadway Empire, Sonny with a Chance & Much More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 24, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  15. ^ Freydkin, Donna (September 26, 2010). "Unfamiliar world of polygamy is opening up in TV shows, films". USA Today. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  16. ^ Pierce, Scott D. (October 29, 2010). "TLC renews 'Sister Wives'". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  17. ^ Means, Sean P. (October 22, 2010). "Spend Halloween with the "Sister Wives"". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
  18. ^ France, Lisa Respers (November 20, 2010). "A 'Sister Wives' honeymoon special". CNN. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  19. ^ Hughes, Trevor. "Appeals court rejects 'Sister Wives' challenge to polygamy ban in Utah". USA Today. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  20. ^ a b Velasco, Schuyler (October 16, 2010). "Secrets of the polygamists". Salon. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  21. ^ a b Pierce, Scott D. (October 24, 2010). "'Sister Wives' revives Utah's cultural ties to polygamy". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  22. ^ a b McNamara, Mary (September 25, 2010). "Television review: 'Sister Wives': TLC show examines a real-life polygamous family". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  23. ^ Reiher, Andrea (October 14, 2010). "Oprah on 'Sister Wives': 'Most fascinated with the relationship the women have with each other'". Zap2it. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  24. ^ a b Brooks, Joanna (September 27, 2010). "TLC Premieres Polygamy Reality Show Sister Wives". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  25. ^ Puterman, Shari (November 12, 2010). "TLC capitalizing on 'Sister Wives'". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  26. ^ Lane, Laura (October 25, 2010). "Nancy Grace on 'Sister Wives' Investigation: "Kody Should Go to Jail!"". OK!. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  27. ^ Ravitz, Jessica. ""Sister Wives" explained: A fundamentalist Mormon polygamy primer". CNN. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  28. ^ Gorman, Bill (September 28, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: Boardwalk Empire Falls; Rubicon Stays Low + Glades, Mad Men, Kardashians, Dexter & Lots More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  29. ^ Hibberd, James (September 28, 2010). "TLC's 'Sister Wives' gets love from viewers". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 1, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  30. ^ Seidman, Robert (October 5, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: Broadwalk Empire Mostly Stable; Rubicon Still Tiny; Mad Men, Kardashians, Dexter & Lots More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 10, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  31. ^ Gorman, Bill (October 12, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: Boardwalk Empire Plunges; Rubicon Up; Mad Men, Kardashians, MLB Playoffs & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  32. ^ Seidman, Robert (October 19, 2010). "TLC's Sister Wives Scores Big Finale and Season". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  33. ^ Whitehurst, Lindsey (July 13, 2011). "'Sister Wives' polygamy lawsuit tackles privacy in Utah". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
  34. ^ Sister Wives criminal charged dropped in Utah, WJLA-TV, June 1, 2012
  35. ^ Jacob Gershman, Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to Utah's Polygamy Ban, The Wall Street Journal (April 11, 2016).
  36. ^ Brown v. Buhman (10th Cir. Apr. 11, 2016) (slip op.).


External links[edit]