10 Big Facts About Big Love

HBO
HBO

On March 12, 2006, HBO debuted Big Love, a dramedy that chronicled a family of fundamentalist Mormons living in suburban Utah as polygamists. Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer created the show, which starred Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn (Barb, wife number one), Chloë Sevigny (Nicki, second wife), and Ginnifer Goodwin (Margene, third wife) as a different type of family. Paxton’s Bill Henrickson is married to all three women, who live in separate houses, and raise his children, including then-unknown Amanda Seyfried (Sarah Henrickson).

The Emmy-nominated series spurred controversy within the Mormon community, and inspired the 2010 formation of the TLC reality show Sister Wives. However, after five seasons and 53 episodes—including Bill’s tumultuous run for Senate and the family adding and then removing another sister-wife—HBO canceled the show and aired the series finale on March 20, 2011. Here are 10 surprising facts about Big Love.

1. GEORGE W. BUSH INSPIRED THE CREATION OF THE SHOW. 

Olsen and Scheffer told NPR they got the idea to explore polygamy after George W. Bush got elected for a second time, because of the “campaign-season rhetoric about what makes a family.” To them, family—especially marriage—meant different things. “Every time there’s a whiff of discord in the family, [people think] ‘they’re going to bail. This one’s going to bail,’” Olsen said. “And Will and I have never looked at it like that. We’ve never played the ‘who's going to leave the marriage’ game, because I think we have a firm belief that you stick it out—that marriage is worth sticking out.”

2. BILL HENRICKSON REPRESENTED AN “EVERYMAN.”

Olsen explained to Deadline that when they pitched the show to HBO, they described Bill as an “Everyman” who was “a good husband and father who was overwhelmed by the escalating demands of modern life ... Bill H. was a man of faith and integrity who lived with many secrets and moral uncertainties, who actively struggled with ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and someone who was proudly, deeply ‘American.’ It didn’t take long for us to realize the part had been written for Bill Paxton.”

In casting Paxton, who passed away on February 25, 2017, the showrunners said they knew he was the right choice. “We cannot think of any actor, any man, who you’d ever want to be captain of your ship over the long and arduous journey of television making than Bill Paxton," the creators said in a statement following Paxton's death. "He was smart and collaborative and curious. He was a leader, a raconteur, a mentor.”

3. THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS WAS UNHAPPY WITH THE SHOW.

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which has more than 15 million members—outlawed polygamy in 1890 yet between 50,000 and 100,000 Mormons (mainly the fundamentalist sector) still practice polygamous relationships. When the show premiered, the church issued a statement asking HBO to place a disclaimer at the beginning of episodes stating that the fictional family is not associated with the organization. “Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association whatever with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and most of their practitioners have never been among our members,” the LDS’s statement read. “It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of that problem.”

HBO eventually relented and placed a disclaimer on an episode. In 2009, the show once again angered the church, this time with an endowment ceremony—something that Mormons prefer to keep secret.

4. NICKI WAS MORE THAN JUST A PERSON PEOPLE LOVED TO HATE.

Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin in 'Big Love'
HBO

Although Sevigny's Nicki at times seemed like a villain, she was the glue that held the Henricksons together. “The family had to swim through a lot of shit with Nicki, but she provided the family something unconditional,” Ginnifer Goodwin told Vulture. “Nicki reminded them all the time about what was so important about faith. The pros outweighed the cons.”

In developing Nicki, Olsen and Scheffer made her someone who didn’t fit in. “We wanted Nicki to cover her insecurities with a sense of entitlement, the sort of polygamist princess, and Chloë Sevigny gave that really well,” Olsen told the Los Angeles Times. “And she gave the ambiguity of the character real depth."

5. PAXTON DIDN’T SEE HAVING THREE WIVES AS A “MALE FANTASY.”

Paxton told the Los Angeles Times that a man married to three women wasn’t “some male fantasy thing” but a “male nightmare.” “You put a kid in the candy store and you say to the kid: eat as much candy as you want,” he said. “Go on, eat as much candy as you want. And then you ask the kid the next day, ‘Hey you want some candy?’ And the kid’s going to look at you like he never wants to see another piece of candy in his life.”

6. IT WAS A PRO-FEMALE SHOW.

“The big secret of the show is that it’s always been a feminist show,” Olsen told NPR. “And even though it was dramatizing this very patriarchal system in some ways, the opportunities that women found—particularly in this very abusive system—to support each other was what drew us to the material in the first place, and gave us reason to want to explore it. We felt that there were opportunities for women to find support in one another.”

By the series finale, it’s clear the three women will stick together and forge a new life. Paxton also shared the sentiment of Big Love inevitably being a show about the women.

“I was kind of a fiduciary character in many ways,” Paxton told The Huffington Post. “It was really, how do these women relate to each other, sharing this guy and this religion and this whole thing? And how are they going to carry on now that he’s gone probably was a more interesting dynamic.”

7. AARON PAUL WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A “POSSIBLE RECURRING” CHARACTER.

Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul in 'Big Love'
HBO

Before Breaking Bad made Aaron Paul a household name, the up-and-coming actor played Sarah’s boyfriend-turned-husband Scott Quittman, from 2007 to 2010. He told Fade In the part was listed as “possible recurring.” “It’s weird,” Paul said. “They just kept having me back.”

Despite Breaking Bad taking off in 2008, Paul found time to star in six more Big Love episodes, including the series finale. “And I thought once Breaking Bad got picked up, Big Love would be done, and so did Big Love,” he said. “They were trying to figure a way to end the relationship, and they actually did end the relationship with Scott and Sarah. But I just stayed in contact with HBO and some of the producers there. I said, ‘Breaking Bad is totally open to me coming back if you can work it out with the schedule.’ They were like, ‘Really?’ So they [raised] my character from the dead again, and brought me back, and we got back together, fell madly in love, and got married.”

8. MATT ROSS DIDN’T KNOW ALBY’S SEXUALITY UNTIL LATER.

Ross played the sinister cult leader Alby Grant, Nicki’s brother, for five seasons. In the beginning, Alby’s sexual orientation was ambiguous. “I think the first scene where I was wondering about his sexuality was when he picks up a drifter or a hustler in a convenience store and he takes him home,” Ross told NPR. “And that was just obviously a strange thing to do. I mean, well, why is he doing that? That was not clear.” Ross thought Alby just wanted to feel something other than numbness, so Alby put himself in a dangerous situation. But later on, Ross figured it out. “I read a scene where it said Alby is—I think he'd been arrested for doing something. And he was in a police station. And it said Alby is checking out all the butts of the cops that are there. And I was like, OK, well, OK, if he's checking out their butts then he’s, you know, this is his sexuality.”

9. THE SHOW ENDED WITH BILL BECOMING A HERO.

The series ends with a neighbor shooting and killing Bill—yet the sister wives decide to stay together. “We wanted to give him a Gary Cooper exit from the show, but it went much deeper than that,” Olsen said to NPR. “We didn’t want Bill to go out a loser or a failure or an unrepentant fundamentalist. And we wanted to find that thing that would render his life’s existence the most successful. We felt [that] the greatest testimony to Bill would be that he had created a family that endured.”

10. PAXTON WANTED BILL TO LIVE.

A still from 'Big Love'
HBO

The actor told The Huffington Post that he wished Bill hadn’t been killed off in the series finale, but he understood why. “The guy was really a revolutionary like Jesus Christ was in some ways,” Paxton said. “I don’t know, I guess society can’t reward that guy, because he is really living outside of society … I guess I was just really fond of the guy and I thought that after all that he had gone through, he deserved to find a quiet place in the sun.”

7 Fast Facts About RollerCoaster Tycoon

Amazon
Amazon

For Windows gamers, 1999 was dominated by RollerCoaster Tycoon, a now-classic strategy and building game that tasked users with erecting an amusement park and gauging the popularity of rides while maintaining a profit margin and keeping patrons from barfing all over the landscape. For the game’s 20th anniversary, check out some facts about its origins, its association with pizza, and how it became a pinball machine.

1. The first RollerCoaster Tycoon sold 4 million copies.

RollerCoaster Tycoon was the brainchild of Scottish programmer Chris Sawyer, who had enjoyed success with his line of Transport Tycoon games in the 1990s that allowed players to build and operate their own railroad, truck, and ship lines. Sawyer decided to marry that concept with his love of roller coasters. An independent effort—Sawyer enlisted only two collaborators, artist Simon Foster and musician Allister Brimble—the first Tycoon game that was released in 1999 sold a staggering 4 million copies.

2. RollerCoaster Tycoon came free with frozen pizza.

In the early 2000s, packaged food companies offered products that came with promotional offers for CD-ROMs. In 2003, Pillsbury offered a free copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon to anyone who sent in proof of purchase barcodes from specially-marked boxes of Totino’s Pizza Rolls or Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.

3. There’s a RollerCoaster Tycoon pinball machine.

A pinball machine released to coincide with 2002’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 took the spiraling coasters of the game and put them under glass. Players could try and direct the pinball—a substitute for the park guest—around and through coasters like The Flying Ghost and The Rocket.

4. RollerCoaster Tycoon helped inspire Minecraft.

If you or a loved one has spent countless hours absorbed in the popular world-building game Minecraft, you have RollerCoaster Tycoon to thank. Minecraft creator Markus Persson was a fan of Tycoon for the way it allowed players to construct elaborate designs. He also enjoyed Dungeon Keeper, which had a fantasy element. Together, the two games encouraged him to develop Minecraft. The game debuted in 2009 and went on to become one of the biggest interactive success stories of all time.

5. RollerCoaster Tycoon inspired real roller coaster designers.

The laborious construction undertaken by players of RollerCoaster Tycoon weaned a number of players on the excitement of the amusement industry. Park designers hoping to break into the industry have used screen shots from the game as examples of their design prowess at trade shows.

6. You can get a spooky update of RollerCoaster Tycoon in time for Halloween.

Atari distributes an Android and iOS version of RollerCoaster Tycoon for mobile phone users. For 2019, the company is offering a Six Flags Fright Fest update to the game that adds a Halloween component. Players can add Skull Mountain, an actual Six Flags coaster, as well as a Demon Rock statue.

7. A RollerCoaster Tycoon fan spent 10 years building a park.

In 2017, a Reddit user declared he was finished building out his own custom park on RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The 34 coasters and 255 attractions were all minutely detailed, offering a sprawling virtual park with themed areas covering everything from Egyptian attractions to a forest. In comparison, it took only four years to build the actual Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

10 Wild Scooby-Doo Fan Theories

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

For 50 years, the hard-working teens (and dog) of Mystery, Inc. have been investigating the paranormal. What began as a single Hanna-Barbera cartoon series—Scooby Doo, Where Are You!—in the 1960s quickly morphed into a franchise with multiple spin-off shows, comic books, and a few questionable movies. That adds up to a lot of spooky stories, which have inspired fans to come up with their own creepy (or just plain crazed) tales about Scooby and the gang. Here are some of their best theories, including one that somehow connects to Patrick Stewart.

1. Scooby is a Soviet space dog.

For all the cases that Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy solved, they never got to the bottom of the show’s most enduring mystery: How and why does Scooby Doo talk? Some fans think he can’t really speak—that it’s just something his buddy Shaggy imagines while he’s high. But one Redditor has a much more complicated and compelling theory based on the show’s 1960s setting. At that time, America and the USSR were locked in the so-called “Space Race,” competing to see who could claim the first achievements in spaceflight. The Russians famously shot Yuri Gagarin into the stratosphere in 1961, but he wasn’t the first Soviet in space. Canine cosmonauts like Laika beat him by several years, and if the USSR was willing to put a dog in a rocket, who’s to say they didn’t experiment on him first?

According to this fan theory, Scooby is a runaway from the Soviets’ classified space dog program, designed to breed pups capable of operating satellites and understanding radio commands. Scooby was the best of the bunch, the rare test subject who could understand and imitate human speech. Naturally, one of the scientists got attached and defected with Scooby to the USA. When that scientist died, Scooby found a new family with a group of friendly teenagers. But the CIA never stopped searching for this Soviet wunderpup, which is why Mystery, Inc. is constantly traveling by van—and why the original show is called Scooby Doo, Where Are You!

2. The show takes place during an economic depression.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

A classic Scooby-Doo mystery might take place at a theme park, museum, or mine—so long as it’s grimy and deserted. That’s a weird coincidence when you think about it: why are all these places so rundown? Well, that tends to happen when you’re weathering a financial collapse, and many clues indicate that’s just what’s happening in the world of Scooby-Doo. The towns he and his friends visit never seem to be doing well. No one has any money: Not the many scientists posing as monsters for cash, not the operators of every haunted attraction the gang investigates, and certainly not Shaggy and Scooby, who gorge on dog treats and lose their minds whenever they so much as smell a burger.

3. Mystery, Inc. is actually a cult.

Let’s break down the core members of the gang: You have Fred, the handsome and friendly frontman of the group. Then there’s Daphne, the fashionable and pretty one who mostly follows Fred around. Velma has the brains and Shaggy has full-blown conversations with a dog. When you really think about, doesn’t this all sound a bit like a cult? Fred would obviously be the cult leader, who recruits groupies like Daphne to obey his every command. Velma’s intelligence makes her a useful addition, and she could also be seeking acceptance from the “cool” kids. As for Shaggy, well, men who claim dogs can talk to them have a famously disturbing history—much like cult members.

4. They’re all draft dodgers.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premiered in 1969. Also happening that year? The Vietnam War. As able-bodied men (seemingly) over 18, Fred and Shaggy would both be eligible for the draft, which begs the obvious question: is Mystery, Inc. just a bunch of draft dodgers? The boys could be driving that van straight to Canada to avoid deployment, along with Fred’s fiancée Daphne and their antiwar activist friend Velma. Scooby’s stance on the war remains unclear, but he’s along for the ride.

5. Scooby Snacks alter your genes.

What if Scooby’s preferred treat is really a steroid capable of editing genetic code? It would explain why Scooby—and other members of his canine family, like Scrappy-Doo and Scooby-Dum—can talk, as well as their ability to perform “completely ridiculous stunts.” (Also, if Scrappy-Doo is on steroids, it would explain why he’s always trying to fight.) But what about its effect on humans? As far as we know, Shaggy is the only person who eats Scooby Snacks, and he seems to have a freakishly high metabolism, considering the mile-high sandwiches he eats and his super skinny frame.

6. Fred drives the Mystery Machine because the real owner is too high.

Whenever the gang piles into the Mystery Machine, there’s only one person behind the wheel: Fred. Mystery, Inc.’s de facto leader is constantly driving his friends from one haunted house to the next, which would imply that the Mystery Machine is his car. But why would a clean-shaven, preppy kid like Fred own a lime green van with flowers plastered over the doors? That car obviously belongs to a hippie, and in this group, that’s Shaggy. His hippie lifestyle, however, may be the reason Shaggy never drives. He’s either lost his license from driving under the influence, or Fred is worried he will, so someone else serves as his designated driver.

7. Shaggy is Captain America’s son.

This theory starts with small coincidences, like the fact that Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and Steve Rogers share a last name. Then it builds to something bigger when you factor in a detail from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While out on a morning run, Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon) claims that Steve can run 13 miles in half an hour, a rate that breaks down to 26 mph. Shaggy, meanwhile, frequently keeps pace with Scooby, a Great Dane. Those dogs run up to 30 mph. Ergo, Shaggy is Steve’s son.

8. Monsters really do exist in the Scooby-Doo universe.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

Each time the gang catches a new “monster,” it always turns out to be a human in disguise, grumbling about how they “would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” Monsters, the show tells us over and over again, are not real. But this Reddit theory poses an important question: If monsters don’t exist, why is there a business dedicated to catching the fake ones? The fact that Mystery, Inc. keeps getting calls implies that “supernatural fraud” is an entire category of crime, one that wouldn’t make sense or work if people didn’t believe in monsters. Everyone in the Scooby-Doo universe also seems to accept monsters as a normal and everyday occurrence, suggesting that monsters are real—the gang has just never caught one.

9. Shaggy and Scooby are actors.

When danger calls, Shaggy and Scooby tend to run the other way. But what if the group’s most cowardly members were actually actors pretending to be scared of ghosts, monsters, and other paranormal entities? According to this fan theory, Shaggy and Scooby are faking their over-the-top fear in order to draw the monsters out. By posing as easy targets, they know they’ll get spooked first, and thus make it easier for Mystery, Inc. to trap the ghost/witch/pirate. That’s why Fred always pairs Shaggy with Scooby when they split up to investigate, and it’s why after many years of investigating the supernatural, the two of them still don’t seem remotely used to it.

10. Green Room is just a gritty Scooby-Doo reboot.

The 2015 horror movie Green Room is about a band with a van that squares off against an evil old Nazi. The Scooby-Doo franchise is about a team (that was supposed to be a band) with a van that squares off against evil old men (who could also, theoretically, be Nazis). You do the math.

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