(Mondays, 9 pm, HBO)
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & eet Bill Henrickson -- an all-American dad with great kids, beautiful wives and a successful career. Wait a minute... wives? That's right, Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is TV's first polygamist dad. Forget My Three Sons, this is My Three Wives.
What's most remarkable about Big Love is how oddly normal this big Utah family seems. At least that's how it was for a season and a half. Now, however, with only four episodes left in Season Two, Bill's life is teetering on the brink. The wives are in open revolt, his older kids are defying him and his crazy relatives are sabotaging his grand money-making plans.
At its heart, Big Love is really a soap opera -- an extremely juicy soap opera with sex, intrigue and great acting. Bill's wives -- Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) -- each have their own part to play in order to create maximum drama for Bill. Barb, first wife, is a schoolteacher from the normal side of Utah; perhaps she's even -- gasp! -- a Democrat. Nikki came second and is the daughter of a so-called prophet, Roman Grant (played to creepy perfection by Harry Dean Stanton), who lives on a compound with ultra-traditional Mormons, heavily armed and hopped up on paranoia. Margene is the wild, young one -- she smokes in the garage and has a hard time keeping up with her home, which is connected to her sister-wives' houses through the back yard.
Maybe this soap opera is aimed at the beleaguered American male? Bill is on life's razor edge, but in the face of it, he's pure power, popping Viagra as he plays his crazy family members against each other; he's harsh but loving with his kids as he leads his super-sized family in heartfelt prayer before each meal. Bill kicks ass at work all day, loves three women all night and knows that heaven's gates are swinging wide open for him.
But will reality kill the fantasy? Barb seems to be thinking the extra wives may have been a mistake, and for all his righteousness, Bill just might be a big, fat hypocrite. Won't a show about polygamy make some kind of judgment? So far it hasn't, but I can't help but think the opening sequence offers a clue. As the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" plays, Bill and his wives skate on a frozen Utah lake. As the credits end, however, underneath their skates, the ice starts to crack.
The third season of Gordon Ramsay's insult-fest that doubles as a cooking reality show enters the final stretch, as the group is now down to two -- Rock and Bonnie. The winner gets a job as head chef at a new Las Vegas restaurant. If they still want to cook after this abuse. (Monday, Aug. 6, 9 pm, Fox)
The trend for washed-up Hollywood actors finding refuge on TV is nothing new, but Holly Hunter? The Academy Award winner is still at the top of her game, yet here she is. Saving Grace should give her time to develop the character of Grace Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City cop who makes lots of bad personal choices, and it should definitely be worth watching. (Monday, Aug. 6, 10 pm, TNT)
There's flipping the tiny bungalow down the street, then there's flipping mansions in Los Angeles. Now imagine flipping five at a time in the nation's craziest market. Welcome to Jeff Lewis's life and obsession. Bravo is getting known as the home of addictive reality TV, and this one seems to have all the elements. (Tuesday, Aug. 7, 10 pm, Bravo)