By Gudrun Schultz

NEW YORK, New York, February 28, 2006 ( – HBO is set to launch an entertainment series that openly promotes polygamy. Beginning March 12, the “bold new series” Big Love will replace the Sopranos on the station’s Sunday night line-up.

Starring Hollywood’s Jim Paxton, Big Love attempts to show the “endearingly normal” side of a typical American man who “happens” to have three wives. The producers worked hard to ensure they found an All-American actor to play the lead role, reports the Star Telegraph, to minimize any potential “creepiness” of the material.

Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the show’s scriptwriters, are both gay. Although the producers deny there was any pro-gay agenda behind making the show, reviews have said the show’s material contains numerous references to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered themes, and is a showcase for “gay apologia.” Even before the release date, gay activists have seized upon the show as a vehicle for promoting the legitimacy of gay “marriage.”

Tom Hanks’ production company produces the show, with Hanks acting as executive producer. Hanks’ recent work includes his starring role in the anti-Catholic movie The Da Vinci Code, which will be released in the U.S. on May 19.

The Mormon community has distanced itself from the series. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a press release in response to media coverage of the series, stating that polygamy has been banned by the Mormon Church since 1890, and any groups continuing the practice today “have no association whatever” with the church.

“The Church has long been concerned about the continued illegal practice of polygamy, and in particular about reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today. It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of that problem,” the press release said.

The church requested that HBO issue a disclaimer at the beginning of the program, dissociating the practice of polygamy from the Mormon community. HBO has agreed to comply with that request.

Along with a humorous and approving portrayal of polygamy, and a tacit promotion of homosexuality, reviewers have stated the program relies on raunchy and explicit sexual “humor” to carry the story along. Jokes about the lead character’s reliance on Viagra to help him cope with three wives are central to the humor.

An excerpt from the program’s opening scene contains a crude and sexually explicit conversation between four teenage girls, and ends with an implied lesbian exchange between two of the girls. (See transcript here: