Where the ‘Sister Wives’ Were When the TLC Show Premiered in 2010
Ten years ago, all that many people knew about polygamy they learned from the HBO drama Big Love. But now, after 14 seasons of Sister Wives, TV viewers not only know more about plural marriages but have welcomed the Brown family into their household every Sunday night.
The hit TLC reality series’ premiere, which aired on September 26, 2010, introduced viewers to Kody Brown, his three wives — Meri, Janelle, and Christine — and their 12 children as the fundamentalist Mormon navigated life under one roof in Lehi, Utah, and processed Kody’s courtship with Robyn, who would end up being his fourth wife and first new spouse in 16 years.
“I like marriage, and I’m a repeat offender,” Kody quips in the opening minutes of that first episode. “I have adopted a faith that embraces that lifestyle. In fact, it recommends it and [likes] to reward good behavior, so if you’re good with one marriage, they figure you’ll be good with two. I hope they think I’ll be good with four.”
He takes the camera crew home, and introduces Janelle, Meri, and Christine — pregnant with daughter Truely at the time — and all three wives seem shy to be in the spotlight.
Soon, however, the three women open up about their lifestyle, its benefits, its challenges. “The family functions as a whole, but we all have our own autonomy,” Janelle says, describing the wives’ interconnected apartments in their polygamist-designed house.
“All three of us were married before any of the kids were born,” Christine explains in the episode. “So when we tell you that really the kids are all ours, it’s because we’ve raised all of the kids.”
Toward the end of the episode, the adult Browns reveal to the audience that Kody is courting Robyn, just before breaking the news to their children — some of whom are more surprised than others. (“Are you engaged to her?” Maddie, then 14, asks point-blank as Kody hems and haws during the announcement.)
The episode ends with Kody meeting Robyn for a date, as his wives discuss the impending change to their family structure. “I don’t want to be a boat-rocker, and I don’t like my boat rocked,” Christine tells the camera crew. “And so no, I’m a little hesitant to accept another wife. But if it happens, she just has to be absolutely amazing. Otherwise, it might be a little complicated.”
Kody and Robyn traded vows in the Season 1 finale, officially adding her three children to the Brown brood, and the other wives welcomed her into the family with a meaningful Claddagh ring.
And since Sister Wives’ first episode, TLC cameras have captured many of the family’s highs — including Mariah’s coming out as gay, three daughters’ weddings, the birth of three children and two grandchildren, and Kody’s adoption of Robyn’s children. Viewers have also witnessed the family’s lows — like Meri’s catfish saga, her relationship troubles with Kody and their legal divorce, and the Browns’ failed attempt to overturn Utah’s criminal polygamy law in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
TLC hasn’t yet announced a 15th season, but the network is offering the first season for free on TLC.com.