Even in the valley’s notoriously hellish real estate market — where seemingly every third house is vacant and my neighborhood is so far underwater I live in constant fear of a Kraken attack — it can be hard for newcomers to find a place to live.
Especially when you’re looking for a home for you and your wife. Your other wife. Your other, other wife. And your new bride. Not to mention your 16 children.
In the second season premiere of “Sister Wives” (9 p.m. today, TLC), Kody Brown and his wives — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — lament the fact that newest wife Robyn and her three kids still live on their own. Months later, with the threat of prosecution for bigamy hanging over them and with hopes of finding a better living situation, the Browns left Lehi, Utah, for Las Vegas, where they’d often vacationed.
“I really have always felt like Vegas was the golden opportunity,” Kody says. “It’s just the land of plenty.”
Still, after four weeks of scouring the valley for a home, the family ended up even more spread out than before. In January, they eventually settled on four houses within a mile radius of each other, with Christine and Robyn living on the same street. But while Kody still wants his family under one roof, or at the very least in neighboring houses, the Browns — some of the most relentlessly positive people you could ever hope to encounter — are putting on a happy face.
“Even though we have four separate houses, the coolest thing is, for me, is that I actually see how much the kids like each other,” third wife Christine says. “They make a great effort to go to each other’s houses. And it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk now, whereas it was just downstairs before. It’s been really cool. It’s almost been uniting.”
“They still manage to see each other every day,” second wife Janelle says of the kids, who range in age from 10 months to 16 years. “My teenage boys think it’s very cool that they can go now and eat out of four different refrigerators.”
As easy as it can be to look down your nose at reality stars — and believe me, I have, given that the genre tends to be the devil’s playground, full of hideous, self-important, look-at-me Heidis and Spencers — I actually feel somewhat bad for the Browns.
Even with the overwhelming evidence of just how upside down a reality show can turn a life — the family needn’t look outside TLC to see the mess “Jon & Kate Plus 8” made of the Gosselins — you get the very real feeling they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into with “Sister Wives.” (The Browns say they haven’t been in contact with any of the other large broods featured on the cable channel, but Kody jokes that he wants to challenge the Duggars of “19 Kids & Counting” to a paintball fight.)
Tonight’s premiere finds the family getting ready to fly to New York to announce their polygamy to the world on NBC’s “Today.” Their reasons for going public, they say in the episode, range from no longer having to live a lie to showing the world that plural marriage doesn’t have to involve child brides, abuse and welfare fraud.
Even though they’d finished filming the first season of “Sister Wives” by that point, none of the episodes had aired, and there’s more than a little fear about the public’s reaction.
And almost immediately upon their return to Utah, the Browns are startled to find a cameraman across the street, a reporter in their yard and a photographer lurking nearby. Before long, the family is shown taking evasive action to hide the youngest children from the media glare.
In the weeks ahead, they would go on to become a national curiosity, ultimately earning an audience with Oprah Winfrey.
Lehi police launched a bigamy investigation, but no charges were brought, first wife Meri says, “and that’s all we know.”
Even their move to Las Vegas was chronicled on TMZ.
“We’re getting used to the fact that the public will know a lot of our business, know what’s going on. This is kind of what the choice of coming out really kind of entails,” fourth wife Robyn says. “We’ve had to adjust and learn to accept it and actually look for the positive parts of that.”
But despite all the attention, the Browns sound downright giddy to be in Las Vegas, talking over each other as they rave about the weather, the sunsets, even the Walmarts. And they can’t get over how nicely they’ve been treated since they arrived.
“In Utah, we had a lot of support and had a lot of people greet us and say ‘Hi,’ ” Christine says. “But here, it’s been even more so.”
They do admit to missing a religious community like the one they had in Utah. And if there’s some sort of underground polygamist network in the valley, they haven’t found it.
“We haven’t met anybody like us in lifestyle. We’ve met a lot of people like us in point of view or perspective, I think,” Kody says. “We’ve met a lot of really tolerant, open-minded people that have been friendly to us and just said, ‘Welcome to Vegas.’ They’ve literally said, ‘We like having you here.’ ”
And that kind of response has, at least in part, validated their “Sister Wives” experience.
“We’ve had a lot of people approach us, whether personally or through Facebook or Internet or whatever,” Meri says, “just saying, ‘Wow, you’ve really opened my mind. I mean, this isn’t something that I would ever do, but I accept you for being you.’
“And that’s really cool. I love having that. Just being accepted even though I live something different.”
Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com.Elsewhere
Las Vegans Michael Pascual and Sharon Yaris are one of a dozen engaged couples sent to a remote island to battle each other for a destination wedding in the new series “Wedding Wars” (9 p.m. Monday, VH1).