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The TLC cable network’s perfect show: “The Three Little Plygs”

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TLC, the network that has brought us reality shows about little people, families with multiple children, and polygamists, has finally created what must be its ultimate television show, entitled “The Three Little Plygs.” Its first episode premiered last night and let me tell you it was exactly as thought-provoking, humorous, and exciting as real life.

The show tells the story of the Popinjay family. They’re just like you and me, except for a few superficial differences. First of all, they’re a family of little people. Second of all, they’re polygamists. Third of all, every one of the “sister wives” has given birth to multiples.

As the husband, John, is fond of saying (he seems to say this or some variant to the camera every five minutes), “Love should multiply, even a little.”

If you’re confused by the title, as I was, let me explain. They are little people, hence the word “Little.” They are polygamists, and “plyg” is a slang term for “polygamist,” especially for those in certain areas of southern Utah (we’re never told where in Utah the little plygs live).  As for the number “three,” well, the explanation for that comes at the end of the first episode, courtesy of John.

John is the first of the Popinjays that we meet. He owns a barbecue restaurant that doubles as a bakery and motorcycle repair shop. They also sell wedding dresses. I didn’t catch the name of the place, but apparently it’s not open on Sundays, because at one point John says to the camera, “We don’t sell sundaes on Sundays.” That is how John talks. He is more enthusiastic than clever, which I have to admit I found charming (not enough to marry him!), although he occasionally takes things too far, such as when he starts explaining about his family’s fertility situation:

“I love my wives very much, but it can be difficult for little people to conceive. That’s why the sister wives all took fertility treatments, and why our little love ended up multiplying the way it has. My sperm count is normal. I actually have very large testicles for a little person.”

We get it, John! You’re all man. (Perhaps “TLC” should change its name to “TMI,” am I right?)

Next, we are introduced to John’s first wife, Brenda. The two of them grew up in “the principle,” which means their families were polygamists. Apparently, there aren’t that many little people who live the principle, as Brenda explains:

“It might surprise you to learn that there aren’t that many little people who live the principle. So when John and I met, we knew we were destined to be together.”

More than anything, John and Brenda wanted to have at least ten children together. Alas, as John has already explained, it’s very difficult for little people to conceive, which meant that Brenda needed to take fertility treatments. The result was a pregnancy – as Brenda calls it, “a magical pregnancy.”

“That first pregnancy gave us Brynna, Dylan, Schuyler, Merydan, Lowelleyn, and Sweetie,” she says.

Touchingly, that pregnancy kept Brenda immobilized for seven and a half months, during which time John “courted” his second wife, Joanie.

Joanie grew up in the Mormon church, which outlawed polygamy a long time ago (I didn’t catch the exact date), so she had reservations about marrying into a polygamist family.

“When I met John I didn’t know he was already married. I fell for him right away, he had the cutest little smile,” she interviews. (By the way, the interviews are conducted with the three little sister wives sitting on a couch that is, let’s just say, not built to their size. It’s a bit distracting.) “When I found out he was married, I was disappointed at first. Then I found out he lived the principle, and I was torn. My whole life I’d heard that polygamy was wrong, but John just said that ‘We need to let our little bit of love multiply,’ and it just made sense.”

Apparently, John has been using that line for a long time. And, apparently, it works.

John and Joanie got “married” (not legally, since that would be illegal, but in what they call a “spiritual marriage“) just after Brenda finished giving birth to Sweetie. Brenda went back on her fertility treatments, and Joanie joined her. Ten months later, Brenda had given birth to Angyel, Merydyan, Ryder, and Alyx, and Joanie had borne Saradwynn, Willyam, Maryssa, Curry, and Wynthrop.

“Our little love was growing exponentially,” John says, during his own interview segment (and by the way, why do they sometimes segregate John from the sister wives? he gets his own big chair all to himself, yet the sister wives don’t interview alone).

I suppose I have forgotten to mention that the Popinjays live in a large house that is divided into small apartments. Each of the three sister wives gets her own living space, while John alternates sleeping with each of the women. As the third wife, Mary, interviews, “The sister wives do not sleep together, that would be weird.”

Happily for us, this is one time in which John happened to be interviewing with his wives, because he chimes in with, “Well, maybe only a little bit weird!” The way Joanie rolls her eyes at his comment is absolutely hilarious. We can all relate to having to deal with the husband who makes silly puns!

John met his third wife, Mary, just after Joanie and Brenda had given birth. As Brenda herself sets the scene, “It was great to have all these kids, but we knew our family was still too small, for the amount of love that we had to give.” Joanie adds, “People don’t think we have as much love as normal sized polygamists, but it’s just not true. We have twice as much love as normal sized polygamists.”

Of course, John adds, “As our little love multiplies, it’s too large to be contained in our bodies.”

John, Joanie, and Brenda all went to some kind of polygamist function (left unexplained – apparently there are some things even John won’t talk about), where they all met the young Mary. Mary has a type of dwarfism that is different from the other members of the Popinjay family, but I won’t go into that here because it’s not all that interesting and I don’t want this recap to get too long (you can probably find out all about it on the TLC website, although as of right now for some reason they haven’t yet put up a page for this show). Anyway, because of the type of dwarfism that Mary has, Brenda thought she looked like she might be able to have children without the benefit of fertility treatments. So she naturally encouraged John to ask her to dance.

“Brenda definitely gave me a little nudge toward Mary,” John says, although his voice is so deadpan that I’m not sure if that was supposed to be one of his “little love” puns or not.

John and Mary started courting. Meanwhile, Brenda and Joanie, who had been on fertility treatments, again became pregnant. Mary, however, who had been trying to conceive in “the usual way, the way that’s a little more fun” (John), was unable to become pregnant. Of course she joined them on their fertility treatment regimen, and all three women were, for awhile at least, pregnant at the same time.

At this point, John again offers us “TMI,” as he tells us about the delicate procedure involved in having marital relations with your three pregnant little wives. I shall spare the reader the details.

Anyway, the triple pregnancy led to the births of Corryne, Balthyzaar, Stryrrin, Rychard, and Norryn (those were the children Brenda birthed); Stolyn, Petyr, Cyril, Bynjamyn, Franklyn, and Chrys (Joanie); and Londyn, Parys, Madryd, Berlyn, Brussyls, and Charylston (Mary).

In case you haven’t been keeping count, the Popinjays have a total of 32 children. That we’ve met. So far. Actually, Mary got pregnant again and had seven more kids, bringing the total to 39. Please don’t ask me for their names; I ran out of room on the paper on which I was scribbling my notes.

Each of the sister wives has a job to help pay for the massive brood. Brenda works as a mall security guard, Joanie is a tattoo artist, and Mary is a policewoman. I would think that having a policewoman in your polygamist family would be a potential problem, but that wasn’t addressed in this episode. Perhaps next week? (Oh, wait; according to the promo, next week’s episode concerns daughter Sweetie’s competition in a children’s beauty pageant.)

The Popinjays claim that they wanted to do a show about little polygamists because they wanted to remove the stigma associated with their lifestyle. They’re not really afraid of legal prosecution because, as I’ve already stated, only John and Brenda are legally married. “The only real issue we have is that all of our kids have the last name  ‘Popinjay,'” Joanie says.

At this point John steps in, and I assume this is where the idea for the show’s title came from: “I don’t care who knows about us,” he says. “We are in love, we are happy, we are not harming anyone. I can’t imagine my life without my wonderful, beautiful, perfect wives… They’re my three little plygs.”

I have to admit that I wiped away a tear when John said that. He’s right you know. So they are living a life that most people wouldn’t choose. Who are we to judge them? They’re not harming anyone else.

I say, let your love multiply, little plygs! And thanks for letting the rest of us watch!

“The Three Little Plygs” airs Sunday nights at 10 PM on TLC.

Ricky Sprague occasionally writes and/or draws things. He sometimes animates things. He has a Twitter account and he has a blog. He scripted this graphic novel about Kolchak The Night Stalker. He is really, really good at putting links in bios.
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