The concept of polygamy creates such an interest in the American audience that the TLC cable network produced the reality-television series called “My Five Wives.” It premiered in 2014, and chronicled the life of a man with five wives and multiple children. The show generated enough viewers for the network to order a second season, however, loyal fans were then surprised that the TV show never made it to a third season. Some believed that the only reason for the cancelation was dismal ratings, but rumors circulated online that it might also have something to do with an allegation of molestation filed by one of the wives.

The show, “My Five Wives”

“My First Wives” was the second reality-TV show which delved into the world of a polygamous family. It was inspired by the success of “Sister Wives,” which had been entertaining its audience for 12 years and counting. Both series basically shared the same premise and tried to normalize this controversial lifestyle. The show followed the life of a polygamist named Brady Williams who lived under one roof along with his five wives and 25 children. The family was never ashamed of their beliefs, and so the wives felt it was normal for Brady to introduce them as ‘Brady and Wives’ to the public. One of the reasons they agreed to be on TV was to change the general perception of people about polygamy, because they firmly believed in the lifestyle. They started filming in 2013, the show made its TV debut on 9 March 2014.

Brady Williams and his polygamous lifestyle

From the get-go, the audience felt a different vibe in Brady Williams’ polygamous family. He said that they shared something unique, and that everyone loved one another in his family.

Their home in Northern Utah

The Williams’ home fits the family dynamics. They lived in a small rural polygamist community just outside of Salt Lake City, in two houses built like a small motel, consisting of separate rooms to give a sense of privacy. He designed the house to be one big long box with two stories and walls in between them. They were autonomous with five living spaces but connected to a swimming pool in front of the house. Three of his wives, Paulie (first wife), Robyn (second wife), and Rosemary (third wife), lived in one house, and his fourth wife Nonie and fifth wife Rhonda the second house. Each of the wives had their own kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, plus the two washing machines and one dryer which they all shared. His kids enjoyed their own space with their mothers, but still lived together as a family. At the time the show aired its first season, Brady had 24 children, but another baby was born by the end.

His regular day

His day would start with the alarm blaring at six in the morning and he would get up to kiss his legitimate wife, Paulie, with a promise that he would be back for breakfast. Brady would then go into another room with a bottle of milk for one of his babies. He would make his rounds in each room to kiss and greet his other wives ‘good morning’ one by one.  The mothers tried to train their children to respect the private spaces of each mom, by telling them to knock first before entering, but most of the time, they forgot to follow that rule. Having blankets around the living rooms in the different houses was a normal occurrence, as they had constant sleepovers.  The children loved to pile on the floor and be with each other. One of the silly questions they were often asked was if they all sleep in one bed, which they said was quite ridiculous.

Who was Brady Williams?

Brady was born a mainstream LDS Mormon follower, but when he was 16 years old, he converted to a Fundamental Mormon, a religion that believed in the practice of plural marriage. By the time he was 29 years old, he’d accumulated five wives. However, over the years, he and his wives left the religion, as they felt less and less comfortable in it. He confessed that it was difficult for them to leave, but the polygamous community by and large didn’t want them. He called his family misfits, but together they lived harmoniously. The polygamist father told his children that he would be happy if they all grew up to be good and wonderful people. He also taught them that it didn’t matter what religion they embraced in the future, as long as their choice would make them the best version of themselves.

Get to know the five wives

Short courtships in a polygamous community were a common occurrence.  Brady said that in most polygamous families, the first wife was always the Queen Bee, as she dominated everyone. He considered that practice poisonous in a marriage, so he made sure that in their family, each of them would be co-equal in every way. The schedule that all the wives agreed to was that their husband would rotate after every fifth night of the week.

Paulie Williams – The first wife

At the time the first episode of “My Five Wives” was aired, Brady and Paulie had been married for 21 years, and had six children: Karlie, Madeline, September, Mara, Camry, and Joshua. Paulie worked as a Dental Assistant for many years, but never told her boss about her lifestyle. When she finally admitted it, she was nervous that she was going to lose her job, and that her co-workers would change their opinion of her. However, the only thing her boss asked was if she was friends with the other sister wives to which she replied, ‘I enjoy being with them.’

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Brady said that when he first met Paulie, he found her so beautiful and feminine. He also loved that she was always so motherly to her younger siblings. They dated for about six weeks before he proposed to her. Paulie admitted that it was difficult to share her husband with the others, so she just soaked it all in whenever it was her time with Brady. There were times she felt that she was alone, but she knew that she just needed to accept and adapt that he couldn’t always be there for her. Being the first wife gave her the privilege to welcome and be there for all of her sister wives. The other wives concurred that the first wife was quite sweet, loving, and warm to them, especially when they first entered the Williams family.

Robyn – the second wife

Eight months after Brady’s first marriage, he acquired a nsecond wife, Roby – they had five children: Hannah, Lauren, Dane, Tommy, and Trey. Robyn was described by her husband as someone intuitive and quite sensitive, which probably had something to do with her being an artist, most of which was displayed around their home. Robyn said that she had always been a people pleaser. There was one Christmas when she made a pillow with Brady’s face on it for each of her sister wives, saying that it was something they could hold on to when it wasn’t their night to be with him. Just like Paulie, she had a hard time sharing her husband all the time with everyone, as she said, ‘There is so much of Brady that isn’t for me.’

Rosemary – the third wife

Rosemary and Brady had been married for 18 years, and had four children, namely Kimberly, Taylor, James, and Brandon. They met through Church when she was 17 years old, and immediately fell in love with him, but he wasn’t into her yet. Three years later, they were married. When they first got together, she said that she didn’t know how to cook, but Brady taught her how to prepare his favorite meals. Now, among all the wives in the family, she was referred to as the gourmet expert. If there was one question that many people asked her about her situation, it was about jealousy among the wives and their sleeping arrangements. She told them, ‘He’s there when he’s there and he’s not when he’s not, and that’s just life.’ While she was expected to understand the lifestyle better than the first two wives, because she was a daughter of a third wife in a polygamous family, she admitted that it was only after marrying that she realized how naive she was about the difficulties of polygamy.

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After her multiple pregnancies, she gained weight; after the first three children, she easily lost the unwanted pounds, but after the fourth one, she developed some health issues that prevented her from getting the extra weight off her. Rosemary constantly compared herself to the other wives, especially Paulie and Robyn whom she called Barbie and Sleeping Beauty, respectively. They were both very quiet, and she felt that she needed to be like them. She thought that if she laughed a little louder, it would make her obnoxious. For a while she lost her identity, until the time when she’d worked out what to do – the wives called it the polygamy honeymoon phase, which was when all of them tried following how the first two wives were behaving.

Nonie – the fourth wife

Nonie and Brady were married for 15 years, and had five children: Paul, Rachel, Marissa, Aiden, and Tailee. She said that doing laundry in a polygamous family was pretty much the same in other regular families – the only difference was that Brady would often end up trying to find his clothes in five different places. She was raised in a polygamous family, so already knew that she would end up in the same set-up as well. She and her sibling would constantly talk about it as they were growing up, but while her sister dreamed of being the first wife, Nonie said it didn’t matter to her because she already accepted that she would be a plural wife. Compared to the other wives, she had the most difficult transition, because she initially lived with the second wife. They had a lot to work through because there were times when Nonie felt that she had no privacy, as Robyn was around too much. However, when Robyn backed off and stayed away, Nonie felt left out and wanted to be friends with her. She also admitted that she suppressed her real personality, because the others were more reserved and she wanted to fit in. The self-confessed perfectionist wanted everything organized. She was also the worrier of the group, and would constantly wonder if they had enough money for the bills. However, while she knew how tight the budget was for their family, she still thought of having another baby.

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Rhonda – the fifth wife

Rhonda and Brady had been married for 14 years, and from the way things were in their family, she would probably be the last wife. They had four children: Eden, Lake, Arwen, and Nikolas. She wanted another baby, but only through adoption, as she’d had a couple of miscarriages already. They needed to spend thousands of dollars to make it happen, and Brady was already having difficulties managing the finances and quality time with all the other children. However, he didn’t immediately reject the idea and told her that he would thoroughly research it. She told him that they could get someone outside of the US, so it could be more affordable.

Resolving issues during a family forum

One of the reasons why Brady felt that his polygamist lifestyle was quite rare and different from the others was that they always discussed their plans during the family forum – he said that it was to encourage a culture of unity and openness among them. For instance, they exchanged views on Rhonda’s plans of adopting a child. Several concerns were raised including the fact that polygamy was still considered illegal in Utah. Someone pointed out that an investigation of the background of potential adoptive parents might put all of them in danger.

They also discussed trivial issues such as changing the way they celebrated Brady’s birthday. The wives agreed that they get to share an extra day with the husband during their birthdays. However, he and Robyn shared the same birthday, and the other wives felt shortchanged when Brady always celebrated his birthday with her every year, so they found a way to celebrate both without hurting anyone in the process. During a family forum, everyone could share and express their opinion without fear of being dismissed, whether the issue was huge or small.

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The cancelation of “My Five Wives”

In February 2015, Brady Williams along with his wives uploaded a video onto YouTube, announcing the cancelation of their show. He never gave an explanation about the reason behind it and just simply stated, ‘It turns out TLC, as great as they’ve been, has decided not to keep going with “My Five Wives.”’ He also announced that to show their appreciation of the support they’d received from fans for the two seasons the show aired on TV, they would continue with their updates through their official YouTube channel, Brady and Wives. They promised to upload videos weekly or bi-weekly, so the fans could still have fun watching them online. However, after posting 90 videos, they stopped uploading more, since the channel had only garnered about 7,000 subscribers, and the most views they’d for a video was 58,000. Most of the videos received a mediocre number of views – only a few topped 10,000.

Fans were divided as to why TLC chose not to renew the show for its third season. Some of them said that the series probably didn’t attract as many viewers compared to the original polygamy show on the network. After all, ‘business is business,’ and when the money stopped coming in, any competent network executive would soon stop filming new episodes. The others believed that it might have something to do with the claim of Brady’s third wife, Rosemary, about the alleged molestation of her her as a child, by her own father. She shared that she was 12 years old when she was fondled by her father, Lynn A. Thompson, when at that time, he was the leader of a polygamy group in Utah called Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).

When the religious organization was asked about it, spokesperson of the group David Watson, refused to answer, but shared that they were handling it internally. However, Brady doubted that there was even an investigation about it, since no one reached out to them, to interview Rosemary; he was skeptical that AUB was serious about getting to the bottom of things. When the AUB leader was asked by Associated Press about the allegation, Rosemary’s father denied it. Rosemary never had any intention of filing any criminal case against her father, and the only reason she divulged it in 2014, via a podcast, was to stop him from doing the same thing to other children. Some of the fans understood Rosemary’s decision, even if it was hard going against the second largest polygamy organization in Utah, which had close to 8,000 members back then. The revelation also now explained why Brady and his family left their former religion.

So two things are clear – no explanation for the cancellation of “My Five Wives” will be forthcoming from the network, and there seems no chance of another season being filmed.

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