‘Sister Wives’ Producers Reveal the Origins of the TLC Show and Why They Chose the Brown Family

The Production team, Puddle Monkey, is responsible for the super popular TLC show docu-series Sister Wives, which is currently filming its 18th season. In 2010, the Browns were just an average plural family quietly living in Utah who opened their lives to the scrutiny of the public through the lens of their TLC show. Let’s look at Sister Wives’ origins and why the production company chose the Brown family out of the other families living “plural marriage.”

'Sister Wives' season 1 screenshot of Robyn, Meri, Kody, Christine, and Janelle Brown.
‘Sister Wives’ Robyn, Meri, Kody, Christine, and Janelle Brown | TLC/YouTube

How the concept of ‘Sister Wives’ began

The production company, Puddle Monkey, who is responsible for the creation of Sister Wives, revealed they came up with the concept of the show on their website. In 2009, the founder Tim Gibbons came up with the idea of “developing a TV series about a polygamist family living in Utah.”

Tim has worked in TV for decades and spent a lot of time around polygamist men in women in the US and worldwide. “The idea grew that there was a much more complicated and compelling story than what was being reported by the national media,” the website explained. The show aimed to “create a window into a lifestyle and faith that had never been truly documented before.”

Tim Gibbons met Kody through a group for polygamists

After coming up with the concept of Sister Wives, Tim Gibbons’ first step was to find families in the fundamentalist Mormon community. “He started by contacting Anne Wilde at Principal Voices — an informal, nondenominational Fundamentalist Mormon media relations organization. Meeting Anne at her home, Tim outlined his vision of a reality series focused solely on the everyday struggles of a typical polygamist family,” the Puddle Monkey website reads.

The production company told Annie the point of Sister Wives wasn’t “to create a debate on whether polygamy was right or wrong but rather to simply document a polygamist family and let the viewers decide for themselves what they thought of the lifestyle.” Tim told Anne there “would be no experts who would comment on the show, nor would there be opposing viewpoints explored.

They wrote, “It would be produced in the same genre as the highly successful, large family shows seen on TLC and other networks. Tim reinforced that the primary goal was to intimately document the daily lives of one family.”

Why were the Browns chosen over other polygamous families

As it turned out, Anne Wilde liked the idea and even suggested a few polygamous families.
So why were the Browns picked instead of the other families? It all changed when Tim stumbled upon a 2-minute BBC news story that was produced about the Brown family. He knew immediately they were the ones to be documented.

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Tim asked Anne to ask the Browns if they’d be interested in filming. “A month later, Tim talked to Kody Brown, and over the course of several months, Tim gained the trust of the Brown family. And in the summer of 2009, Tim produced an 11-minute teaser reel documenting the Brown family’s complicated but generally happy life,” the production company explained.

The production company felt like they struck gold with the Brown family as Sister Wives success began to grow. “7 episodes aired, and viewers across the country were astounded to see three intelligent and independent women all married to an unexpectedly charming polygamist man. It blew the doors off the stereotypes that America had been led to believe about this lifestyle, and the series was a critical success before even the first episode aired.”

In 2009, Puddle Monkey took the footage and turned it into a teaser reel to pitch Sister Wives to Figure 8 Films. Bill Hayes and Kirk Streb, Executive Producers of successful TLC reality shows such as Jon and Kate Plus 8, signed the deal, and the ground-breaking Sister Wives began production.

Even 17 seasons later, Sister Wives is still relevant. Christine Brown divorced Kody, Janelle announced their separation, and Kody finally went public about his divorce from Meri Brown. Suddenly, Sister Wives is about Kody’s monogamous marriage with his fourth wife, Robyn Brown. With three of his wives gone, the whole concept of the show is threatened, but ratings are higher than ever.

New episodes of Sister Wives Season 17 air Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.