Is “Sister Wives” (8 p.m. Sunday) the “Hogan’s Heroes” of the 21st century?
Let me explain. In the 1960s, CBS broadcast a sitcom called “Hogan’s Heroes” that was set in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. It defied history and good taste in offering a goofy spin on “The Great Escape,” where the clever POWs engaged in endless shenanigans and their German guards remained hapless and often kindhearted. “Hogan’s Heroes” was enormously popular and ran for six seasons.
The mid-1960s was the golden age of absurd, escapist TV comedies that took everyday assumptions and anxieties about current events and turned them on their heads. White Southern sheriffs may have been the heavies of the civil rights era, but not on “The Andy Griffith Show.” None of the Marines on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” ever went to Vietnam. And who needed a War on Poverty after the starving Appalachian Clampetts became “The Beverly Hillbillies”?
Generally speaking, when fundamentalist polygamous sects make the news, it’s not a good thing. Too many stories have emerged about fugitive compounds run by violent patriarchs who marry off 14-year-old girls to their cronies. (It should be noted that the contemporary Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890 and denounces “fundamentalists.” Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states.)
Now entering its third season, “Sister Wives” portrays polygamous patriarch Kody Brown as a pleasant if overwhelmed guy with the gee-shucks demeanor of a daytime talk show host. His four wives even assemble on a common couch to complain and kid one another, just like those gals on “The View.”
Despite this whitewashed treatment, a creepy, cult-like vibe permeates the series.
Sunday’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Drone warfare; a Turkish cleric’s influence on charter schools; Gary Sinise’s charity efforts.
• Marge hosts a celebration for Ned and Edna on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A mysterious hound haunts the moors on “Sherlock” on “Masterpiece Mystery!” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
• Get ready for a world without new episodes of “Desperate Housewives” (8 p.m., ABC), which concludes tonight after eight seasons.