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A large family poses in front of a house in this image from Figure 8 Films.
The Brown family has seen ups and downs throughout the 18 seasons of “Sister Wives,” but there’s been too much trauma lately for the show to continue. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

Since its premiere on TLC in 2010, “Sister Wives” has chronicled the polygamist Brown family, which, at its most robust, included one husband, four wives, and 18 children. Kody Brown spiritually married his fourth wife, Robyn Brown, in Season 1, and for a few seasons the abnormally large and bizarrely structured clan seemed fairly functional — even charming in their quaint views of the importance of family. Audiences, perhaps surprisingly, were able to relate to their everyday struggles.

But as the series rolled on, the cracks became more evident. Kody’s first wife, Meri Brown, had an online affair. Then Kody insisted on a move from Las Vegas to Arizona that nobody else wanted. A few years later, COVID-19 hit, which caused major rifts between Kody and his children, who held very different protocol beliefs during the pandemic. Kody's third wife, Christine Brown, then decided to leave the marriage and second wife Janelle Brown later did too. In Season 18, which aired in 2023, Meri abandoned the relationship as well, leaving Kody married only to Robyn.

As traumatic as all of that was for the group, none of it compared to what happened earlier this year: On March 5, not long after “Sister Wives” finished airing its 18th season, 25-year-old Garrison Brown died by suicide. Garrison was the oldest son of Kody and Janelle, and, as chronicled on the show, had been estranged from his father for a few years.

In light of the heartbreaking tragedy and the toxicity infecting the series, it’s time for “Sister Wives” to come to an end. The Brown family has been through enough, and their lives only stand to improve by eliminating — or at least refocusing — the cameras.

Kody Brown Should Mourn and Seek Family Forgiveness Privately

A man and woman yell at each other in this image from Figure 8 Films.
Kody, seen here fighting with Janelle, became angrier as the seasons of “Sister Wives” wore on. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

Losing a child is difficult to process. The fact that Kody and his son were estranged at the time of Garrison’s death makes it all the worse. It’s hard to imagine Kody or the rest of the family getting to grieve properly with television cameras following them around. They deserve privacy at this point in their lives.

Since Garrison wasn’t the only offspring Kody was estranged from, he should also use this time to make things right with his older kids instead of starring in a reality TV show. As a key parent in the family and the clan’s self-proclaimed patriarch, Kody should focus on rebuilding trust with his older children privately. Ridding their lives of TV cameras may help restore the kids’ confidence in their father’s intentions.

The privacy may not only facilitate some forgiveness between him and his children, but Kody also needs — and deserves — to forgive himself. As family members and the public alike question what he could have done to prevent the tragic loss, he needs to reckon with his guilt. The cameras seem to highlight the worst version of Kody. TLC canceling “Sister Wives” and Kody removing himself from a situation in which he’s typically cast as the villain would increase the chances of forgiveness by all.

The Young Brown Children Deserve Privacy

Children holding bouquets walk in a procession in this image from Figure 8 Films.
The younger Brown children have experienced all their major life events on camera. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

The younger Brown children have never known a life that wasn’t broadcast as a storyline on a reality TV show. They deserve to see what life is like off camera, away from intrusive producers and the prying eyes of millions of strangers who dissect their every move on social media. The older kids, who can remember a time before their family was tabloid fodder, have been able to make conscious choices about how publicly they want to live their lives. Some chose to live in as much obscurity as possible, hence their estrangement from Kody.

The younger children not only had no choice, but they also wouldn’t know enough about real life to make an informed choice even if they could. As minors, their parents have given consent for their lives to play out on camera and taken away the kids’ agency. Is that fair to the children? No. They deserve a more normal childhood during these formative years, especially in light of all the recent upheaval in the family. TLC ending “Sister Wives” can give it to them.

The Browns’ Shady Businesses Don’t Deserve a Platform

Four women smile and pose in this image from Figure 8 Films.
The Brown women have all represented controversial MLMs like LuLaRoe. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

Polygamy aside, the Browns are far from ethical role models. The five Brown parents — Kody and all four of his wives — have been involved in disreputable multilevel marketing schemes, most notably LuLaRoe, a clothing company made infamous for targeting fundamentalist women, and Plexus, a weight-loss company. The Browns have all used their celebrity to make sales and recruit customers to become employees under them in a controversial pyramid scheme.

“Sister Wives” has given that type of shady work a platform, helping dupe unsuspecting consumers. The Browns may have had good business intentions at the start, but there’s now enough awareness about the predatory nature of MLMs that all of the Browns should distance themselves from these disreputable companies. Christine, to her credit, has already cut ties with LuLaRoe. Now it’s time for TLC to stop giving them a televised platform.

The Browns Have Made a Difference, and There’s Little Else to Accomplish

A group in formal clothes poses in front of a house in this image from Figure 8 Films.
In happier times, the Browns held a commitment ceremony for the whole family. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

The Brown family’s purported purpose for going public about their unconventional family via “Sister Wives” was to promote acceptance of polygamy, and they accomplished that in the early seasons. We saw them having relationship problems just like the rest of us monogamists, and they have opened people’s minds to different types of families. With that mission accomplished — and the family now falling apart — it’s time for TLC to wrap it up.

Further spotlight on the Browns’ family dysfunction will not equate to increased contributions to society or help the group as they go through major life changes. The Brown family no longer has anything to gain by continuing to live their lives publicly — at least not in a way that protects them against further divisiveness. Unless Kody was removed from the mix.

It’s Time for a Christine-and-Janelle Spinoff Instead

Two women smile in this image from Figure 8 Films.
Janelle and Christine were sister wives for decades, and finally became best friends too. (Image: Figure 8 Films)

TLC should cancel “Sister Wives” due to how toxic it has become, but an alternative to ending the program entirely would be to greenlight a spinoff focused on just Christine and Janelle, the second and third wives who recently divorced Kody and, in the process, became even closer to each other. Watching a true friendship develop between them after all these years was the only redeeming thing we’ve seen over the past few seasons of “Sister Wives.”

A healthier version of a “Sister Wives” reality TV series may show these women reclaiming their independence and setting examples for polygamist and non-polygamist women nationwide, and their children wouldn’t need to play major (or any!) roles. Their sister-wives bond endures even without Kody, and that’s worth showcasing. The same can’t be said for “Sister Wives,” which has strayed so far from its original premise.

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