The Daily Telegraph

A demoralisi­ng peek at polygamy in action

- Michael Hogan

God, we are encouraged to believe, moves in mysterious ways. None is quite so mysterious as the permission He apparently extends to the Mormon fundamenta­lists encountere­d in Three Wives, One Husband (Channel 4). Meet Enoch Foster of Rockland Range, a remote community of committed polygamist­s in Utah. He’s got 16 nippers – his two wives take turns getting pregnant – and now he’s courting the nanny.

“Sometimes God just throws these curveballs atcha,” mused Enoch, a tall lean man with a long centre-parted forelock. But does He really? The Mormon credo is that polygamy forges a righteous path to heaven’s top table. From this distance it looks like a free ticket to the male holy grail of sex on tap with multiple partners. The men don’t even seem to do much housework.

The women get a raw deal. Marina was the third wife of Abel Morrison and carrying his 12th child. She was clearly very depressed at an arrangemen­t in which she got a 33 per cent of her husband’s time and suffered from a competitiv­e anxiety she couldn’t quell. In this warped code of ethics, she couldn’t kiss Abel till they married. “That’s not appropriat­e when he has two other wives,” she parroted.

This demoralisi­ng peek at polygamy in action afforded the chance to gawp at otherwise ordinary Americans collective­ly brainwashi­ng themselves. The women seemed aware of the human cost of their demanding beliefs, but then they’d say something mind-bendingly irrational. “I would way rather have a piece of a good man,” reasoned Lilian, “than a whole man who wasn’t as good.”

The men seemed like creeps who got the cream. “Life would be easier with one wife,” explained Abel, “but that’s not what I wanted.” He and Enoch needed to be more rigorously interrogat­ed about their phallocrat­ic credo. How would they feel, say, if their wives wanted another husband?

And then there were the children, whole cute swarms of them. Enoch held a family counsel to discuss his next marriage. The kids voted in favour, apart from a little boy snuggling up to his birth mother. “Do you want Lydia to be your mum?” asked his father. He shyly shook his head. Then stuck up his hand. Gotcha.

The Red Nose African Convoy (BBC One) followed six celebritie­s braving one of the world’s most dangerous roads to lead a Comic Relief convoy delivering vital supplies to East Africa. Comedians David Baddiel, Hugh Dennis and Russell Kane, actresses Michaela Coel and Katy Brand, and presenter Reggie Yates drove 450 miles from Kenya to Uganda to show how our donations make a difference, by putting lifesaving equipment right into the hands of those who need it most.

They saw babies being delivered in Africa’s largest urban slum, met sex workers at a treacherou­s truck-stop and watched an 18-month-old boy get his HIV diagnosis. Much of their journey was along the infamous Northern Corridor, dubbed “The Devil’s Highway”, which claimed 3,000 fatalities last year alone. There were cockle-warming moments and inspiratio­nal locals, including Ugandan schoolteac­her Jean-Charles and orphaned 12-year-old Susan, who is bringing up her four siblings single-handed.

The celebritie­s were engaging company with the exception of hyperactiv­e Kane, who recalled an irritating adolescent on a long car journey. He dropped phrases such as “empowered” and “emotionall­y literate” with a straight face, and had a tendency to make everything about him. Still, Yates showed why he’s become an acclaimed maker of “yoof ” documentar­ies, while Coel and Brand were warmly empathetic. Baddiel and Dennis became a bickering double act, like two corny joke-cracking middleaged dads on a mini-break.

This was invaluable work, no doubt. The intrepid half-dozen’s efforts were wholeheart­ed, their motives pure. However, it didn’t make terribly good television. Too much time was spent sitting in cars, chatting on walkietalk­ies, like a low-banter Top Gear challenge. Their trip, although arduous, was free of dramatic incident – bar the odd misread map or malfunctio­ning windscreen wiper.

This film should have been split into bite-sized chunks on tonight’s main telethon, rather than a prime-time hour on its own. Having said that, do give generously if you can.

Three Wives, One Husband ★★★★ The Red Nose African Convoy ★★

 ??  ?? A way of life: the Foster family welcome their 17th child in ‘Three Wives, One Husband’
A way of life: the Foster family welcome their 17th child in ‘Three Wives, One Husband’

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