More ‘Love’ in the air at HBO

HBO is extending its commitment to the plural-marriage drama “Big Love,” picking up a second season of the show for next year.

The series, about a Utah polygamist (Bill Paxton) and his three wives, will go back into production in August. The new season will debut sometime next year.

“‘Big Love’ is a unique and remarkable series,” says Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment. “The second season will offer more of the terrific storytelling that has gripped critics and subscribers this year.”

The show has drawn the usual array of critical acclaim for its portrayal of a polygamist family and the strife that the rather unique arrangement creates. It’s also drawn criticism from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is trying to distance itself from the practice of polygamy (it outlawed plural marriage in 1890), and from advocacy groups who fear “Big Love” glosses over the way women and children are sometimes treated in plural marriages.

Paired with “The Sopranos” on Sunday nights, “Big Love” has drawn respectable ratings. About 3.9 million people watch the show in its premiere slot, which is a sizable drop from its lead-in (“The Sopranos” averages better than 8 million viewers) but as good or better than most other HBO series have fared lately.

The ratings number also doesn’t reflect viewing of the show’s multiple repeats during the week or on-demand buys.

Fox extends ‘That ’70s Show’ farewell

Fox has decided that an hour isn’t quite enough time to bid farewell to one of its longest-running shows.

So a week before “That ’70s Show” ends its eight-season run with an hour-long finale, the network will look back at the show that introduced a number of viewers to a decade they were too young to have experienced firsthand.

“That ’70s Show: The Final Goodbye” is scheduled to air May 11, at the rather odd starting time of 8:37 p.m. EDT (a seven-minute preview of the movie “X-Men: The Last Stand” airs at 8:30 that night). The almost 90-minute retrospective will take a look at the show’s evolution over eight seasons and feature a multitude of clips from its history.

The clip show will include outtakes from memorable episodes and previously unseen footage that didn’t make final cut, as well as a look at the final week of production on the series, which debuted in the fall of 1998. It will also include interviews with members of the cast and crew, along with past guest stars like Luke Wilson, Brooke Shields and Bruce Willis.

“That ’70s Show” is one of the longest-running scripted shows currently on Fox – trailing only “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” It’s also lasted longer than all but three other comedies in the network’s history: the two aforementioned animated shows and “Married … with Children.” The finale will be the show’s 200th episode.