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Huntsman has little love for TV polygamy

Published: Friday, March 31 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday that after watching one episode of "Big Love," the racy new HBO series about polygamists in Utah, he didn't believe it would have any impact on the state's image.

He offered his assessment of the controversial cable-television program just a week before the Governor's Office of Economic Development is scheduled to formally unveil the latest slogan that will be used to sell the state, "Life Elevated."

Huntsman, who made his comments during a taping of his monthly press conference that airs on KUED Channel 7, declared "Big Love," which focuses on a Sandy polygamist with three wives, "relatively content-less. I was not impressed."

Later he described "Big Love" as simply pointless and said he would not be watching any more of the series. The governor said the first lady, Mary Kaye Huntsman, has seen at least one episode of the program but he doubted she'd watch any more of it.

"It is what it is. Hollywood tends to rely on extremes," Huntsman said. "That's what sells."

The governor said he'd like to think Utah "is doing a pretty good job of selling itself right now" to the business world as well as to tourists. "We're on a very strong roll here," Huntsman said.

Asked if he thought economic development prospects were paying attention to "Big Love," the governor acknowledged that, "they might be. But I'm not sure too many people are swayed by whatever message it's trying to purport. I haven't figured out that for myself."

The state is not unique in reacting to how it is portrayed in the series, Huntsman said.

A former diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore, he said, "I don't think I've lived anywhere where the local population hasn't somehow felt some level of sensitivity about the way either a country or the world sees them. I don't think that's altogether unusual or atypical."

Asked about Las Vegas promoting what might be seen as a negative image in its current campaign, "What happens here, stays here," the governor laughed and suggested in Utah, "What happens here can be shared with the rest of the world."

Utah's new slogan, "Life elevated," is one that Huntsman said he really likes. "I think it's awesome. I really do," the governor said. "There's something very powerful about 'Life Elevated.' "

The slogan will be the focus of a $21 million advertising campaign over the next two years. State officials had first selected "Seek Higher Ground" as a slogan, but decided it was too close to the Colorado Ski Association's, "Enter a Higher State."

It replaces, "Utah! Where Ideas Connect" from 2001 as the state brand. The better-known slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth," that appears on license plates will continue to be used to promote Utah's ski industry.

Huntsman said some may not like the new slogan initially, but he predicted that "people will be very comfortable and pleased with the overall environment that this slogan creates over time."


E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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