Netflix has made its name in original content by being bold, and providing the kind of series that can’t be found elsewhere. At least, that used to be true. Ever since the Fuller House reboot, I’ve been less sure. Netflix stalwarts House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Marvel series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and new series like Master of None have set a bar of quality on the streaming giant. And yet, with Fuller House — and now The Ranch — Netflix seems to be branching out into more well-trod territory of a 3-camera sitcom setup, laugh tracks, and broad humor that is only distinguished from its spiritual CBS counterparts through swearing.
Sure, Netflix is being experimental (and CBS isn’t a bad economic model to base things on, even though their audience is an aging one), but is going back to the past the right direction? Since Netflix doesn’t release any viewership data we’ll never know, and their quick renewal of Fuller House seems to suggest there’s some kind of viewership growth there.
But let’s talk now about The Ranch which, personally, feels like a missed opportunity for a great series. I mean, you have Sam Elliot and Debra Winger on hand — don’t waste them! Those two play the parents to Ashton Kutcher’s failed semi-pro football player character, who starts up a business with his brother (played by former That ‘70s Show compatriot Danny Masterson). Check out the trailer below:
So … about that laugh track. Like Fuller House, I’m not entirely sure who the audience is the show is looking to appeal to, but the laugh track feels alienating to younger viewers (am I wrong? I can’t stand it, personally). The jokes also seem to hinge on tired tropes, and for everyone else, being free to say the word shit. How revolutionary! And I get it, it’s a comedy — but there are a lot of great comedies out now (Catastrophe on Amazon, Man Seeking Woman on FXX, even — and especially — broadcast series like ABC’s black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat) that are finding new ground and are also very, very funny. One would assume Netflix would be going more in that direction, but apparently not.
Still, the cast is good, and maybe there’s more to the show that the trailer doesn’t yet betray (I would have preferred this to be a dramatic movie, honestly). We’ll have a review up closer to the premiere, but in the meantime, what do you guys think from this sneak peak?
The full 10 episode season of The Ranch will premiere Friday, April 1st on Netflix.
Here’s the official synopsis:
Set in present day on a Colorado ranch, this multi-camera comedy series stars Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Sam Elliott and Debra Winger. The show follows Colt’s (Kutcher) return home after a brief and failed semi- pro football career to run the family ranching business with his older brother Jameson “Rooster” (Masterson) and father Beau (Elliott), whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Winger stars as Colt’s and Rooster’s mother, Maggie, who runs the local town bar.