by T. Mack
Netflix has quickly become a strong contender in the television wars. And with good reason. The streaming service has a format that allows for grittier, more sexy and more vulgar content than network TV at a lower cost than cable and premium networks. They currently have more platform options for viewers (though others are starting to catch up in this area). They are completely commercial-free. They allow all episodes of seasons to be immediately available to viewers. And most importantly, they make great television. Their newest show, The Ranch, takes full advantage of all these points and as a result, it is a really enjoyable time.
The Ranch brings That 70’s Show alums Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson back together. Years ago, they had great chemistry and comedic timing. They still do. As a matter of fact, the dynamic and relationship between the two is basically the same as it was on their other show. Although Kutcher’s new character, Colt, is considerably less dumb than Michael Kelso was all those years ago, he and Masterson still play off each other in much the same manner. Masterson’s character, Rooster, is immensely sarcastic and takes every opportunity to throw someone under the bus and make everyone around as uncomfortable as possible. Sound familiar? *fake cough (Hyde) fake cough* The only difference now is that the characters are brothers as opposed to just being friends and they are able to drop F-bombs when the occasion calls for it. If you liked their relationship on That 70’s Show, you’ll enjoy the slightly matured version on The Ranch. However, Kutcher and Masterson are not the only parts of the show to love.
The series is a half-hour sitcom, but the humor doesn’t come from silly situations. Instead, it stems from the relationships and dialogue between the characters. There is Colt and Rooster, who relate to each other with sarcasm and antagonism. Both brothers also have an interesting, dynamic and extremely entertaining relationship with their stoic and disapproving father, Beau, played by Sam Elliott. Their mother, Maggie (Debra Winger), is the family’s bright spot who helps hold them together, even though she doesn’t live in the same house as the men. Beau and Maggie are married and in a romantic relationship, but live in separate households, which causes a certain amount of drama. Then there’s the family ranch, which is the source of income, irritation, and contention for the family. On top of all that is Colt’s immature approach to romance, which fuels his interaction with his ex-girlfriend and a new friend-with-benefits who may or may not be classified as a girlfriend. The dynamic between all these characters, the easy banter they spew, the affection that clearly underlies everything, as well as quality performances from the entire cast all work together to make the show funny and endearing without being ridiculous.
All that being said, I must also advise that the show is not necessarily perfect. The laugh track can be quite distracting, especially during the pilot where it’s particularly heavy-handed. The first couple of episodes stagger a bit as the series tries to find its footing. And like any sitcom, the humor is usually less than sophisticated. However, the good largely outweighs the bad with this one. The series offers a great balance between fun and family drama. The characters are likable, down-to-earth and real, as are the situations in which they find themselves. The humor and heart of the show pull viewers in and keep them around to finish the season strong.
When I got to the end of the season, I didn’t actually realize I had hit the limit. I was so wrapped up in the show that I’d forgotten to count episodes. I have to admit I became a little distraught that I wasn’t able to hit the precious red button for the next episode. I’m already looking forward to the second season, which I’m praying the show will receive. It deserves it. This is a quality show with lots of laughs, a whole bunch of heart and good characters that viewers can easily come to care about. Also, I really, really want to know what happens following *Spoiler’s spoilery spoiler* at the end of episode 10.
I highly recommend checking out The Ranch sooner rather than later. It’s not perfect and it’s not a show I can’t live without (a distinction given to such gems as Firefly, Doctor Who, and Sherlock). But it is a show that I’m happy to have. It’s fun and funny, entertaining and heartwarming. I suggest you give it a shot.
Rating: 4 SHIELDS
Take to the comments! Did you watch Kutcher and Masterson back in the day on That 70’s Show? Will you check them out in The Ranch? If you’ve watched the show, what do you think? What’s your favorite Netflix Original Series?