Here we are, at the tenth and final round of sharing our favorite TV shows, across times and genres. We have compiled a fantastic go-to list when we are on the lookout for excellent TV viewing. Thank you, Max, and every blogger who has participated in it, for carrying on where Hans (and Kirk) left off.
(2018-2022) 4 seasons, 40 episodes, originally on Paramount channel
And now I present to you my final choice for the draft, Yellowstone. Did I save the best for last? Perhaps. I loved watching Westerns as a kid, but it has been a struggle to find modern day TV shows that measure up to the old gold. Yellowstone not only measures up, but it takes the viewer so far beyond the simplistic plots of the old shows. It looks at the past, present, and future of grazing cattle along vast swaths of land out west that used to be free and traveled by countless indigenous tribes who relied on the American bison for just about everything. It shows how an almost certainly more menacing threat than ranchers and their cattle is challenging the land: developers who want to build casinos, high end housing, and strip malls across the terrain and who know how to play just as dirty as the ranchers did when they took it from the tribes.
I’ve lived in Michigan all of my life and have traveled out west only a couple of times and then only by plane. I have no idea how accurate all of the positions being portrayed from all of the angles are in the series, but I do know that Taylor Sheridan, whose brainchild Yellowstone is, has a reputation for doing his research and also has lived experiences that lend authenticity to them.
Director: 8 different directors, with Taylor Sheridan and Stephen Kay directing the most, with 11 each. Writing credits go mostly to Taylor Sheridan and John Linson who are credited on all 39 episodes; four others have credits on a few of the episodes.
Genres: Western, drama
Synopsis: The plot of Yellowstone (the name of the fictional ranch of the show) revolves around three major forces that are in varying states of conflict with each other. The central focus is upon the property of the John Dutton Family, a working cattle ranch with thousands (forgot exactly how many) of acres they own. They have a bunkhouse where the ranch hands live year-round as well as a separate cabin for the head ranch boss. John Dutton is the patriarch and has 4 children as the series opens. His wife died when the kids were young. Each of his children are employed in the business of keeping the ranch operating. The second major force is the Indigenous tribe that is working hard to find a way to get some of the Dutton property back in the hands of the tribe, or at minimum put a casino up in the area. The third major force are various developers from here and there that see the area as a goldmine for developing houses for the wealthy, rich strip malls, and yes, casinos and an airport to bring the customers in and out.
Within each of these arenas are a cast of characters that come and go (especially with the developers.) How these groups strategize and work at various times for, against, and with each other is what keeps the plot ever-fresh and exciting. Also explored are the ways the groups strategize within themselves, particularly with the Dutton family.
The Dutton Family
John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is the patriarch of the family and the owner of the Yellowstone Ranch. His wife died when the kids were younger and he’s never remarried. A closer statement might be to say he’s always been married to the ranch and always will be. John is a strong silent type but he speaks when he needs to. He is an expert at delegating power, but he always has the last say. He loves all of his children; some might say how well each serves the ranch determines how much he loves each.
Lee Dutton (Dave Annable) is the oldest Dutton son and is in line to take over for his dad when the time comes. He’s John’s right-hand man and the most like his father in his passion for Yellowstone and getting his hands calloused out on the range.
Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) is the family attorney and has political aspirations. Jamie wears nice suits and seems different than the rest of the family. He’s hard-working and an excellent protector of the family’s legal interests. His sister hates him and his dad seems to be perpetually disappointed in him, no matter what he does.
Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) lives far away in some big city when the story opens. Her profession involves corporate takeovers and acquisitions and she is very well-paid for it. She’s as close as a human piranha as it is possible to be without having scales. She does her homework and is a consummate strategist; when a company is in her sights, it’s a done deal. Beth also raises the bar for verbal viciousness; not anybody you’d want to get on the wrong side of in a conversation or a business deal. Beth eats men like most people eat popcorn. Beth has an abiding hatred for her brother, Jamie, and she has a soft spot for Ranch Boss, Rip.
Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) is the baby of the family. Kayce saw active duty in Iraq and came back a changed man. Kayce fell in love with and married Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and they had a baby, Tate (Brecken Merrill,) who is about 8-10 years old when the story opens. Kayce wants nothing to do with his family, the ranch, and all of the trappings of success that brings. As the series begins, Kayce lives on the reservation with Monica and Tate with Monica’s grandfather (sorry, forgot his name.)
Yellowstone Ranch Cowboys
Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) has worked at Yellowstone since he wandered in as an angry delinquent teenager. Yellowstone is his life. Rip is the boss of all of the cowboys (regardless of gender!) who live in the bunkhouse. He gets to live in his own plush cabin as a perk for the position. Rip has John’s unwavering trust. Rip also has the respect of his underlings as he never asks them to do anything he isn’t ready, willing, and able to do. Rip does not suffer fools lightly. Rip has a (mutual) soft spot for Beth.
Lloyd (Forrie J. Smith) is the top cowboy in the bunkhouse. Lloyd’s grizzled, seasoned, and often gets the responsibility of breaking the new guys in. Lloyd’s been all over the place as a cowboy but he’s been at Yellowstone for quite awhile.
Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) comes to the ranch as a favor to Jimmy’s grandpa and has been living a rough and criminal lifestyle up until that point. Jimmy knows nothing about being a cowboy and doesn’t seem real interested in learning about how to become one, at least at first.
Colby (Denim Richards) and Ryan (Ian Bohen,) are two of the cowboys that are stable, good at what they do, and who keep the ranch rolling along. Others come and go and are more problematic in one way or another, such as Walker (Ryan Bingham) and Teeter (Jen Landon.)
Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is the Chief of the Tribe. He’s a wonderful leader who genuinely has the good of the Tribal Members at heart. He is up against formidable forces, including the Dutton Clan who has land deeds that aren’t easily gotten around to the land that was stolen from Tribal use back in John’s father’s time. Chief Rainwater also has to contend with the rolling cavalcade of slimy developers that sleaze in and try to wheedle deals with him that will only benefit the developers when all is said and done.
Mo Brings Plenty (Mo Brings Plenty) is Chief Rainwater’s right-hand man. Mo is both trained security but also one the Chief depends on to get things done that call for finesse.
Ben Waters (Atticus Todd) is the tribal law enforcement deputy that investigates crimes that happen on the reservation. We learn that many crimes are brought out to the “res” when they don’t want people looking too closely. Ben and his force are spread thin and there is a feeling it is intentional by unnamed institutions off of the reservation.
Felix Long (Rudy Ramos) was Chief before Thomas Rainwater became Chief. He’s still in the picture with the tribal decisions but his ways are different than the new Chief.
As I said before the developers come and go and they are always interesting; yet they all want the same thing: to take the land and exploit it for human use and to line their pockets.
Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston)
Roarke (Josh Holloway)
A.G. Steward (Timothy Carhart)
Bob Schwartz (Michael Nouri)
Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough)
Teal Beck (Terry Serpico)
Torry (Wole Parks)
Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver)
Willa Hayes (Karen Pittman)
Assorted Other Players – pawns on the chess board
Governor Perry (Wendy Moniz)
Sheriff Donnie Haskell (Hugh Dillon)
Travis (Taylor Sheridan)
Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo)
Impressions: I love the way this series is put together. It’s a show where a lot of different perspectives and philosophies about land use are presented, with arguments both for and against for pretty much all of them. The show leaves it to each individual to decide for themselves how they feel about any of the topics. I am left with a feeling that I’ve been better educated about the situations regardless if my position has moved or not. The setting in such a vast wide open space with an endless sky above is probably the main character in this series. I love seeing it even if it’s only on a tv screen. It makes me want to protect its beauty. I like watching ranching up close. The cattle, the horses, and the camaraderie of the bunkhouse when the work day is done.
The characters in Yellowstone are larger than life and how they interact with each other draws me in. By the end of the 4th season, I have to admit I care about each one of them. I’m not sure if there will be a 5th season, but I do know if they build it, I will watch. Taylor Sheridan has my respect for bringing his vision to reality and so do each of the actors that make it jump off the screen.
Warnings: there are quite a few episodes where guns are used. There are some scenes of cattle being branded and horses being broken that might upset some people. There are some scenes of men fighting and maybe some of the women fighting (can’t remember.) There are situations of implied violence. There are some scenes of sexual interaction between men and women and some mild nudity.
Etc.: filmed in Montana and Utah. The Chief Joseph Ranch serves as the John Dutton home.
Awards: 5 wins and 17 nominations
The first clip is a tender-hearted highlights reel:
The next one has a little more action:
And finally, one of my favorite scenes in the whole series:
Originally published on Max’ PowerPopBlog