By Anubhuti Kumar, Staff Writer
Though Netflix’s latest original series opens with ample references to Shania Twain lyrics, “That don’t impress me much,” those are not the words anybody would use to describe “The Ranch.” Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, last seen together in “That 70s Show,” star in this refreshing spin on a typical multi-camera sitcom set-up, complete with laugh tracks and entertaining family dynamics.
Created by Jim Patterson and Don Reo of “Two and a Half Men” fame, “The Ranch” flips many of the conventions of the family sitcom — one of them being that it’s not very family-friendly. The plot focuses on a ranch run by the slightly crotchety, slightly warm-hearted patriarch Beau (Sam Elliot) and his eldest son Rooster, who never left home so that he could help his dad in the family business. Beau and his wife Maggie (Debra Winger) have been separated for ten years, but considering how much time they spend together it’s seems more likely they are headed for reconciliation rather than divorce. Maggie runs the local bar where the small town seems to spend too much time consuming a bit too much alcohol.
The story begins with character Colt (played by Kutcher), the legendary football star of the town, coming back from playing for a semi-professional team but deciding to help his father and brother on the ranch, since his father is struggling to keep things afloat in the midst of financial trouble. When the family reunites, the sons cannot grow beyond their frat boy days. With the help of their stubborn and often temperamental father and kind-of-hippie and very honest mother, reality sets in. Personalities clash, ringing with cussing and accidental bullets through windows and television.
This depiction of a die-hard-Republican, gun-toting family in small-town Colorado where everyone shares the same values, where everyone has known each other since the first day of kindergarten, and where high-school sweethearts might turn out to be life-long soul mates brings to television red-blooded American characters. The show is filled with topical political jokes in a time where the Trump campaign makes the conservative wing of politics look like a joke (or more accurately, a nightmare). “The Ranch” goes in the opposite direction of most liberal-leaning Hollywood television without being preachy but without shying away from controversial topics. One of the main storylines follows Colt dating a girl much too young for him while his brother Rooster is dating her mom.
Even as a Democrat in an apartment in Manhattan, this all-American small town family dynamic is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The laughtrack playing as f-bombs are dropped is refreshing even as it is slightly odd, and the ten episodes released on Netflix fly by and leave you waiting for part two of the 20-episode comedy. “The Ranch” views the often-parodied archetype through a different lens, without sacrificing their joke-a-minute pace, revealing more complex and interesting people from which audiences will not be able to turn away.