A good cowboy barbecue can change anyone’s perspective. Even if you’re a casual Taylor Sheridan fan Yellowstone universe of shows on the Paramount Network, you’ll know that its brand of cattle wrangling, whiskey tasting and bull riding has taken the country by storm to become the most-watched show on cable television. Of course, it helped that the series about a family sitting on generations of wealth also featured enough violence to make Kevin Costner’s John Dutton look like Montana’s Tony Soprano.
But something happened to Sheridan’s work as it spanned more TV series. There are king of tulsa with Sylvester Stallone, Mayor of Kingstown with Jeremy Renner, and Yellowstone spin off 1883 and 1923. With each new line on Sheridan’s IMDB page, Yellowstone—the flagship series that kick-started this empire has begun to fall behind schedule. In Yellowstone, we saw the occasional cowboy part. Actor Luke Grimes has bought plenty of time on B-roll to stream his new country song. Our favorite characters have regressed into their soapiest caricatures. Meanwhile, at the end of 1923‘s third episode – an otherwise innocuous sequel to Yellowstone‘s prequel-spinoff train – a surprise attack by the series villain resulted in a major death and a serious cliffhanger for Harrison Ford’s Jacob Dutton. Over the past two years, the slowdown Yellowstone down might have redirected much-needed attention to spinoffs like 1923. But like Yellowstone prepares for franchise eternity, will her disgruntled fans continue to follow Sheridan through Paradise Valley?
Just a quick glance at fan response to Yellowstone Season five, even enthusiasts are unhappy with the direction of the show. “The show continues its slide into a low-level melodrama soap opera,” a fan wrote on Rotten Tomatoes. “Taylor…you’re too stretched.” The current season has a viewership score of 30%, the lowest of the series, a significant drop from season four’s 79%, and a steep drop from season two’s peak of 91%. “Did the writers run out of material?” read another comment. “Characters say the same old things…do the same old things…become incredibly predictable. We love Yellowstone, but those first two hours were DRY. Ouch. Meanwhile, critics are in love with 1923. “Amazing show, finally some great content,” wrote one Rotten Tomatoes user. “The best TV has to offer,” joked another. Of course, review bombardment has plagued sites like Rotten Tomatoes for years now — and Yellowstone loyalists say what they think, to say the least. But there seems to be some truth in the critical barrage.
So why is it 1923 succeed where Yellowstone is not it? Good, 1923 not only stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, but it continues the Dutton family’s fight through a more exciting time in American history. Yellowstone, still around today, has been working mostly with the same familiar actors and threats for five seasons. An evil hedge fund named Market Equities wants to turn John Dutton’s ranch into an airport, Thomas Rainwater wants to reclaim the land for the reservation, and outcast son Jamie Dutton will do whatever it takes to exact revenge on the father who doesn’t know. never showed him any sign of love. Yellowstone may have been an engrossing soap opera when the parties involved were also actively trying to kill each other, but now we’re at a mysterious stalemate.
Don’t count out Sheridan, though. It is still possible that the beginnings of this summer of Yellowstone Season five, part two will prove that the last eight episodes were just the eye of the storm. Until then, it looks like Sheridan is having a lot more fun with his other projects. 1923 has already confirmed a second season. The gritty drama of prison, Mayor of Kingstown, just launched season 2. And the next one Lioness will star Nicole Kidman, Morgan Freeman and Zoe Saldana as CIA undercover agents.
Sheridan may have started out on a ranch in Montana, but the most overworked TV screenwriter in the business is certainly stretching his legs now. Hell, this all sounds way more fun than the current Yellowstone plotting a bacterial disease that threatens John Dutton’s cattle. Season four even sent one of the show’s characters, Jimmy, to the 6666 Ranch in Texas, which has long been the location of a planned spin-off series. Jimmy learned to be a real cowboy, wooed a serious girlfriend, and had an amazing time further south. Of course you would like to see more. But that’s the problem. Yellowstone should stand on its own two feet and not beg us to look over our shoulder until the next spin-off.
Anyway, the 6666 the series is already around the corner. Maybe that’s why, for the second part, Sheridan sends half of the Yellowstone crew at his Bosque Ranch in Texas, where the writer – who plays horse trainer Travis Wheatly on the Paramount Network series – also resides in real life. If the second part just sells us the long awaited 6666 derivative series, we will have our answer. Until then, I guess it’s more equestrian mounts.
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