As a self-proclaimed TV connoisseur and Netflix addict, I pride myself on my innate ability to recommend good shows. At least, what I consider a good show. With the constant influx of new content from Netflix, it’s hard to keep up even if you feel like you’ve seen just about everything.
I’ve even participated in the Netflix equivalent of marking an email as read; watching a suggested show or movie just so it wouldn’t keep popping up. Recently, I did this with The Ranch. I went in blindly, all I knew about the show was that it starred Ashton Kutcher and it was one of the first original programs to come from Netflix. Fast forward 5 seasons later, the show is still going strong.
The Ranch details a dysfunctional family with two alcoholic brothers, Colt Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) and Jameson “Rooster” (Danny Masterson), their divorced mother, Maggie Bennett (Debbie Winger) who owns the neighborhood bar and their father Beau Bennett (Sam Elliot), who owns the ranch. Colt returns home to the ranch following the end of his semi-professional football career and will do anything to relive his glory days while trying to win back his high school sweetheart.
Halfway through the first season, and I am pleasantly surprised by the show. It possesses an unusual yet equally similar quality found within all sitcoms. It’s a half hour multi-camera filmed on a soundstage with a laugh track; a rather common formula for the sitcom setup. Despite following a traditional sitcom format, the show stands out. The series does not have to adhere to FCC censorship guidelines the same way a network or cable sitcom would require. It may seem unimportant, but when watching the show it plays into the dynamic of the characters.
If Roseanne and That 70’s Show had a child, it would be The Ranch.
A peculiar pairing, however both shows, highlight blue-collar families that value the importance of hard work. The American working class family with conservative values has not had much screen time over the past few decades. When taking the current state of political unrest, viewers felt it was unnecessary to portray this type of family because some felt it was encouraging divisive rhetoric.
This played into the rise and fall of Roseanne. At its core, Roseanne strived to illustrate a wholesome working-class family, even if they were messy. In it’s revival, Roseanne tried to incorporate LGBTQ+ themes that missed the mark. It was only included for a more inclusive audience, but it lacked substance. They even went as far to have a storyline about the “neighborhood Muslim” they thought were terrorists. In a world where we work so hard for equality and inclusivity of all people, it was problematic. It has been confirmed by ABC that the show will return this fall as a spin off minus Barr titled The Connors which is already bizarre since fans assumed John Goodman’s character died in the finale in the 90s. While a sitcom like That 70’s Show found its comedy in the uncomfortable father-son dynamic that existed within Red and Eric.
That dynamic is a fundamental part of The Ranch amongst Beau and Colt. Both Kutcher and Masterson were co-stars on That 70s Show. The Bennett family is divorced adding a unique set of complications to the family dynamic. It’s rare to see divorced TV families interacting within the traditional nuclear family. Those family roles still exist, despite being a divorced family. Both Roseanne and That 70s Show existed as dysfunctional nuclear families because it was part of their charm.