TV Review: ‘The Ranch’

The Ranch renewed season 2
Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix has been opportunistic about seizing upon titles, talent and genres that more traditional TV sources have neglected, which likely explains its interest in doing a multi-camera sitcom, albeit one peppered with pay-cable-type expletives. Enter “The Ranch,” which, starring Ashton Kutcher, and coming from “Two and a Half Men” alums Don Reo and Jim Patterson, might as well be called simply “Three Men” given the similarities.

Certainly, nobody strained any creative muscles in crafting this concept. Kutcher plays Colt, a perpetual Peter Pan who has spent the last several years pursuing a semipro football career, still something of a local hero because of his exploits as a college quarterback. Colt stops by home in Colorado en route to a tryout, and quickly finds himself at odds again with his dad, Beau (Sam Elliott), and older brother Rooster (Danny Masterson), who never left and, between put-downs, fills his sibling in on the fact that the ranch is struggling. That prompts Colt to – what else? – opt to hang around, even if that means butting heads with the old man.

Also in the picture is their mom, Maggie (Debra Winger, in a sort-of grown-up version of her “Urban Cowboy” role), Beau’s estranged wife, who runs the local bar, where everyone rather amiably hangs out. Subsequent episodes also bring in “24’s” Elisha Cuthbert as Colt’s old girlfriend, who has moved on, even if Colt hasn’t.

With Kutcher and Masterson back together, “The Ranch” might garner attention as a mini-“That ’70s Show” reunion, but the primary draw here is Elliott, operating well within his wheelhouse as the irascible dad. Beyond that, it’s tempting to dismiss this farm-friendly concept by asking, “Where’s the beef?”

Aside from the occasional bouts of blue language, and Beau’s obviously conservative political views, there’s virtually nothing here to distinguish the show from any number of failed network sitcoms, even if the project tries not to be quite as housebound by getting outside a bit. (Granted, even when they’re in the barn birthing a calf, the prodding laughs from the studio audience continue.)

That’s not to say the writing doesn’t periodically become a bit more pointed, with Colt at one point announcing, “I peaked in high school!” Still, that’s emblematic of a series in which everything feels not merely derivative but a little too on the nose, as if an audience weaned on such fare couldn’t discern where its various beats are heading, like Beau’s admission that he was tough on his kid because he saw so much best-of-the-family potential in him, with the inevitable “I can hear you!” rim shot from Masterson to follow.

Kutcher, of course, was rather famously enlisted to wring a few more seasons out of “Men” after Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown, and somewhat ironically, he’s much closer to the Charlie Harper role here than he was in that series. Elliott doesn’t get to do that much comedy, and seems to relish the opportunity here. Mostly, it’s hard to escape a sense that everyone involved is leveraging past performance in the name of a paycheck for what doesn’t exactly look like a backbreaking gig.

As noted, Netflix has enjoyed some success (as measured by media attention, since nobody knows the viewer numbers) by seeking to zig where other outlets are sagging, such as its family-oriented “Fuller House” revival. Yet while there’s clearly room for a wide array of original product, “The Ranch” doesn’t exactly feel like the sort of series that merits shelling out money for a subscription. It’s more a mild way for committed Netflix users to pass the time – something to graze on, presumably, once they have consumed pretty much everything with any substance in their queues.

TV Review: 'The Ranch'

(Series; Netflix, Fri. April 1)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Ranch Hand Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, Don Reo, Jim Patterson, Ashton Kutcher, Jane Wiseman, Blair Fetter, Andy Weil; co-executive producers, Danny Masterson, Jamie Rhonheimer, Steve Tompkins; supervising producers, Max Searle, Matt Ross; producers, Nikki Schiefelbein, Steve Leff, Melanie Patterson; director, David Trainer; writers, Reo, Patterson; camera, Donald A. Morgan; production designer, John Shaffner; editor, Michael Karlich; music, Ryeland Allison; casting, Nikki Valco, Ken Miller, 30 MIN.

Cast

Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliott, Danny Masterson, Debra Winger, Elisha Cuthbert

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  1. John Slichter says:

    Love this show!!!

  2. kama says:

    I don’t think you actually watched the show. If you had, you would have said a lot more negatives. I hate BS “critics.”

  3. Floyd S says:

    I kind of like the show but it does seem a little forced. And I am not too sure you can build a long term following based on Colt and Beau bickering through every episode. Rooster is the best thing going in this show. By luck, design or raw talent, he is delivering the best lines with the best punch.

  4. Ashley Clinton says:

    Oh Brain Lowry! I love this show! Hope we get to see more!!

  5. Harold Schmidt says:

    I think its one of the best new shows out .great humor and acting and better yet no dam back ground music .Now when is the next set of series going to start?

  6. Betty taylor says:

    You can’t please all the people all of the time ,I love comedy so this is a great comedy so just laugh and stop judging

  7. Linda Haynes says:

    My husband and I binge watched every episode. Love it. Hopefully coming back for a season 2.

  8. Dave Phillips says:

    Okay, I would watch Sam Elliot in anything, but why does this production have to use a Laugh Track? Really? Come on, those should have been put out of our misery in the 70’s. Why do producers think it is necessary to give us a cue on when we should laugh? Is the script really that bad? Are the actors really that bad? Do the producers think we are really that Stupid?

    No, on all counts. Ditch the laugh track, let the actors carry the humor when necessary.

    • Diane Pollard says:

      I totally agree with the laugh track reply but also read that it was a studio audience. Not sure which is right but if it’s a laugh track, it’s very off putting. I was a little surprised when I clicked on to this to see what it was about and the laugh track annoyed me right off the bat. Made the show actually not so funny. All in all, I’ve only watched one episode because I thought the performances were a little forced and stilted but like a lot of new shows I’ve watched, sometimes it takes two or three episodes to get into it so I’ll watch a few more. But seriously, ditch the laugh track!

  9. Bubba-ette says:

    OMG, Beau has conservative political views? He doesn’t agree with the Hollywood elitists so he MUST be a Nazi racist. I think we should do everything we can to disrupt, ridicule and censure this show, right msnbc pinheads? OK, back to your respective freebe handout lines, hehe

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