Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pilot Review: The Ranch

The Ranch (Netflix)
Premiered April 1

Netflix has established itself over the past few years as a television network strongly committed to broadcasting (sort of) a range of original programs. As it has found success with its Emmy-winning shows, it has also branched out to less sophisticated fare. One such effort is “The Ranch,” a comedy starring two actors who rose to fame for starring in a mediocre 1990s sitcom, “That 70s Show.” I don’t think there are many people out there who consider Ashton Kutcher to be a good actor (though I thought he was fine in “The Butterfly Effect," a movie I really enjoyed), and Danny Masterson has definitely come the least far from among all his colleagues on the seventies-set show. What persuaded anyone to create a show about two brothers living together on a ranch in Colorado is beyond me, and I just don’t see the appeal of it. It lives in that strange place between family-friendly and R-rated, with the two adults throwing around expletives every once in a while but nothing else really pushing the envelope. If given the choice, I’d rather the show be as blunt and uncensored as possible, and this show feels hopelessly tame, which is a shame. I like Sam Elliott a lot from his guest spots on “Parks and Recreation” and “Justified,” and this is hardly the best role for him or three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger. Their chemistry as hateful ex-spouses who always end up enjoying each other’s company a little too much is the best part of this show, but unfortunately that’s not saying much. I don’t feel much need to see the remaining nine episodes of this show’s first season.

How will it work as a series? Though it’s set on a ranch, this isn’t an original concept, and it’s really just a matter of Kutcher’s Colt and Elliott’s Beau pushing each other’s buttons enough to keep Masterson’s Rooster entertained while they tend to occasional matters around the home. The promiscuous Colt isn’t much different than Kutcher’s last TV role on “Two and a Half Men,” a show that I fear is a fitting companion for this one.
How long will it last? It’s hard to predict how Netflix shows will do since the network releases so little data on its ratings, but it did renew “Fuller House,” the most similar program currently put out by the network, awfully quickly. It looks like a ten-episode second season (or back half of the first, whichever way you read it) has already been commissioned, so there are at least twenty episodes for those who enjoyed it more than I did to watch.

Pilot grade: C

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