If you’re in need of a fun and easy watch to unwind to after a long day at work, look no further: Netflix’ sitcom The Ranch is an insightful take on the generational conflict and an endearing portrayal of farm life. Not to mention it reunites That 70s Show alumns Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson…
The Ranch (2016): From the producers of Two and a half Men; 1 season à 20 episodes à 27mins.; starring Ashton Kutcher (Dude where’s my Car), Danny Masterson (That 70s Show), Sam Elliott (Tombstone), Debra Winger (An Officer and a Gentlemen), Elisha Cuthbert (24), Kelli Gloss, Bret Harison (Reaper), Barry Corbin (One Tree Hill).
For fans of: That 70s Show, Two and a half Men, Sam Elliott’s raspy, warm voice
A couple of years ago when I was at University, I binge-watched all eight seasons of That 70s Show over the course of one semester. I had seen the show on TV occasionally back in the day, but since it aired on a Saturday morning, I often missed it. What really drew me into the show was the friendship between the kids and how layered each of their relationships became over the years, particularly that of Kelso (played by Ashton Kutcher) and Hyde (played by Danny Masterson). I was incredibly sad to see the show end because I had become so invested in these characters and actors. So naturally, when I heard that Kutcher and Masterson were doing a new show together, I was psyched like Eric Forman at a Star Wars convention. Luckily, Netflix delivered on the promise of their reunion. Here are five reasons to watch The Ranch…
1. It’s about family
After his football career has become stunted, Colt Bennett returns home for the first time in 10 years. From then on the prodigal son does his best to prove to his father that he can be a good farmer and that he can make him proud as a son. The relationship between Colt and Beau is infinitely compelling because it is clear that despite their inability to communicate openly and honestly, there is a tremendous amount of love shared between these two men.
2. It’s the best kind of déjà-vu
Another highlight is the dynamic between Colt and his older brother “Rooster”, played by Danny Masterson with whom Kutcher previously starred on the hit comedy show That 70s Show from 1998-2006. Much like the chemistry between their 70s characters Kelso and Hyde, Colt and Rooster have a playfully antagonistic dynamic that is both hilarious and heartwarming to observe. Of course, this dynamic is also informed by the 15-year friendship between the two actors.
And Kutcher and Masterson are not the only 70s Show alumns Netflix has recruited for its country life sitcom: Wilmer Valderama, who played foreign exchange student Fes on the show, joins the cast in the second half of the first season as Umberto, a ranch hand that is essentially like a brother to the Bennetts.
For the show’s predominately tween cast, the time on That 70s were formative years, so it is no surprise that the gang still keeps in touch – not to mention that Kutcher is married to his former on-screen girlfriend Mila Kunis. Thus, with the greenlighting of season 2, there’s a good chance we’ll see more appearances by former 70s Show castmates in the future. After all, Kutcher and Masterson explicitly stated that they “like working with friends”. ***
3. It’s socially conscious
Meaning The Ranch neither glamourises the conservative mentality of the red states, nor does it look down on people like Beau, who, arguably, are a little too set in their ways for their own good. Instead, the show thematises the clash between Beau’s conservative worldview and his sons’ more liberal approach to life and uses their generational conflict for comedy (in a call-back to Red and Eric’s relationship on That 70s Show). And while you do get the sense that the show is trying to send the message “don’t knock it, til you’ve tried it” – Beau secretly trying on Colt’s Ugg boots and loving their comfort is a season highlight – it does so without being condescending.
4. It features some kick-ass female characters
Chief among them Heather, Colt’s friend with benefits and later girlfriend. Granted, she is introduced as a pretty young thing that Colt uses to distract himself from his lingering feelings for highschool sweetheart Abby (whom I personally do not count among the kick-ass females on this show). But over the course of a few episodes, it becomes clear that her playboy bunny looks aren’t the only interesting thing about her. Heather is is the kind of girl who doesn’t overcomplicate relationships without being emotionally distant. She makes an effort to fit into the Bennett family and to be there for Colt when he needs her without ever being clingy or insecure if he doesn’t.
Then there’s Maggie, Beau’s separated-but-not-divorced wife. She’s fiercely independent, living in a trailer behind the only bar in town which she runs. And while she is still very much involved in her sons and her husband’s lives, she makes it clear that she wants to have one of her own.
Lastly, the second half of the first season introduces Joanne, a confident, independent woman whose stubbornness might just be a match for Beau’s. Having been hardened by life herself, she doesn’t take Beau’s oftentimes insensitive comments personally; instead, she fires back. In short, Joanne is the very epitome of “country strong”.
5. It isn’t afraid to get serious
The Ranch is not a traditional sitcom in that it offers some gutwrenching scenes in addition to laugh-out-loud comedy. For instance when Beau spends the night in the barn, hoping that his sick calf is going to pull through, or when Colt finds out about his highschool sweetheart Abby getting married. Scenes like these serve to anchor the characters in reality and make them more sympathetic.
To binge or not to binge: Don’t binge or you will fall into a deep depression afterwards. 2-3 episodes a day will keep you happy and laughing for an entire week.
Where can I watch? The Ranch is available for streaming exclusively on Netflix worldwide
*** Jon Cryer, Kutcher’s co-star on Two and a half Men also guest-starred in Season 1.