I’m of the belief that most shows on TV today are garbage—with few outliers out there.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed programs like NBC’s This Is Us, FX’s TRUST about the Getty family, and most recently, Paramount’s Yellowstone. I will watch a TV show or movie regardless of the creators’ leftist politics — as long as those politics don’t seep into their product.
The latter show, Yellowstone, is a prestige TV but for conservatives. Prestige TV, as TV Guide’s Liam Mathews suggests, belongs exclusively to leftists but comes in the exception of this show.. In contrast, this writer suggests Paramount’s wildly successfully show – which just concluded its first season – is catered to conservatives. He writes:
Prestige TV is for liberals. There must be a handful of people in America who voted for Trump and enjoyed Succession, but for the most part, self-consciously high-end cable TV of the kind found on HBO and Showtime is made by and for people in blue districts. Scripted conservative TV tends to be workmanlike, unambitious broadcast fare like Blue Bloods, Last Man Standing or Kevin Can Wait. This is why the Paramount Network’s distinctly red Yellowstone— which ended its first season on Wednesday — is such an outlier.
Hits are rare; well-made conservative dramas are even rarer. And though I have no idea what co-creators Taylor Sheridan and John Linson’s personal political beliefs are, Yellowstone is a conservative show. It’s working in two of the most traditional of genres — the Western and the soap opera — and its sex, profanity and graphic violence can’t hide the fact that it’s not a revisionist Western soap; it plays by the rules of the genre…In the genre of conservative prestige drama, Yellowstone is almost alone. The only other example I can think of is Sons of Anarchy, which conservatives loved because it was a family-over-everything show about white outlaws. (Not coincidentally, Linson and Sheridan both worked on Sons of Anarchy, Linson as an executive producer and Sheridan as an actor.) But Yellowstone won’t be the only conservative prestige drama for long. There are two potential peers premiering in the next few weeks, Amazon’s Jack Ryan (based on the Tom Clancy novels beloved by military enthusiasts) and Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans MC, though that one’s primarily Latinx cast may drive away conservative viewers. Still, the success of Yellowstone shows that there’s a market for conservative prestige TV, so keep an eye out for other cable networks and streaming services to try it.
I find myself in agreement with this assessment. The characters constantly battle threats from those who would be perceived as more left-of-center: California-billionaire, environmentalist types who transplant themselves to states like Montana to spoil, and even destroy, that way of life from within. This could be an extreme view, but I’ve spoken to many Montanans who agree that some of these transplants have nefarious intentions.
The show’s creator is actor-turned-director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Sons of Anarchy), who’s gone on record with CNS News in December 2016 saying he doesn’t want to insert personal politics into his projects. Maybe he’s a secret conservative:
“For me as a storyteller, which is a great responsibility to an audience, you know someone is going to give you their time and their money to be entertained and possibly enlightened in some way, for me to try and impart my politics on them is, I think, arrogant and patronizing,” Sheridan told CNSNews in a recent interview. “I feel like if an audience can ever get a sense of my politics I have really failed them. I show sides of a coin. I show sides of a coin, both of them, and everyone else can make their own conclusions”
For those who didn’t watch the series or don’t have cable, Yellowstone centers around a ranching family, the Duttons, trying to keep their way of life alive amidst modern-day challenges from greedy land developers who partner with Native American reservations, radical environmentalists, and corrupt politicians to undermine this family. The family is led by patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner). Costner’s character is very influential as he happens to own the largest ranch in all of the United States. Tragedy surrounds the Dutton family at every turn, but they are determined to counter outsiders eager to grab their property from under their noses. They especially go to great lengths – which are extreme- to preserve their way of life. While these threats could be perceived as overly dramatic for reality, the scenarios presented do underscore many fears ranchers and their acolytes have from policies like eminent domain, the Endangered Species Act, and government corruption. I can see why this TV critic would label it Prestige TV for conservatives. You’ll have to watch the show to see it for yourself!
Despite initial mixed reviews, the breakout series is a fan favorite. The June 20th premiere garnered 2.8 million views, while its finale on Wednesday garnered 2.4 million views. It was the second-most watched show after The Walking Dead. Given its popularity, the series was renewed for a second season due out in 2019. I watched Season 1 from the beginning and also plan to watch Season 2.
What do you think? Is Yellowstone conservative Prestige TV? Weigh in below!