Netflix works their magic in the casting department as their new show The Ranch reunites Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson as Colt and Jameson “Rooster” Bennett. Colt returns home to the town where he had the last success of any kind in his life 15 years earlier when he led the High School football team to the State Championship. His return to the ranch is brought on when he realizes that his career as a professional Quarterback is essentially over and that his Father’s ranch is in desperate need of more help. Colt ends up moving in with his brother “Rooster” and his father Beau played by Sam Elliot. Though the show is titled The Ranch the vast majority of the show takes place inside either in the Bennett house or at Maggie’s a bar owned and operated by Colt’s mother Maggie played by Debra Winger. Though Maggie and Beau are married they have lived apart for 10+ years, and she has lived in an Airstream trailer behind her bar since she left Beau.
The Ranch is pretty good at what it does and what that is, is being funny. Comedy writing in my view is becoming a lost art. When one watches most comedy programs or movies nowadays most of the comedy seems to be drawn from the lower range of the comedic spectrum. But with The Ranch the comedy seems to draw from what is becoming rarer and rarer, good comedic writing. The Ranch which tells the story of a family struggling to keep their ranch. The story telling is that of essentially a day in the life. Though you really do not see any real ranch work other than dealing with a breach birth of a calf and fixing a hole in the roof of their barn. While you do not see them working you do hear them discuss the work they do. With this series we actually have a nice look at a family doing what it takes to keep what is theirs while also trying to build a relationship with each other.
The Ranch is quite enjoyable with as I pointed out earlier some pretty good comedy writing. The jokes seem to flow seamlessly with the rest of the dialogue and sometimes you just have to stop and rewind and hear it again. But beyond just the writing it appears like the cast really enjoys working with each other, to the point where it isn’t even work. This can be seen in how the actors react to one another. This is most evident in a scene with Elliot, Masterson and Barry Corbin who has a reoccurring role as their Vet. In this scene Masterson asks Corbin to say high to his daughter for him. And as Corbin walks out of the barn his response causes Elliot and Masterson to crack up. Now while it is most likely in the script for the characters to react this way. The way they react tells the story of two people that are having a good time.
Now to me the primary weak point of the series is the fact that they do use a laugh track. But this does not affect the way I view the series. I grew up in a time where comedy series actively advertised at the beginning of each episode that it was filmed in front of a real life audience. This was due to the fact that from the 50’s through the early 80’s the vast majority of sitcoms used laugh tracks or “sweetening”, a process in which audience laughter would be augmented with canned laughter to get the desired response. But a laugh track is not an indicator of a weak show, as there have been a number of shows that have used the canned laughter for the first season. But everyone should remember that The Beverly Hillbillies, M.A.S.H. (though not in the operating room scenes) and The Andy Griffith Show all used canned laughter. And despite this they are still very popular and we overlook the canned laughs. Now I am not saying that The Ranch is in the same class as those shows at the moment, but I looked past the laugh track and let the actors and writers show me what they had for me.
I know that some will have trouble getting past the laugh track, but despite the canned laughter I quite frankly found myself enjoying The Ranch from start to finish. I found that there were not really that many noticeably slow spots and that there was a nice flow throughout the entire series. I find myself hoping that the next round of episodes comes sooner than later. And because of this I have to give The Ranch 4.15 out of 5 stars.