Hit or Sh**: Netflix’s THE RANCH
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
At first, I was forgiving. Oh, one little silly Netflix Original Series mishap? Well, shoot, only Jesus was perfect, and he might not even exist. Then, I was confused. Alright Reed Hastings, surely you can’t actually like this content, right? This is one that snuck past your radar? Now, I’m just plain upset. THE RANCH could only have been released on April Fool’s Day, as it gives a defiant middle finger to the conventions and expectations of even the most liberal definitions of comedy. This is “final straw” material, the kind of misfire that should make each and every viewer very, very concerned and inquisitive as to the future of whatever Hellish aberration Netflix’s development department manifests itself as. What the actual fuck?
THE RANCH deals with Colt Bennett coming home to the Colorado ranch staffed by his father, Beau (Sam Elliott), and brother, Rooster (Danny Masterson). Colt is shackled to the burden faced by innumerable millennial white males: Being the bee’s knees in high school but largely failing to amount to a wet garbage heap in college and beyond. He’s back in Colorado chasing his dreams of playing semi-professional football, a fact which he is overjoyed to beat into our skulls again and again with several angsty, prepubescent exposition dumps. Guess what? Good ol’ pa isn’t too pleased, aggressively calling Colt out on his bullshit over and over again, despite being too proud to admit that he needs help on the rapidly failing family farm. Add into the mix the pathetic and mewling Rooster, who can’t help but continue to point out just how little anyone in the family gives a shit about him, and the sexually crass mother and ex-wife Maggie (Debra Winger), and you have a recipe for the epitome of subpar.
First on my shit list for THE RANCH is the laugh track. Are we as a culture still so enamored with HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER that we still think laugh tracks are a good idea? Why, sweet little lord Jesus, why do we think that the hokey traditions and airs of two decades ago are something worth keeping around? HIMYM, despite its more unapologetic divings into saccharine balderdash, at least featured good writing. Not just sitcom good, but good good. The laugh track never made itself obnoxious, because we were so often laughing along with it. But now we’ve morphed laugh tracks into some kind of miasmatic sacrilege that attempts to half-heartedly fit nostalgia glasses over the eyes of each and every viewer. THE RANCH’s laugh track is one of the most glaring misuses I’ve come across, as it backfires due to the fact that no corporeal being inhabiting the face of the Earth should find anything dribbling from the mouth of any character present even remotely humorous.
Do you like laughing at people with Western accents being conservative? Well, buckle up, folks, because you’re in for one Hell of a wet and wild ride here at THE RANCH!!!
HAHAHAHA HE DOESN’T LIKE AL GORE HAHAHAHA
Do you like women making rape jokes? That’s pretty goddamn progressive if I do say so myself!
The woman on the left takes advantage of drunken men that frequent her bar! How wacky!
Do you like jokes about how parent sex is gross? I practically peed!
Although this face makes a compelling argument
The one thing I can say in the pilot’s favor is that it transplants us to the same emotional purgatory that Colt must be in. The saddest (and most effective) moment of the pilot is when Colt is about to have sex with a girl he picked up in a bar, who’s only interested in his high school football accomplishments, only to be interrupted by Beau, who needs his help with farm work. This firmly solidifies Colt as emasculated and lost, his complete impotence as a current personality acting as a simulacra of the dominance he once exhibited. I mean, I guess it’s also somewhat noteworthy that we get to see Colt stick his entire arm up a cow’s vagina and yank its calf out (it’s actually quite shocking; you see a calf infant fly out of a vagina and plop onto a floor!), but I don’t quite have an intelligent thematic metaphor to tie into that particular occurrence.
Really, folks, there’s not much here at THE RANCH. All we learn is that Colt will forego his already meager chances at pursuing poverty football to help out his financially destitute father, but based on the tacit and uninteresting conflicts we see introduced at the eponymous ranch, there is nothing to promise that future episodes will ever contain anything worth our hard-pressed time. I personally am most interested in the fact that Maggie demonstrates extreme dislike for Beau, refusing to even get him a beer when he comes into her bar (which Beau references via the most excruciating dad jokes ad nauseum), only to walk out of his room the next morning and drop several auditory turds involving the couple’s predilection for doggystyle (and don’t you for a second think Ashton Kutcher doesn’t pepper the conversation with several loud exclamations of disgust!).
Ooo, baby, I like it raw
With everyone waving their hands around and wringing their hair revolving around Colt’s passions and his father’s lack of them, it’s hard to take THE RANCH seriously, and the whole thing feels entirely misguided. Why would Ashton Kutcher want to painfully mug his way through a never-ending slew of browbeating, obvious emotional utterances? Why would anyone think any given audience member cares enough about hockey to ramrod a lukewarm joke involving a comparison between the Miami Heat and the Saskatoon Cold? Why should we still be presumed to chuckle at a joke about saving a horse and riding a cowboy? WHY, NETFLIX, WHY?
You’ve been volleyed several questions, you Los Gatos gutter-dwellers. It’s time for some answers.
THE RANCH is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix