TThe auteur is aylor Sheridan YellowstoneThe world’s top actor is. A prequel is hot off the success of the first season.1883There are two additional spinoffs (1932And 6666), and a new Jeremy Renner vehicle recently renewed for a second season (Kingstown Mayor), Sheridan has built a TV empire—and that’s not even mentioning the handful of other series he has under development. Sheridan’s clearly not going anywhere.
But what do you watch when you’ve devoured the entire Taylor Sheridan oeuvre, including his movies—my favorites are his screenplays for SicarioAnd Hell or High Water—and you’re still in the mood for more? YellowstoneThe series is appealing to viewers for many reasons. An average viewer might be drawn by the old-school frontier-justice action and then return for the stunning Montana landscapes and beautiful, naturalistic ranching scenes. At times it’s a brutally violent crime thriller; in other scenes, it’s a vaguely political drama about land ownership, or an exploration of PTSD and inherited trauma. That’s why it’s easy to find a number of shows that scratch that Yellowstone itch—whether they’re set in the Wild West or the biggest city in the world.
Let’s begin with another modern western drama: Justified, a 2010 FX drama based on Elmore Leonard’s novella Feuer in the Hole. Graham Yost developed this. JustifiedThe Deputy U.S. brings in an Old West-style lawyer, Marshal Raylan Givens. The present-day Marshal Raylan Givens, (Timothy Olyphant), is his name. Givens is reassigned to Lexington, Kentucky, after his quick-draw shooting of a hitman in Miami—an act of just-barely-justifiable vigilante justice that easily recalls Yellowstone’s John Dutton and the branded ranch hands who do his bidding (though they face far fewer consequences than Givens). The new series “The Second Coming” has been unveiled. Justified, so it’s the perfect time to catch up.
Which stream? Hulu
…But Justified wouldn’t exist without Deadwood, David Milch’s groundbreaking western drama for HBO, which initially introduced Olyphant to a wider audience. Ian McShane’s iconic lead role is the anchor. DeadwoodThe fictionalized story tells of the origin story for the settlement Deadwood in South Dakota. The series, which focuses primarily upon real-life Deadwood residents, and features countless historical figures, infused their civilization mythmaking comedy with tragedy. It was cancelled in 2006, but it became one of the most beloved dramas. 13 years after its cancellation, the series was revived to make a final film. Even though the series is not widely recognized, Deadwood still starts conversations today—like in this spring’s comprehensive Deadwood BibleBy critic Matt Zoller Seitz
Which stream? HBO Max
Let’s travel back to the beginning of serious TV westerns. GunsmokeIt began on radio in 1952 and moved to TV in 1955. The show produced 635 episodes over the following 20 years. It went through many changes, including a shift from half-hour episodes to an hour long episodes and eventually to color. It was the longest running primetime live-action TV show, lasting until it ended in 1998. Law & Order: SVUIt was surpassed by it just a few years back. The series centers on Marshal Matt Dillon, a virtuous, but nuanced, character. It is set in Dodge City in Kansas in the 1870s. It’s filled with fascinating, funny, and moving morality tales, often penned by legends like Sam Peckinpah. It gave a necessary dose of weight and grit to the classic western—and kicked off a slew of new western dramas that lived in its shadow.
Which stream?You can find some on Pluto TV, Paramount+ and other platforms.
This western classic has been emulated by many. BonanzaThe daily lives of three generations of the Cartwright family are followed: Ben (LorneGreene) as patriarch, Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss Dan Blocker (Dan Blocker), Little Joe(Michael Landon). It adapted family-centered conflicts from the original sitcom and made it western. The series tackled important social issues as well as everyday drama. The Ponderosa Ranch is where most stories are set. BonanzaThis gave a very realistic view on ranch life.
Which stream?You can find some on YouTube or The Roku Channel
The western drama of family life is characterized by its melodramatic sides. Dallas—while the Cartwrights were mutually supportive and endearing, the Ewings of Texas were constantly scheming and feuding. It’s easy to see why YellowstoneWhen it premiered, the show was immediately compared with this soap opera; though they do share some similarities in sensibility, YellowstoneNever had a character rise to the same level as J.R. Ewing, the oil tycoon. J.R. Dallas the highest rated nighttime soap of the ’70s and ’80s—and his specific brand of charismatic evil has influenced TV villains for decades.
Which stream? IMDb TV
There’s a reason many have called Yellowstone “Succession in the West.” Setting aside the differences in setting and style, the two dramas have a lot in common: a rich patriarch presiding over an empire, four kids (primarily two younger sons and a daughter) jockeying for control of that empire, and a larger meditation on the ephemerality of power. In terms of viewership Succession has nowhere near the numbers of its western counterpart—but its blend of incisive satire and sneakily moving family drama have earned it widespread acclaim as one of the best series currently on TV.
Which stream? HBO Max
Other than the Taylor Sheridan Universe, Godless is one of TV’s more recent western hits. Set in 1884, the drama focuses on a young outlaw named Roy (Jack O’Connell) who’s on the run after betraying his terrifying criminal father figure Frank (Jeff Daniels) during a robbery. The thing that sets this western apart is the unusually strong female cast. Merritt Wever, Michelle Dockery and Jeff Daniels have rich roles. Yellowstone’s two female characters, Beth and Monica. Only seven episodes! GodlessThis is a great way to indulge in a quick binge.
Which stream? Netflix
One of Yellowstone’s biggest assets is its setting; it luxuriates in the natural beauty of Montana and Utah, where much of the series is filmed. Western crime drama, 2012. Longmire, originally on A&E until it was canceled and picked up by Netflix, shares that strength. It focuses on a county sheriff in the Wyoming plains—making it another rare rural series, alongside YellowstoneAnd the Missouri-set comedy “The Big Show” Ozark. It’s also one that features Native American actors and characters, and like YellowstoneIt focuses on the conflict between tribal authorities and competing authorities.
Which stream? Netflix
“What ever happened to Gary Cooper?” Tony Soprano asked in the pilot of The SopranosThis is often considered the greatest TV drama ever. “The strong, silent type. It is thatHe was American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do.” In 1999, Tony embodied a particular strain of American masculinity: resistant to change, and reverent towards the mythically confident western heroes of Hollywood’s Golden Age. His obsession with the past—and a reliance on violence, powered by delusional rationalization—formed the basis for most modern TV antiheroes, including Yellowstone’s John Dutton, a man even more stubborn about expressing his feelings than Tony. You don’t need me to explain why you should watch The Sopranos; it’s The Sopranos.
Which stream? HBO Max
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