“Yellowstone” is one of those mysteries of the TV business, a series that generates major ratings but like the late comic Rodney Dangerfield, doesn’t always get much respect. That dynamic was summed up last year by a Vanity Fair headline that read, “Here’s to Yellowstone, the Most-Watched Show Everyone Isn’t Talking About.”
Success is usually the best revenge in television, even if Emmy nominations don’t come with it. Yet the new season of the Paramount Network series nevertheless reaches for what feels like a bit more relevance by making a sharper turn into politics, to go with all of the soapy doings around John Dutton, the character played by Kevin Costner, and his sprawling ranch.
Granted, Montana politics has been a part of the series since the beginning. Yet last season Dutton threw his hat into the ring in the gubernatorial race, placing him in a position, as he says in his acceptance speech during the fifth-season premiere, that “was never my plan.”
Already considered a modern-day western, “Yellowstone” never deviates far from its cowboy roots, and Dutton is clear in expressing his suspicions regarding big-city interests and wealthy vacationers looking to turn Montana and its pristine mountains into a playground as opposed to a home.
Indeed, Dutton brings the same taciturn, square-jawed values to politics that he does to business and dealing with his family, bluntly saying, “I fight for what’s right. I don’t really care who supports it.”
There’s a lot more to the series than that, of course, but this new role for Dutton as the kind of principled, no-nonsense public official that almost anybody would hope to have on the ballot regardless of policy preferences could help distinguish the show’s latest dramatic arc amid Paramount’s onslaught of spinoffs related to it. In addition to “1883,” launched last year with Sam Elliott in the saddle, another prequel with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, “1932,” will premiere in December on the streaming service Paramount+.
“Yellowstone” patriarch Taylor Sheridan is also behind another new Paramount+ series set in the heartland, “Tulsa King,” featuring yet another veteran movie star, Sylvester Stallone, playing a New York mobster exiled to Oklahoma after leaving prison.
In a sense, “Yellowstone” and its various offshoots appear to demonstrate that no matter how much the entertainment industry changes, certain things never entirely go out of style – in this case, star power, which Costner (who has done more to keep westerns alive than any other modern actor) provides in abundance; and old-fashioned soap-opera plot lines.
Throw in a dollop of “The West Wing”-style patriotism, and who knows? The new season of “Yellowstone” might even get a few more people talking about it.
“Yellowstone” premieres its fifth season November 13 at 8 p.m. ET on the Paramount Network.