Ranch Reunites Kutcher, Masterson

Rachel Jin, Lifestyle Editor

Netflix realized every 90’s TV fan’s dream on April 1, reuniting Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson of That 70’s Show fame for a new sitcom, The Ranch. Following the life of former high school legend turned semi-pro football player Colt Bennett (Kutcher), who returns to his hometown of Garrison, Colorado after his father’s ranch sinks into financial crisis, The Ranch gives viewers a look into the everyday antics of Colt, his lewd, sarcastic brother Rooster (Masterson), and Beau, his bitter, Vietnam veteran father (Sam Elliot).

The series is funny. Each new joke is fresh and unexpected.  The Ranch has a large arsenal of comic elements.

Yet there is also a sense of restraint. Don Reo and Jim Patterson, the show’s main writers, were also co-writers for Two and a Half Men. The writers, fishing for fans of shows like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, seem to be more comfortable in family-friendly territory than on Netflix’s unrestrained landscape, and unfortunately, it shows.

While the level of profanity and sexual innuendo certainly warrants the MA rating, the writers have not ventured as far as they might have. The adult humor seems, at times, to be forced.

The plot centers around the conflict between Colt and his high school sweetheart, Abby (Elisha Cuthbert). Colt and Abby reconnect in the 2nd episode, and their relationship seems to be rekindling until Abby reveals that she is engaged to Kenny, a high-school-nerd-turned-hotel-manager. Throughout the season, it becomes clear that Colt resents Abby’s newfound relationship and wishes to get back together with her, but this concept isn’t developed very consistently. At times, it seems as though Colt has let go of Abby and is enjoying his relationship with a new girlfriend, Heather, who often becomes the brunt of Abby’s mockery for being 12 years younger than Colt; but at other times, Colt seems still to long for Abby’s companionship.

Sitcom romances usually come with a “letting go” stage, when a character gets out of a long relationship and must accept and move on from the breakup. Colt goes through this stage repeatedly, coming to terms with Abby’s engagement one episode and attempting to make a move on her in the next. At the end of the season, Abby reveals that she is uncertain about marrying Kenny, an predictable twist. Perhaps this development is a good one, for plot purposes, but with that in mind, all the tension between Colt and Abby throughout the season is a bit tedious.

Kutcher may be the star, but the scene stealer is Masterson as Rooster, the sarcastic, moderately alcoholic brother with few moral boundaries. Kutcher and Masterson parallel their roles on That 70’s Show, with Kutcher as the dull, popular athlete and Masterson as the sarcastic stoner. Submissive and obedient compared to his headstrong brother, Masterson’s character fulfills the archetype of the subordinate brother, who even despite his loyalty to his family, seems always to be placed second behind Colt.

Bitter patriarch Beau rules his ranch and shows mercy towards no one, with only one exception: his wife Maggie (Deborah Winger), whom he loves and with whom he often spends the night, but cannot stand as part of the household. Despite their incompatible living styles, Beau and Maggie’s love burns strong, and the war-hardened household head shows most of his only moments of weakness on the show in front of Maggie.

The Ranch is a solid watch. There is, of course, a dearth of drama, as is the case with most sitcoms, but if you’re looking for something to just sit and laugh at, you’re in for a good time.