Written by: Featured Movies

Yellowstone – A Former Cowboy’s Take on the Series

Transcript from the December 2021 Podcast by Craig Rainey

This might elicit a whole lot of response. The reason for it is, I’m going to give you an opinion on one of the more popular series that is on right now, Yellowstone, it’s just taking the country by storm. It’s funny. I was looking at Rotten Tomatoes and the 1st season, which came out in 2018, they give it 50 3%. Season 2 was 88%, and  season 3. They gave it 100%. This last season, season 4, that just ended, 86%. And I am not afraid to tell you that I have seen every episode except for the last two of this last season, and like to render an opinion on it.

 Now this is from a former working cowboy’s point of view, and also from the point of view of a filmmaker, and finally the point of view from an author, somebody that actually has to put stories together. 

So anyway, it’s going to be kind of a short one, but I just wanted to weigh in on it. And let me tell you what peaked my interest in it. Right before the end of the year, my wife and I went to Scottsdale, Arizona. We stayed with some friends over there and they had rented a really nice house over near the Boulders golf course. If you’ve been out there you know it’s just a beautiful part of the desert. We had a great time – didn’t hit the ball very well playing golf, but that really wasn’t the high point. The high point was, going into town. They’ve got this huge cowboy push that’s going on right now.

I know Arizona, they do have Cowboys, but I didn’t expect in the midst of a tourist area that it would be so cowboyed up. But, anyway, we went over, grabbed a bite to eat and, the steak was good as was everything else. The place was packed and just really saw a lot of people there. Later that night, our host, a good friend of ours, she said, “Hey, let’s go over to this, this country bar, they’ve got a rodeo arena in the back and let’s go take a look. “

 Well, I thought that would be great because some of you who know me and some of you have read my bio, know that  when I was younger, I cowboyed professionally, worked on a ranch. We used to break horses. I could throw a decent rope to the point that I could rope a pig, which is, something. Who needsto, but it’s kind of a test. But at one time I, worked with some of our brothers from south of the border and these Vaqueros, they challenged me when I was younger to ride bulls. So I started riding bulls too. I was never a PRCA rodeo guy, but I did spend a lot of time on working ranches, running cattle.

We went on a Friday night. I was there for golf so of course I was there wearing a golf shirt, shorts and loafers. I looked the farthest thing from a cowboy you could imagine. When I got there, it was like I just went to the stockyards in Fort Worth. Everybody there, cowboy hats and boots and denim,  big buckles and that kind of thing. I thought, “Wow, this is unexpected.”

I’m from San Angelo, Texas –  west, Texas. Even in Texas, when you say you are  from west Texas, you get respect. I guess I’ve been kind of giving you my informal resume, because with what I’m about to tell you, it might give a little more credibility to my opinion. I’ve got two pairs of cowboy boots. 
By the way, here’s a question, what do we call cowboy boots in Texas? Boots!

Ha Ha. I’ve got two pair, one pair of Lucchese’s, and then I’ve got another pair of Tony Lama’s, they’ve got spur burns on them.

Hats and Boots – I Saw a Lot There

 I’ve done a lot of riding. I’ve got four different hats – 2 straw and 2 felt. One of them is sweat stained from working out in the weather with it. But, anyway, I didn’t take any of this stuff with me. So we went over to this place and I think we paid $10 a head to walk in -I say in,  it was outdoors. It looked like we’d gone to Gilley’s. My wife and I grabbed a beer and we were going to go in and watch what I was assuming to be a mini rodeo. 

When I was younger,  we used to go to these mini rodeos. I live in Austin now, but at one time I lived in my adopted hometown of San Antonio. I say adopted because I am from San Angelo. San Angelo is  a hundred thousand  people in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.

So typically you’ve got a lot of people that are trying to get out of, out of San Angelo, if you really want to achieve anything. And I’m not bad mouthing it, because I love my hometown, but there’s not a whole lot of opportunity indigenous to it. We moved to San Antonio when I was in High School. My  point is that just north of San Antonio, actually kind of a east off I 10, there’s a town called Marion – Marion, Texas, and they have a bull arena called, Vick’s. We used to go out there. You pay your 50 bucks and  you ride the bulls.

 My wife asked me if I wanted to ride a bull. I’m 59. I’ve lived a lot of life, but I’m sure as heck not going to get on a bull again. We grabbed our beers and we’re stand there waiting for them to let people in the gate. I’m a kind of guy that I try to use my body parts in proportion to their size. I got two feet and one butt, but my butt’s bigger. I like to use it more than my feet. I’m a big sit-down person. There was a picnic table there. Everyone at the table were all wearing cowboy hats. 
I said, “Hey, y’all mind if I sit in with you?” They said, “Well, sure.” So I sat down. My wife was talking to my friend and some other people anyway.

New England Cow Punchers were There

So they were just talking about they were going to go in and watch the rodeo. I laughed because a lot of these people were about my age. I said, “We all got to ride the bull.” And of course they laughed and said, “we’re not going to do that.” One said he was from Massachusetts. Another one said he was from, New Hampshire and another one was from New Jersey. I asked, so they run a lot of cattle in the Northeast?” and they laughed. They said, “No, we bought this stuff while we’re here. We’re just enjoying the show and the country vibe.
I’m telling you, they were dressed to the nines. They asked me, “So where are you from” and I said, “Well, I’m from Texas.”  Even though I’m dressed in golf attire, they started making excuses for why they were dressed up. It’s almost like they thought they were impersonating an officer and I’m a cop. I said, “No, no, it’s fine. You know, I’m all for embracing the culture, and in fact, if I went to New Jersey, I’d probably drive crazy and vote Democrat.” But anyway, it was interesting that everybody there were all tourists from up north and everywhere else. They’re all dressed up like the are from the Arizona wilderness and they just jumped off the ranch and they’re coming into town for the dance and going to the rodeo.

 So we went in and it turned out that this ” rodeo” was just, a bunch of tourists. They paid to sit on a bull for a second and a half until they got thrown off. But there were no pros. There was nobody there who could really ride. And it’s funny, my wife said,  “Does it make you want to go over there and show them how?”  I said, “Absolutely not, baby. I am not ever going to jump on a bull, probably not a horse again.”
When you ride them for a living,it really takes a lot of the fun out of it. It was work. It’s kind of like somebody that’s welding and say, Hey, you want to jump on a rig and go weld for fun this evening?

We were finished watching this alleged rodeo and we’re sitting around having a beer with some people when the subject of Yellowstone came up. Oh man, these people, the hue and cry. We love it! It’s great! I can’t wait for the next season!

Yellowstone Plot wasn’t even Linear

And at this point, the 2021 season was about to start. So that’s how long ago it was.  I didn’t say anything really at first. My friends said, “Oh, it’s just the greatest show I’ve ever seen” – and so forth. I finally just had to weigh in. I said, “Well, you know, I, I don’t think it’s very good at all. I it’s eye candy, I’ll give you that.”
 My wife, she just loves seeing Kevin Costner in a hat. And by the way, Kevin Costner’s cowboy hats are the only ones that I would call true cowboy hats, and look good on him. That’s my opinion.

But other than that, I think of course, the terrain’s beautiful – the ranch house and everything else. Of course, Kelly Riley who plays Beth, she’s not a beautiful woman in the face, but boy, she is stacked. And that’s probably the only reason I watch that show. She’s a beautiful girl coming and going that way. But anyway, there’s some eye candy to it, but for me that doesn’t really do the trick. I need a little more than that. I’m coming from the point of view of a former cowboy, a former film actor. Although, a half-ass actor, I’m not Costner.  I’m not even that unskilled kid  who plays Tate.

 I’m none of those people, but, and I’ve been in 60 film projects, I’ve won a couple of awards, and I know how it works. I’ve done small, small roles in big movies and big roles in small movies. It’s from that point of view, but particularly it’s from a writer’s point of view. As somebody who has to craft a story, somebody who has to, engage my audience,  I can’t use eye candy like Kelly Riley, or Kevin Costner’s hat, or the, the Dutton ranch. I can’t do that as a storyteller. I have to build that story and, in writing draw in my reader. Hopefully, people enjoy it enough that they’ll continue reading it. And they like my character and so forth.

Taylor Sheridan – Cowboy? Not Certain

 I think that Taylor Sheridan, who is the executive producer on this series is also the head narcissist. My understanding is that he has a cowboy background, and I believe it. The guy can ride. He can also obviously work out, but I don’t think he knows a whole lot about telling a story. And let me tell you why. Here’s where it comes in. Linear writing is bad, but I find the Yellowstone writing isn’t even linear. I find that Yellowstone just kind of plods from episode to episode. 
I think they probably focus group every episode to see who’s popular and who’s not, and you’ll see those people stick around and the other ones won’t. They’ll focus the next episode on these people. Taylor Sheridan breaks the Cardinal rule. This goes back to the acting. When an actor is doing a smaller role in any kind of project, whether it’s just the TV series or a film series or any kind of project, there are three actor levels that there’re certain things you don’t do.

Extras, Featured Extras, Under-Five Actors

 If you’re an extra, essentially you’re a tree. You are background. If you’re a featured extra, it means you’re a tree that’s actually going to hang out with the name cast. If you’re an under-five, that means that you have under five lines. It can be a little more than that but here’s the thing. Whenever you’re watching a show and somebody is in the hospital, and the doctor comes in and says, “Hey, your son has been grievously injured. We’ll do everything we can, we’ll keep you posted.” Then he walks out. That’s an under-five. 

With Taylor Sheridan, he obviously has a disdain for actors in general. He hasn’t done it to Kevin Costner or to Cole Hauser who plays Rip Wheeler, but he’s done it to every other person in the cast. You’ll have these professional rodeo Cowboys, who he obviously idolizes, show up.

 By the way, whenever you hear the hokey music start, you know you’re about to see some featured, extra rodeo rider, do his thing. Of course, all the ranch hands on the Dutton ranch say, “Ooh and Ahhh!” “oh my God, he’s so cool. He’s so wonderful.”  They watch these guys do their thing. 
But the next thing is, there’ll be one of these B actors who will absolutely insult the crap out of one of the cast members. Their general dialogue indicates that the cast member doesn’t know anything at all about cowboying. Taylor Sheridan in particular, when he’s driving Jefferson White, who plays Jimmy, on the way to Texas and the four 6 ranch or three 6 ranch, or whatever it is called, he continually  tells him what a piece of crap he is.

 Of course they’re sending him to Texas so he can learn how to cowboy. What the heck is going on at  the Dutton ranch? Don’t, they cowboy there? Apparently not. Obviously Taylor, Sheridan is in love with Texas. He thinks you can’t be a cowboy unless you’re from Texas. And all these alleged profesional Montana cowboys take it. These characters go along with it. “Oh yeah. Whatever you say, we’re not worthy and all that. Taylor Sheridan, of course, he’s front and center, and he has to talk about how he’s driving a $150,000 rig and what he knows. By the way, as a note on that, what is up with these horses, that slide to a halt? I’ve rodeoed a little bit – again, not PRCA – and I’ve also, worked on a ranch on horseback a lot, and I’ve just never seen the use of horse stopping on a dime like that.

I mean, cutting horses, I’ve seen them do their thing, and I’ve seen some incredible stuff done with barrel racing horses, but, I just don’t get that. Maybe there’s a use for it, but I just think, again, it’s part of the eye candy. 
But I just think that the Cardinal rule that he breaks is that he’s got featured extras and under five actors that are coming in and insulting name cast and their characters. 
That’s number one, number two is the plot. This plot staggers from episode episode. In this last season they started off where, again, somebody else is trying to take Dutton’s property away, and of course, then you have Beth, who is the Terminator. I say that because in the first episode of this season – and this happens all the time with her. 

On Beth, she has only two speeds, pissed off and sexy –  that’s it. And the first one is what she does more than anything else. Episode one opens after she’s been blown up in her office and she comes out out in this tattered low cut dress and she’s got black on her face and she’s kind of bloody. So she’s sits down. Some kid stops and stares at her. “Give me a cigarette,” she says roughly.  So he gives her a cigarette. So she lights up and she looks out into the street with squinty eyes, “Get outta here,” she says to the kid, taking a drag.  She’s always angry and you can’t kill this girl. She’s been shot, raped, beat up, blown up, everything’s happened to her, but she lives through everything they throw at her..

There’s not a whole lot of range to her. She is just always angry all the time. She has trite predictable dialogue – really mealy mouth. I wish she’d have more range. 
That’s one of the problems I have right there, as well as the under five thing. Featured extras, and under-fives – these pro Cowboys, they’re carrying too many plot points and I’m gonna include Taylor Sheridan, because he couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag, as far as I’m concerned, The plot, if they do have a plot, Sheridan will leave it to some under five he likes to carry a plot point.

The kid that plays Tate – oh man, this guy. I know he focuses poorly because every time he and his mother Monica get on camera, you can almost hear a collective groan from the nation, because these two are going to whine and cry because that’s how they’re written. Of course in taht sub-plt, Dutton’s son, Kase, just want to keep his little family together and so forth. He’s fighting his little mental battles, but the plot never really goes forward. 
The first season I thought was okay. Rotten Tomatoes said it was a bit too melodramatic. In fact, Yellowstone proves too melodramatic to be taken seriously, diminishing the effects of the talented cast and beautiful backdrops. 

I think that’s continued through all the seasons. Speaking of kid actors – they got this new kid, what’s his name, Carter. This kid is killing me. Why does Sherican need to keep introducing kids with deep seated mental issues? Maybe that is what passes for creative character development for him.

First it was the Indians trying to take Dutton land, than it was a, I forget what his name is, but it was some developer. He was trying to take their land. Now they got this angry older woman, who’s CEO of some corporation, and she is going to try to take the Dutton land. Can’t we mix it up a bit?
And then the subplots –  of course they sent Jimmy off to Texas to learn to be a real cowboy. He’s trying to get over having a broken heart. All the girls, by the way, are very, very forward. This old practice of who approaches who first – well, the the men are helpless against these women because they go, are you going to kiss me or what?

I grew up in Texas and I know there’s a little more genteel manner to most of the girls that are from there. There aren’t many of them who just walk up to a guy and say, “Hey, you’re going to give me a big old kiss and take me home?” Most of them are going to rely on the man to come up to them. If they decide that he’s worthy, he might get a kiss goodnight, or he might get her phone number. 
I don’t really like the way that’s represented. 
The last thing that bugs me about Yellowstone is that the dialogue is so awkward. The lines, the dialogue, the lack of creativity, all this: euphemistic cowboy talk. There’s always some old guy, it’s usually either an older actor they’re paying homage to, or it’s some old cowboy celebrity guy.

nd he says, “Well, you know, when I was younger we didn’t do it this way.” or “You know that white spot on the top of chicken shit, well that’s chicken shit too.” I mean, that kind of country fried wisdom. Typically it starts off with: “Well, I don’t know, but…”  and I’ve heard it all my life. 
There’s some good that is coming from Yellowstone. And what I think that good is is this, I think in light of all the the social and political polarization that’s going on in our country, no matter what your viewpoint is, whether you’re left or right, or center or independent, or you don’t know what the heck’s going on.

I think that this move towards Cowboys and country and the simpler times reflects the fatigue of our society and our nation from the powers that be trying to rip us apart. And I think that people are drawn to this. I know, because even though it’s kinda corny, the beauty of it, the simplicity of it, cattle and pretty girls and tough guys, and fighting for what’s right. These are the things that we all adhere to as human beings. I think that Yellowstone has brought us together in that I think we’re willing to overlook some things, that we may not in another type of show. But in this one, I think that’s what it is. It’s kind of like what the Waltons did back in the seventies.

I would say, I think it’s the same way with Bonanza and, the Big Valley and all those others  back in the 60’s were part of that. I think that there is an Americana that is becoming more and more popular as we all seek a less aggressive and simpler way – something that’s not so contrived in our world. I’m searching for terms here, but what I think is this, I think that the good that this show does outweighs the bad. I have a tough time watching it, and my wife does too, because it’s just written so poorly. And Taylor Sheridan, oh man. If his ego gets any bigger…Just a final, final note.

My brother called me from Wisconsin. He lives up there in Chippewa Falls area.

He called a couple days ago and he said that he talked to somebody, that knew something about them filming this 1883. I think it’s called 1883. I think that’s a prequel to Yellowstone. But anyway, whatever it is, it’s the origin story of Yellowstone, I guess. My brother passed along that what the guy told him. “If you get on this website, Casting Works or Casting Line, or something like that, they’re looking for Cowboys to be in a card game.” “I told him that I’m kind of far away to do that one because they’re filming it in Wyoming.”  He doesn’t know a lot about the acting business, but I love him for calling me in and thinking of me because I do still have an agent.

I think my last casting call was, I don’t know, maybe a month and a half ago. I’m still active in it. When you have an agent, they require you to be registered with all these different casting sites: Casting Works, Talent, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and you have to be registered, and then you pay annually to become a part of that. But, and I’ve seen the casting call for Yellowstone. I’ve seen the casting calls for, this 1883. Mostly on these sites I see a lot of calls for reality shows. That’s something that people don’t necessarily know, that these reality shows are all cast. And of course, if you ever want to see the reality of a reality show – now they call it an unscripted drama –  in a scene they’ve got three different points of view. For instance, in one set up they’re showing the guy, and another shows only the woman. Watch for  the guy as he’s talking, and then the next, when she talks, the camera angles changes.

Then you have another angle showing both actors. That’s three setups on this, which means they did that same scene three different times to get those three angles on it. How reality is that? 

Those are the things that I see on the casting sites. I saw 1883, and I saw Yellowstone. I don’t think that I could be involved with something like this. I’m just not going to do it. So as this equates to an author, one of the things, which on a previous episode, we talked about, one of the things that I really work at is to create characters that are multifaceted, deeply complex. We don’t go too much into it psychologically, but Carson Brand in my Carson Brand series, he is a guy that’s in his late twenties, early thirties.

He lost his parents when he was very young and it affected him emotionally. He has a lot of hang-ups  but the thing is he’s also a very likable guy. You like to have a little salt with our sugar whenever we’re making a cake. The salt tends to enhance the sweetness of whatever we eat sweets wise. The same thing with your heroes. You want to have a little bit of a dark side. You want to have some flaws so that we can go, oh man, I wouldn’t have made that decision, but we still love him. Let’s hope he gets through it. Okay. The other thing is we want to make sure that it has a plot and it’s relevant, Enough that somebody might actually say, this is something that interests me. 

Sub-plot, and we talked about this. In other words, subplot is key. This is the webbing that makes up who we are. for instance, I mentioned this before, I’ll just repeat it quickly. In Stolen Valor, Brand is a little insecure, and he has this really hot girlfriend. He is concerned that she is cheating on him. You’ll just have to read the book to find out if she is or not, but this is something that really bothered him and it affected the way he treated her and the way that he talked to her and, as a reader, we go  you being such a butthole She doesn’t seem to be doing anything wrong. So, I mean, these are the things that you have to have. So when I watch a show like Yellowstone, I tend to think, this is some lazy writing.

They’re really counting on the filming and the interesting people, you know, those featured extras, and of course, Kevin Costner, who’s just above reproach of anything he does. As a writer, I don’t have those things to carry me through. So as a writer, I have to make the writing important, make the story important, make the characters important. So that’s from a former cowboy – his take on Yellowstone. I appreciate you putting up with it, for those of you who have not already turned it off . I really appreciate you sticking with the streaming. Anyway, I will have another one for you a little while. Thanks a lot. Talk to you later.

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