The closure of Paramount Network yellowstone was for many the most egregious “nudge” of the July 12 Emmy nominations announcement. Created by Taylor Sheridan, the Montana neo-western (who occasionally directs and appears as a supporting character in addition to writing the episodes) was a massive ratings hit from the start, especially in the heartland, but wasn’t viewed as a serious contender for awards for its first three seasons and received just a single Emmy nomination for production design in 2021.
But during the COVID lockdown, many in the entertainment industry and the media that covered it began catching up with the Kevin Costner star and crediting him with being very well done. And when in early 2022 the show’s fourth season — whose finale drew more than 11 million viewers before streaming — was nominated for Best SAG and PGA Awards and its supporters launched an aggressive campaign, it seemed like its Emmy fate might take a turn turn soon. At the end of the day though, Sheridan’s prequel 1883which streams on Paramount+ and which stars country music superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, ended up receiving three nominations (two for cinematography, one for music), three more than yellowstone.
After the snub, the Daily Mail described yellowstone as “Anti-Woke,” which is as perfunctory as its other descriptor: “Red-State successorThere are certainly similarities between the dramas – in the HBO series, the grown children of a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul fight for control of his empire amidst seismic changes in the industry yellowstone shows a similar family dynamic triggered by property ownership and an ever-increasing modernity that threatens the status quo of its characters. One seems to draw the attention of city viewers, who recognize the Murdoch influence in its storylines, while the other is a violent melodrama set in a setting more familiar to those living off the coast.
But “anti-woke”? The culture war buzzword would be equally applicable to successor — and it’s inaccurate, even if the images of modern-day cowboys in the ferrying states conjure up an idea of the “real America.” yellowstoneThe portrayal of land use politics in the western United States – particularly its effect on Native American characters – is a Trojan horse, a political subtext hidden in melodrama. This tactic is what television does best; Other examples this season included Netflix’s 14-time nominee Squid Game, in which a deadly competition is a thinly veiled critique of capitalism; HBO’s The White Lotus (20 nouns) that satirizes (like successor) the ultra-rich and their ailing, neoliberal sensibilities; and AppleTV+ severance pay (14 Names), a puzzle box mystery about the lack of humanity at the heart of corporate culture.
what sets yellowstone Aside from this and other nominated series, it doesn’t get endless coverage on pop culture websites (Sheridan’s media reticence didn’t help), unlike stranger things and euphoria with their Gen Z audience generating memes in real time. (Even finding the show is a challenge: Some yellowstone Seasons live on Paramount Network, not Paramount+, and others on Peacock.) It shares similarities with the New Mexico and Missouri set Better call Saul and ozarkproof of its locations should not deter Emmy voters.
With so much choice – the annual number of shows from FX across streaming, cable and broadcast hit a record 559 English-language series in 2021 – the TV landscape is fragmented. The algorithmic design of streamers, through which many viewers watch linear shows, rewards viewers with content similar to what they have already consumed. That makes yellowstone such a miracle: Any Show that can draw more than 10 million viewers seems to be an outlier. (Compare yellowstoneseason finale with successor‘s: HBO says the December 21 season 3 conclusion was its most-watched yet, with 1.7 million viewers across all platforms on the same day, a fraction of that yellowstonenumbers from .)
Television is no longer a monocultural medium. Gone are the days when Maude’s abortion and Ellen’s coming out pushed the boundaries of what could be seen and discussed on air. The politically polarized debates about Everyone in the family is available 24/7 on Twitter, where anyone can contribute. The “very special episode” trope that used to bring hot topics to the surface for the masses no longer exists — and even if there were water coolers to never gather around in this one–end-of-the-pandemic, good luck to find someone in the office looking at what you’re looking at.
yellowstone‘s perceived “anti-wakeness” may simply be a misunderstanding of its nuance. In fact, its audience is probably more ideologically diverse than most of the shows that September’s television academy will be honoring.
yellowstone (now in production for its fifth season) and its expanding universe (Sheridan is working on another prequel, 1923, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren) will continue to attract new viewers. Paramount Network will continue to seriously target TV Academy (the day after the Emmy nominations, yellowstone Production company 101 Studios announced the hiring of awards specialist Dani Weinstein as its new head of PR). And like a handful of other unconventional shows before that, including breaking Bad and Schott’s Creek, yellowstone‘s best days at the Emmys can easily span multiple seasons.
This story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to login.