I am not an Ashton Kutcher fan by any means. But he is currently starring in one of the best sitcoms I’ve seen in years, Netflix’s “The Ranch.”
Kutcher plays Colt Bennett, a former high school and college football star who left his family and small town behind for 18 years to try and pursue a pro-football career. When Colt finally returns to the family ranch, we meet the family he left behind. That includes “Rooster” (Danny Masterson, Kutcher’s former co-star on “That ’70s Show”), Colt’s alternately worshipful and resentful younger brother; his mom Maggie (Debra Winger), who is separated from Colt’s dad and runs a bar in town; and his father Beau (Sam Elliott), a misanthrope whose only (small) joy in life is the ranch he has been running since he returned from the Vietnam War and his own father died.
Each of these characters has a backstory filled with heartbreak and conflict, and that’s one of the many minor miracles about this show. After seeing so many sitcoms with rimshot-punchlines (or worse yet, no punchlines), all of the laughs in this show come from vivid characterizations.
And every one of the actors is wonderful. Masterson has sibling rivalry down pat. Winger is as glorious as ever, and if Hollywood isn’t smart enough to put her on the big screen again, at least she got a worthy role on the smaller screen.
Kutcher amazes me. After seeing him do “Aren’t I a cute slacker” in so many TV and movie roles, it’s a treat to see him fully inhabit a real character — one with flaws as well as redeemable qualities.
But for me, at least, the most astounding revelation of the show is Sam Elliott. His misanthropic-dad character has plenty of worthy dramatic moments, which nobody ever doubted that Elliott could pull off. The real surprise is his comic timing. Elliott delivers one comic gem after another, and with his laconic style, he never lets on that he expected a laugh from any of his lines.
He’s a real joy to behold, as is the rest of the cast, backed by some sharp, sharp writing. If you don’t have Netflix, you ought to get it just for “The Ranch” alone.