'The Ranch': Ashton Kutcher's new sitcom aims for a different audience

'Ranch' stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson as two brothers living in Colorado. Kutcher says heartland America gets short shrift on the small screen.

Greg Gayne/Netflix/File
From left: 'The Ranch' stars Debra Winger, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, and Sam Elliott.

A new sitcom, “The Ranch,” stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson as brothers and Sam Elliott and Debra Winger as their parents. It debuts on Netflix on April 1.

On “Ranch,” Colt (Mr. Kutcher) comes back to the family ranch, which is in trouble. Rooster (Mr. Masterson), who has worked at the ranch for years with their father, Beau (Mr. Elliott), must deal with having his high school star brother back in the fold. Father Beau and mother Maggie (Ms. Winger) are still married but are experiencing problems with their marriage. 

Kutcher and Masterson starred as two of the main characters on the long-running Fox sitcom “That ‘70s Show.” 

The program will be the newest original comedy from Netflix following such programs as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Master of None,” and “Fuller House.” 

The show takes place in Colorado. Kutcher, who is an executive producer on the show as well, recently discussed how he feels the program is aimed at an audience that is often overlooked. 

“Most of these sitcoms that we see, they’re set on one of the coasts – whether it’s ‘Seinfeld’ or ‘Two and a Half Men’ [on which Kutcher also starred] – and tonally they’re very metropolitan,” Kutcher said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “The first thing that we wanted to do was set it in small-town America. It’s the middle of the country, the heartland, and those are the people that probably enjoy these shows the most, yet nobody makes content for them. I don’t think the success of ‘Duck Dynasty’ was an accident. I think that show was successful because it spoke to a specific audience that can relate to that life.” 

In 2010, T.L. Stanley of the Los Angeles Times found that a "growing number" of shows on network and cable "are mining small-town America and off-the-beaten-path cities for their inspiration." 

Many of the programs Ms. Stanley mentions have now ended, including A&E’s “The Glades,” ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7,” FX’s “Terriers,” and TNT’s “Memphis Beat." But some of the programs she mentioned, including Fox’s “Raising Hope,” CBS’s “Mike & Molly,” and TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland,” ran for several seasons, a sign of success in the TV world.

But in terms of how those areas are depicted, Hampton Stevens of The Atlantic found the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” which is set in Indiana and ran from 2009 to 2015, to be a rarity. Mr. Stevens found the program similar to the Fox animated comedy “King of the Hill,” which is set in Texas. 

“Both cities have citizens that aren't treated like either idiot savants or just idiots because they happen to be from small towns,” Stevens wrote. " 'Parks and Rec' is extraordinarily rare for its respectful treatment of small town life – neither mocking nor glorifying it. ‘Rosanne,’ generally, didn't treat the residents of Landford, Illinois, as anything but residents, and the same is true for ‘That '70s Show’ and Point Place, Wisconsin. After that, the pickings get pretty slim.”

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