Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone is one of the most popular shows on television right now, with ratings that are regularly eclipsed by professional football and pretty much nothing else. Despite that massive success, the series gets little in the way of critical attention, including at the Emmys, where the Paramount Network series has never gotten a single nomination across its four (about to be five) seasons on the air—something that some commentators have attributed to its status as a “red-state” show, about both big and little c conservatives riding horses and shooting each other under the Big Skies of Montana
One person who does not buy that descriptor, though, is Sheridan himself, as revealed in a fascinating profile in The Atlantic this week that dives in pretty deep on a guy who went, in the span of a decade, from “20th billed guy on Sons Of Anarchy” to “billion-dollar TV architect.” When asked, by writer Sridhar Pappu, about the show’s political status, Sheridan is blunt:
They refer to it as “the conservative show” or “the Republican show” or “the red-state Game of Thrones.” And I just sit back laughing. I’m like, “Really?” The show’s talking about the displacement of Native Americans and the way Native American women were treated and about corporate greed and the gentrification of the West, and land-grabbing. That’s a red-state show?
(Pappu does note that Paramount, at least, seems very careful not to outright alienate any right-wing viewers the series might have, saying that the network threatened to cut his access for a set visit if he pursued a line of questioning about critiques of Donald Trump that Sheridan reportedly made in 2017.)
Even beyond the political stuff, though, the profile is a fascinating read. Sheridan comes off a bit like a cowboy hat-wearing Aaron Sorkin, circa the heyday of The West Wing: He writes every single episode of Yellowstone (and several of the other shows he produces), and aggressively resists any and all efforts by Paramount to supplement or control his vision for the series. (Including an ill-fated effort to institute a writers’ room for Yellowstone’s second season; they didn’t come back for the third.) It sounds, to us, like a recipe for massive burnout, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to take on spin-offs and new projects, including the new Sylvester Stallone TV vehicle Tulsa King. As Sheridan himself puts it: “I do spread myself thin as a result… I don’t know that I will ever have this creative freedom again. Hopefully I can ride off into the sunset before something tanks.”
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