‘Yellowstone’s’ Most Compelling Drama Is Behind the Scenes

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Paramount+
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Paramount+
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You don’t need to be up to date on Yellowstone to understand the high-stakes drama surrounding the show’s upcoming sixth season. Paramount Network is facing a crisis surrounding its, well, paramount show, which stars Kevin Costner in a role he’s reportedly eager to exit. Even after winning a Golden Globe for season five of the show, the actor is still apparently desperate to get out of the show—an outcome that might be as bad as if James Gandolfini prematurely exited The Sopranos.

Famously billed as a “dad show,” Yellowstone has gained a massive following over five seasons, largely thanks to Costner’s turn as patriarch and ranch owner John Dutton. Under the hand of Taylor Sheridan, the series has expanded its initial audience of around 3 million viewers to a whopping average of 7 million to 8 million. Because of Yellowstone, Sheridan has expanded his collaboration with Paramount, contributing to the company’s streamer with similarly gritty all-American shows like Mayor of Kingstown, Tulsa King, and Yellowstone spinoffs 1888 and 1923.

But Costner seems to have the opposite relationship with Paramount. According to Matthew Belloni at Puck, Costner demanded $1.2 million per episode for the 16-episode fifth season (for reference, on Succession, Brian Cox makes around $400,000 per episode) and is threatening a $1.5 million cost per episode if there’s a sixth season.

To make matters worse, Costner has allegedly fled from the set several times, before he’s finished shooting his scenes for blocks of the second batch of Season 5 episodes. The show has reportedly struggled to make up for lost time with Costner—he’s allegedly only offered around a week of dates in the summer of 2023, with a few days left for pick-ups in the fall. Delays have resulted in the second half of Season 5 being pushed to November, but that’s originally when Season 6 was meant to premiere.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 5 Is Lazily Coasting on Its Extreme Popularity

Costner’s lawyer Marty Singer shot back against these allegations: “The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie,” he told Puck. “It’s ridiculous—and anyone suggesting it shouldn’t be believed for one second. As everyone who knows anything about Kevin is well aware, he is incredibly passionate about the show and has always gone way above and beyond to ensure its success.”

At least the feeling is mutual, allegedly. The cast, crew, execs, and even Sheridan himself have been reportedly “frustrated” by Costner’s “ego and unavailability for years,” Belloni writes. So if Costner exits the show—or, with lofty demands for a day increase, is pushed out—is it really all that big of a deal?

Simply put, yes, it would be a big deal for Paramount to lose Costner. Even though Paramount has hedged its bets on Sheridan in the feud between the two, the creator seems to be falling behind on the unthinkable number of projects to which he’s signed. Buried in heaps of work at Paramount+, Sheridan reportedly struggled to deliver Yellowstone scripts on time while shooting Season 5, Puck reports.

Since most of the hype surrounding Sheridan’s collaboration with Paramount stems from Yellowstone’s massive success, to let the cash cow fall by the wayside would most likely be a mistake on Paramount’s part. The so-called “Taylor Sheridan Universe” is nothing without the original star power of Costner on Yellowstone.

Yellowstone could attempt to continue without Costner. But part of Sheridan’s finesse is the big names he draws for projects: Sylvester Stallone for Tulsa King, Jeremy Renner for Kingstown, Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren for 1923. Wes Bentley is probably the second biggest name in Yellowstone, so without Costner, it would take a massive hit.

Whatever happens to Yellowstone, the drama is engrossing. Much like the Don’t Worry Darling fallout reported between director Olivia Wilde and star Florence Pugh, or the behind-the-scenes romance between GMA3 hosts T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, the chasm opening between Costner and Sheridan/Paramount—though it may shatter Yellowstone—puts all eyes on the Paramount Network show.

And this doesn’t just apply to Yellowstone, another point Belloni makes in his report on Yellowstone. “This is a larger trend,” he writes. “As bigger names work on TV series, they often don’t want to make series commitments, forcing the shows to contort their schedules to shoot their stars in and out. It’s an industry-wide problem.”

What other shows might he be referring to? Well, take a look at the belle of the ball over at Apple TV+, Ted Lasso. Jason Sudeikis stars as the titular mustache-sporting, compliment-slinging dad figure (the antithesis of Costner’s role in Yellowstone; still, notable that he’s also a prominent father figure), but he’s teased multiple times that the show should end after three seasons. Will the series go on without Sudeikis and co-creator/star Brendan Hunt? Lasso without Sudeikis is like Seinfeld without Seinfeld. The Office without the office.

Apple TV+ has yet to confirm whether Ted Lasso’s upcoming third season will be its last, as the creators and stars have teased. But with the show premiering on March 15, they’d only have a few weeks to wrap the season into a tidy final act—à la Jesse Armstrong, who, ahead of Succession’s Season 4 premiere, announced that this would be the final chapter.

Seeing the discourse surrounding Ted Lasso’s most recent season and the middling reviews Yellowstone received for the first half of Season 5, the shows’ actual plots pale in comparison to the real drama at hand. Plus, if this is “an industry-wide problem”—what show is next? Call it a marketing ploy or the Don’t Worry Darling effect: Now, more than ever, I’m ready to tune in—even if the end is nigh.

‘Ted Lasso’ Season 3 Debuts Next Month—But Will This Be the End?

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