It looks like that brief reprieve we had from all the misogynistic nonsense churned out by the Two and a Half Men offices is coming to a quick end. Deadline reports today that Netflix is finalizing a deal to pick-up The Ranch, a multi-camera comedy that will star Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson as brothers looking after their family’s ranch, following Kutcher’s character’s brief career as an NFL star. The show is the creation of Don Reo and Jim Patterson, the duo who served as co-showrunners on Two and a Half Men, and they’re currently looking at a 20-episode series, split into two 10-episode blocks to be released separately within one year.
This brings up a troubling new wrinkle for Netflix, a company whose sense of original programming has been impressively ambitious up until now, if not exactly consistently compelling. Setting aside that the show sounds so similar to Two and a Half Men that it could easily be called Two Men, and Kutcher’s seeming disinterest in putting effort or care into anything he’s done post-That 70s Show, the 20-episode model suggested here seems like too much of a likely not-good thing. Grace & Frankie, for all its positive underlying ideas about age, femininity, and relationships, just barely made it through 13 episodes before its more irksome, this-is-a-sitcom elements became too much to bear.
The fact that Netflix is now trying to perform more like a major broadcaster, padding its more original programming with soft, familiar sitcom fare, waters down the company’s reputation as a game-changer, and suggest that such daring breakthrough hits like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Bojack Horseman, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt may become increasingly scarce as Netflix grows. I’ll hold out hope for now but the fact that Netflix is giving more money to the men responsible for one of the greatest scourges of basic cable to premiere over the last two decades does not bode well for perhaps the most dynamic company to arise from the last two decades.