Newspaper editor John Babson Lane Soule is credited with the saying, “Go West, young man.” We have a former client that has been doing that for years, selling ranch properties throughout the western United States.
And it’s what TV viewers have been enjoying for more than a half-century.
It’s interesting to see how TV shows, specifically Westerns, have changed over the last 60 years – and how much some themes have survived and evolved over those six decades. Two constants: single parents and the beauty of the West.
The Ponderosa Ranch near Virginia City, Nev., bordering Lake Tahoe, was the setting for NBC’s “Bonanza,” which ran from 1959 to 1973 and included 431 episodes. The ranch was operated by the wealthy Cartwright family, including Ben, Adam, “Hoss” and “Little Joe.” Ben was the three-time widower and patriarch of the family. He and his sons, each from different and deceased mothers, had storylines that dealt less about the range and more about how they cared for one another, their neighbors and just causes.
In the mid ‘60s, Jarrod, Heath, Nick and Audra roamed the Barkley Ranch in Stockton, Calif., on the popular ABC TV show “The Big Valley.” Victoria was the widowed matriarch of the wealthy family. For four seasons and 112 episodes, the Barkley family was portrayed as the upstanding citizens of Stockton, standing for justice, fairness, and oftentimes, going against popular sentiment to uphold the rights of the underdog.
Today, the Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” now in its third season, has taken over the genre in a much less wholesome fashion. Widower John Dutton is a sixth-generation patriarch of the Dutton family, who controls the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in Montana, the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. He and his children, Kayce, Beth and Jamie, along with ranch foreman and enforcer Rip Wheeler, are in constant, often violent battles to protect their family ranch from land developers and the interests of a bordering Indian reservation. It’s not nearly as law-abiding and much more cut-throat than its predecessors, but the drama has proven to be a binge-watch favorite.