TV’s number 1 show is “Yellowstone.” Fans love it. Critics love it. The TV industry loves it. But will the motley crew of international journalists at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association finally catch on to TV’s biggest blockbuster? We’re about to find out, as the HFPA are about to unveil its nominations for the 80th annual Golden Globe Awards on Monday, December 12.
The Paramount Network hit series broke ratings records and shattered hearts last season, as its premiere was watched by a staggering 8.38 million live viewers, becoming cable’s most watched episode of any series since 2018. Season 5 (which premiered last month) built on that success, with the neo-Western captivating 12.1 million live-plus-same-day viewers, a huge uptick on an already high watermark. Numbers like that are almost unheard of these days in a TV landscape that is so fractured by hundreds of choices across a multitude of platforms and networks.
Just like its viewership, the critical response to the show has built steadily over the years, with Season 4 garnering an impressive 86% “fresh” rating and Season 5 boasting a 90% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The show also claimed well-overdue awards recognition earlier this year from the producers guild, art directors guild, the Cinema Audio Society (where it won for sound mixing) and a coveted SAG Award nomination for Best Drama Ensemble alongside “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Morning Show,” “Squid Game” and “Succession” (which ended up triumphing on the night). Make no mistake, the show has finally arrived on the awards radar, and despite its inexplicable snubbing at this year’s Emmys, its recent success bodes well for its chances at upcoming TV awards.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, “Yellowstone” was created by Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”), about a powerful Montana ranching family under constant threat by politicians, developers and the neighboring Native American reservation. Oscar, Emmy and SAG Award winner Kevin Costner (“Dances With Wolves,” “Hatfields & McCoys”) stars as family patriarch John Dutton, with Luke Grimes co-starring as favorite son Kaycee alongside TV siblings Kelly Reilly as the ruthless Beth and Wes Bentley as the black sheep Jamie, with Cole Hauser playing Rip, the Duttons’ honorary adopted son and Beth’s lover.
The vast, gorgeously rendered Montana landscapes on “Yellowstone” belie the harsh, violent world that the Duttons operate within. It’s like “The Sopranos” meets “Lonesome Dove,” exploring similar themes and evoking that same Wild West spirit last seen in TV Western award-magnets like “Deadwood,” “Justified” and “Westworld.” Season 5 opens with John being sworn in as Montana’s new governor, promising more of the epic storylines focusing on legacy, loyalty, honor and vengeance, and the seductive political and familial in-fighting, bloodshed and tears that have enthralled audiences from day one.
How will the show fare at the Globes this year? Let’s face it, say what you will about them, but the (newly rehabilitated) Globe voters still have refined tastes. They are snobs. They love prestige shows with top-notch casts and stellar reviews. Yes, they have a long history of embracing the latest hot new show. They’re infatuated with freshman series and performers — place a shiny new toy in front of them and they just can’t help themselves. But the same might be said for those shows that suddenly become too big to fail — they can’t be seen to ignore the zeitgeist too much, lest be seen as out of touch.
So, I think it will upend the status quo among the top series vying for attention in the Best Drama Series race. It’s currently in fifth spot in our combined odds, just behind “The Crown,” “Severance,” “House of the Dragon” and “Better Call Saul,” with “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” “Euphoria,” “Ozark,” “Andor,” “Stranger Things” and “Pachinko” nipping at its heels.
Among its actors, mega-star Costner seems the most likely contender among the celebrity-lovers at the HFPA, but I have my money on Reilly. Every once in a while, a television character comes along that is so unforgettable, they inevitably hit a nerve with fans and critics, driving viewership and generating deafening social media buzz for their show and the actor that portrays them. That’s Reilly in a heartbeat. She could easily show up in Best Drama Actress, with Hauser the most likely contender in Best Supporting Actor as rough diamond Rip.
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