A reason exists why the Paramount Network, as I once chatted about with soap opera king Darren Star of all people, was known as “Yellowstone territory” for years. Before Paramount+ launched with a vast movie library, the Taylor Sheridan-created series starring Kevin Costner took off like a bucking bronco in 2018. This, of course, is wild and something that everyone wants to harness. After all, Sheridan was previously best known as the Sicario screenwriter and an ex-Sons Of Anarchy cop (RIP), and now, he’s TV royalty.
These days, several helpings of Taylor Sheridan-involved series, both of the Yellowstone proper and adjacent varieties, still dominate the Paramount Network and Paramount+. Collectively speaking, those shows not only star Costner but also Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, Sam Elliott, Jeremy Renner, and Sylvester Stallone. Upcoming shows will star Zoe Saldana, Nicole Kidman, Billy Bob Thornton, and maybe even Matthew McConaughey. A-listers want in, and that’s evidence that Westerns are truly alive in well in an unexpected time, but perhaps there’s never been a better time for a resurrection.
Not only has Sheridan himself spawned a host of “imitators” (a less awkward word won’t come to me at this moment) within his own universe, but other streaming services want to get in on that sweet Western windfall, too. Let’s list several of them right here. Before we begin, though, I feel the need to mention a few shows and set them apart from this list:
Justified: City Primeval: To be super clear, this Neo-Western joint will completely stand on its own, given that it’s a Justified revival, and no other solitary cowboy can compare to the Elmore Leonard-forged Raylan Givens (and the man who wears that hat, Timothy Olyphant). We will, of course, be talking about this show a lot when it arrives, so let’s keep moving.
Godless: Also to be fair, this Netflix show probably would have landed on this list (with bonus mustaches), had it not preceded Yellowstone a year in 2017.
Now for the Yellowstone-esque or -inspired shows, here or coming your way:
Outer Range (Streaming on Amazon Prime)
Whenever I first mentioned this show on our streaming lists, I wrote, “This ain’t Yellowstone,” and that’s correct. This story is more of a thriller with a side of the supernatural, but comparisons have been made. Also, Brolin may be far away from his former No Country For Old Men territory while portraying a Wyoming rancher, but there’s still a gravitational force to be reckoned with here, not from a questionably-haired Javier Bardem but from a dark void. When quizzed about whether this series is capitalizing upon the Amazon trend, Brolin told Variety that he’s already been there and done that, multiple times.
“Yellowstone was the first — like we were with True Grit — in bringing back the Western, and that’s a great thing,” Brolin asserted. “If you piggyback on that trend, you feel like you are piggybacking… But if you are coming with something within the genre that’s wholly original, then you feel good about it. There’s nothing other than horses and cowboy hats and maybe warring families in Outer Range that reminds me of Yellowstone.” Fair enough.
The English (Streaming on Amazon Prime)
This series will not only scratch the Western itch but also deliver nearly unparalleled visuals (in our current TV landscape which loves to spend millions upon production and then light it with a 15-watt bulb). And the show’s a standout for the surprisingly revelatory pleasure of being able to see the action, but more than that, Emily Blunt (Cornelia) and Chaske Spencer (Eli) wonderfully embody a story where an Indigenous character serves much more purpose than propping up white characters’ stories. Likewise, we don’t have to worry about this story being bogged down in romance because Cornelia vows to never marry, and Eli happens to be the only male character in the show without ulterior motives towards her. Together, they form a splendid team for dodging murderous parties to make their way across the wild frontier.
The Thicket (Peter Dinklage series coming to Tubi)
Game of Thrones fan-favorite and multi-Emmy winner Peter Dinklage will star in (and executive produce) a Western-thriller adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s same-named novel. A dastardly kidnapper, known as Cut Throat Bill, will be portrayed by none other than Juliette Lewis. And the former Lannister will portray a bounty hunter who helps the fresh-faced Jack (Levon Hawke) rescue his sibling (Esme Creed-Miles) from Cut Throat Bill. Of course, there’s a full-on motley crew here (including a sex worker played by Leslie Grace and a grave digger played by Gbenga Akinnagbe) to help with that task. Metallica lead singer James Hetfield has a role as well. Thank you, Yellowstone.
The Abandons (Kurt Sutter series coming to Netflix TBA)
Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter will be showrunning again following his 2019 exit from Mayans M.C. That dustup involved Sutter labeling himself as an “abrasive dick,” and as it turned out, he clashed with FX’s new Disney way, but he’s in his own driver’s seat again while executive producing under his Sutterink umbrella. When we first mentioned this show here, I noted that the first Western project for Kurt will be a nice little pop-cultural intersection, given that Taylor Sheridan portrayed a cop on Sons Of Anarchy. I don’t imagine that The Abandons will hone in on the same conservative-leaning audience as Yellowstone, but we’ll eventually find out.
Can we get a Charlie Hunnam role up in here, Kurt? I’ve got my fingers crossed that you’ll make it happen. From the show’s synopsis:
As a group of diverse, outlier families pursue their Manifest Destiny in 1850s Oregon, a corrupt force of wealth and power, coveting their land, tries to force them out. These abandoned souls, the kind of lost souls living on the fringe of society, unite their tribes to form a family and fight back. In this bloody process, ‘justice’ is stretched beyond the boundaries of the law. The Abandons will explore that fine line between survival and law, the consequences of violence, and the corrosive power of secrets, as this family fights to keep their land.
Untitled Nic Pizzolatto Series (Coming to Amazon Prime)
When The Hollywood Reporter first broke news of this series from True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, the outlet reported that Amazon had “fast tracked” the show with the online-retailer-turned-streaming-service’s U.S. head of content, Nick Pepper, having “the streamer’s version of Paramount Network mega-hit Yellowstone” in mind. The series will boast an ensemble cast as well as a story about “a former outlaw who must reckon with a threat from his past in order to keep the life and family he has worked so hard to build.” This character “sets out on an epic journey that unites a formidable gang of indelible figures to face an even greater danger, in an epic saga of adventure and romance that forces this former criminal to become the hero he’s been pretending to be.” Yes yes, very Western in scope and theme. Hmm, this sounds like something that McConaughey might want to get on, too?
American Primeval (Peter Berg series coming to Netflix in 2024)
The dream team of Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Eric Newman (Narcos), and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) will executive produce this project that stars Taylor Kitsch amid an ensemble cast including Betty Gilpin, Dane DeHaan, Jai Courtney, and Shea Whigham. The Hollywood Reporter relayed that the show will be a “raw, adventurous exploration of the birth of the American West. The violent collisions of cultures, religions and communities as men and women fight and die for control of this new world — for a land they truly believe is their destiny… a story of the sacrifice all must pay when they choose to enter a lawless and untamed wilderness.” The scripts will come from Smith, and clearly, Netflix is going all in on Westerns with this set for a 2024 arrival.