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‘Yellowstone’ Prequel ‘1883’ Dominates Ratings Despite Critic Calling It, ‘Family Values Conservatism’
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“Yellowstone” is one of the most popular shows on television, so the concept of a spinoff was probably inevitable. The new series “1883” is a prequel that explores the roots of Montana rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his family more than a century before the “Yellowstone” narrative takes place.

Tim McGraw stars in the new series as family patriarch, James Dutton, alongside Faith Hill as his wife, Margaret, and kids Elsa (Isabel May) and John (Audie Rick). The series premiered Sunday with two episodes and is already generating a lot of buzz.

The proof is in the numbers. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the premiere from Taylor Sheridan scored 6.4 million viewers, which was a series premiere record for Paramount Network. And that’s not even including streaming numbers. This made “1883” the most-watched series premiere on cable in more than six years, falling in behind the 10 million people who tuned in for the 2015 premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.” 

Fan reviews for the country Western drama are overwhelmingly positive, though audiences can’t help but compare the new series to “Yellowstone.” Overall, the show feels more like a classic Western with less of a focus on interpersonal relationships compared to the original. This is seen as both positive and negative depending on who you’re talking to. 

Meanwhile, some critics are not thrilled with a series that paints early settlers as anything but evil. IndieWire reporter Tambay Obenson panned “1883,” saying the series “offers little intrinsic value to the narrative chronicling of one of the most transformative periods in U.S. history.” And that critique has a lot to do with how the show depicts Native Americans.

An opportunity to disrupt present-day comprehension of a transformative period in U.S. history is wasted on yet another narrative from the point of view of white settlers,” Obenson writes in his review.

The writer goes on to discuss how Native Americans have been “neglected” with “maligned characterizations” in most of Hollywood and that this series is no different. 

He compares the new series to “Little House on the Prairie,” saying both depict a “white family’s struggle to build a new life for themselves on the American Frontier of the latter half of the 19th century, with a ‘family values’ conservatism that still resonates among many Americans today.”

Ultimately, the reviewer gives “1883” a D+, concluding that, “stories of those who sought better futures are certainly worth telling; a problem is that they’ve been chronically incomplete. And in what has been described as a global historical reckoning, as statues and monuments to racism, colonization, and legacies of injustice continue to fall around the world, ‘1883’ just feels like a series out of time.”

It’s a sentiment that’s likely shared across Hollywood, but with the audience that “Yellowstone” and “1883” command, it’s clear that the general public has a different take on classic Westerns. “1883” currently has an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also rated as 86% fresh. 

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