As television viewers continue to ditch cable and instead invest in online and on-demand television subscriptions, companies like Netflix have begun to pony up for new original series to view right beside their catalogs of reruns. Netflix’s newest series premiered April 1st and is called The Ranch starring Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Debra Winger, and Sam Elliot. Set in Garrison, Colorado, the story is about a washed up football player (Ashton Kutcher) who returns home to find his father (Sam Elliot) struggling to keep the family ranch going. Hilarity ensues in the 30-minute comedy filmed in front of a studio audience that feels very much like a network TV sitcom, except there’s no commercials, and the characters are apt to cuss.
Reviews have been mixed for the show so far, but country music listeners may have an extra incentive to watch the program. Featured on the 10-episode series has been a slew of independent country artists who will hopefully see decent paydays and a bump in exposure.
The theme song from “The Ranch” is a version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” originally performed by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, but recorded anew by Lukas Nelson and Shooter Jennings. Also appearing on the series soundtrack so far has been Corb Lund, the Turnpike Troubadours, American Aquarium, Justin Townes Earle, Brandi Carlile, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Ashley Monroe. There’s also a healthy dose of mainstream country artists featured, including Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, but some of the songs on the show are a bit more palatable and obscure selections than what you may hear on mainstream radio.
There are also ample country music references and jokes in the series, razzing on artists such as Brooks & Dunn and Shania Twain. The country music element is heavy throughout the series, and during certain scenes, songs will be playing low in the background, usually tied in some way to whatever is happening between the characters.
For example in Episode 7, Danny Masterson, who plays Jameson “Rooster” Bennett, the brother of Ashton Kutcher’s character, makes the joke, “Mom and dad are like Brooks & Dunn. They get back together a few years, and every time they do, it just gets worse and worse.” Later in the episode while the Debra Winger and Sam Elliot characters contemplate getting a divorce, Cam’s country radio hit “Burning House” plays in the background.
The music supervisor for The Ranch is Frankie Pine, who is also the music supervisor for ABC’s big country music drama Nashville. Similarly, Nashville has won praise for not just selecting songs from mainstream artists, but digging a little deeper to find the right song for the right moment.
The composition and original music for the show is done by composer Ryeland Allison. “I definitely respect and admire the history of American country and Western music, roots and folk music, and Americana,” says Allison. “That’s part of my family history. My father is Texan musician Keith Allison, and that’s where I draw my inspiration, along with the storytelling and great writing that’s in the show.”
Ashton Kutcher not only stars in the series, but is also an executive producer. “We realized there were a lot of conventions being used in sitcoms that were just being used just because that was the way it’s always been done,” says Kutcher. “Why don’t they use music underneath scenes to help bring the more cinematic quality to scenes?”
The first 10 episodes of The Ranch are streaming now on Netflix, with an additional 10-episode season on the way.
Below is a selection of a few of the songs that are featured on the show.
- Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys Shooter Jennings and Lukas Nelson
- Man I’m Supposed to Be — American Aquarium
- Rain Is a Good Thing Luke Bryan
- Cows Around Corb Lund
- Mama’s Eyes Justin Townes Earle
- Family Is Family Kacey Musgraves
- S.O.B. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
- Whiskey on My Breath Love and Theft
- Drinkin’ Town With a Football Problem Billy Currington
- Crash and Burn Thomas Rhett
- Got a Little Crazy Kenny Chesney
- It’s a Great Day to Be Alive Travis Tritt
Gasoline And Matches — Buddy & Julie Miller
- Burning House — Cam
- Far Far Away From My Heart The Bodeans
- The Eye Brandi Carlile
- Waste A Lifetime The Bodeans
- Unfamiliar Road Desi & Cody
- American Love Story LANco
- Weed Instead Of Roses Ashley Monroe
- The First Time The Bodeans
- 7 Oaks Turnpike Troubadours
- Once In A While The Bodeans
- Stay Sugarland
- Whiskey on My Breath Love and Theft