Redefining the Traditional Sitcom

Earlier this year Netflix debuted the sitcom The Ranch starring Ashton Kutcher. The premise of the show is that Kutcher is a former semi-pro football player that returns home to help run the family business. The show has been very popular on Netflix and has already been renewed for a second season.


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Although I’m not a big fan of the show, I found it interesting that Kutcher hopes to redefine the traditional sitcom through The Ranch. Kutcher noted that Netflix allows a show to have a certain sense of freedom that network shows do not allow for. I can understand this in that I noticed The Ranch has a lot of provocative language and often scenes of brief nudity. These elements of the show are something you generally do not see on early evening network sitcoms.

The main reasoning for Kutcher being able to redefine the traditional sitcom is the creative freedom Kutcher has as a producer for a Netflix show. He is not required to adhere to certain set, lighting, and time restrictions like cable network sitcom shows. I agree that this is absolutely beneficial for a sitcom because there is a greater potential for creating something that does not fit the mold of a traditional sitcom.

However, I struggled to understand how a show like The Ranch redefines the traditional sitcom. I agree with Kutcher’s notion that creating a sitcom on Netflix can allow for a redefinition of the traditional sitcom but I am not sure that this show does just that. I think it is great that producers are allowed to take creative control on Netflix shows but The Ranch just does not seem to be a redefined sitcom for me. To me, this show seems very much like a traditional sitcom.

Maybe I am biased because I did not really enjoy the show but to me The Ranch seemed like a very conservative comedy that, at times, reinforced stereotypes. However, I think it is important that Kutcher acknowledged Netflix is setting the stage to allow for greater amounts of creative freedom on sitcoms.

-Katie Thevenow


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4 Responses to Redefining the Traditional Sitcom

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I’ve never seen The Ranch not have I heard anything about the show but I do agree that Netflix has become another platform where shows can thrive outside of the normal restrictions that are present from regular television networks. However, I think Kutcher might be giving Netflix a little more credit than it deserves only because it’s not like Netflix was the first platform to offer more realistic, gritty and provocative original content. -Courtney Green

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I’m very intrigued by the rise of original shows on streaming sites such as Netflix and Hulu. It does seem that these shows are afforded flexibility where network shows are not. But I absolutely agree with you, these original shows must do something with this new-found freedom rather than churn out more traditional sitcoms.-Valerie Medoff

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I have not seen or heard of the show prior to reading your blog but now I am intrigued. Also, I definitely don’t think creating a show on Netflix constitutes for “breaking the traditional sitcom” because there are many sitcoms on Netflix (ex: Parks and Recreation, The Office). Netflix only serves as a more convenient way for viewers to watch sitcoms. Kutcher will have to change the content of the show or something along those lines to truly redefine the traditional sitcom. –Jenna Romano

  4. mediaphiles says:

    Having not seen the Ranch I will resist commenting on the quality of it. I do think Kutcher may be making too bold of claims, but about The Ranch in particular, not about what Netflix is capable of doing. Like Courtney said, gritty sitcoms have existed on other networks before Netflix. I think what The Ranch does is put it on the three camera comedy, a format that is going out of style. You don’t see much multi-cam comedies outside of CBS, and CBS plays to a specific audience. The Ranch, from what I’ve heard, would hit that target audience (I could see it playing well on CBS), but CBS would want to censor it. Netflix is all about creative freedom. For better and for worse. The hands off approach lets the show runners create the shows they want to create, though those shows aren’t always what should be created. I applaud Kutcher and company for playing around with the multi-cam format, as it is going out of style and could be reinvigorated by a change, but I wish they were doing it on a show that seemed more interesting than the Ranch. – Max Dosser

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