Y is for “Yellowstone”

“Yellowstone” is an American drama series created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. It premiered on June 20, 2018, on the Paramount Network.Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton, a sixth-generation patriarch of the Dutton family, which operates the Yellowstone/Dutton Ranch, the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. Wes Bentley plays Jamie Dutton, John’s oldest son, an attorney, and an aspiring politician. Although completely loyal to his father and family, he is constantly frustrated by their apparent intolerance of him. Jamie has an intense love/hate relationship with his sister Beth, who is played by Kelly Reilly. Beth is John’s daughter and a financier. Although well educated, highly intelligent, and a master manipulator, Beth is bitter, emotionally unstable, and suffers from a substance abuse problem.

Kayce Dutton, John’s youngest son, is played by Luke Grimes. He is  a former Navy SEAL. He initially lived on the local Native American reservation with his Native American wife (Kelsey Asbille) and son, but in the second season, he and his family moved to live at the Dutton Ranch.

Cole Hauser plays Rip Wheeler, the ranch foreman and John’s right-hand man and enforcer. Rip is fiercely loyal to John after being taken in by Dutton as a young runaway. He and Beth have and an on-again, off-again romantic/sexual relationship.

Rounding out the ensemble cast is Gil Birmingham, who plays Chief Thomas Rainwater, the nearby Native American tribal chief. He seeks to reclaim the Yellowstone ranch from John and his family, land that he considers stolen from the Native Americans who originally inhabited it.

The series follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton, whose ranch is constantly under constant attack by those it borders — land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny, where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.

This soap-opera-ish, contemporary western drama is well acted and intense, with a lot of violence. But it’s quite an addictive and compelling TV show. Unfortunately, since it doesn’t air on a traditional broadcast network or on a cable network, it is only available to those who currently stream on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, if you have Peacock Premium or Peacock Premium Plus.

Previous BATZAP 2021 posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X

H is for “Hill Street Blues”

“Hill Street Blues” was an American television law enforcement drama that aired on NBC for seven seasons (1981–87). The show received great critical acclaim, winning four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding dramatic series, and it is recognized as a pioneer in the gritty crime and police television genre.

“Hill Street Blues” recounted a day in the life of the officers at the Hill Street police precinct, located in a crime-ridden urban ghetto in an unnamed American city. Each episode began with a morning roll call and ending with a late-night summary of events. The show placed a premium on good writing, and its scripts were recognized for their artistry, innovation, complexity, and hard-hitting realism. The series dealt with real-life issues and employed professional jargon and slang to a greater extent than had been seen before on television.

The award-winning ensemble cast included Daniel J. Travanti as Captain Capt. Francis Xavier “Frank” Furillo, Veronica Hamel as public defender Joyce Davenport, Michael Conrad as Sgt. Philip Esterhaus, Bruce Weitz ad Det. Mick Belker, Joe Spano as Sgt. Henry Goldblume, James B. Sikking as Sgt. Howard Hunter. Rounding out the cast were Betty Thomas, Robert Prosky, Ed Marinaro, Det. Kiel Martin, 1981–87, Taurean Blacque, and René Enriquez.

The show was overseen by producer Steven Bochco, who later repeated his success with other series, most notably, “L.A. Law” (1986–94) and “NYPD Blue” (1993–2005).  The innovative and edgy style of  “Hill Street Blues” employed handheld cameras that lent it a documentary-style authenticity. Fast-paced editing ratcheted up the tension while linking together the show’s numerous plotlines. “Hill Street Blues” offered sophisticated, multilayered narratives with the daily crime investigations that occupied much of the characters’ lives. But much of the show’s success could be attributed to its depiction of the psychological drama and moral ambiguities that played out on a personal level for those characters.

Previous BATZAP 2021 posts: A B C D E F G

D is for “Dallas”

Finally, a TV show that is not a sitcom. “Dallas” was the first of the so-called American prime time television soap operas. It aired on CBS from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991.The series revolved around an affluent and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who owned the independent oil company, Ewing Oil, and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal), whose families were sworn enemies with each other. As the series progressed, Bobby’s older brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), became the show’s breakout character. His schemes and dirty business became the show’s trademark. When the show ended on May 3, 1991, J.R. was the only character to have appeared in every episode.

Other main characters in the ensemble cast included Barbara Bel Geddes as Ewing matriarch, Miss Ellie, whose family were the original owners of Southfork; Jim Davis as her husband, Jock, the founder of Ewing Oil and head of the Ewing family, Linda Gray as J.R.’s long-suffering, alcoholic wife Sue Ellen, Steve Kanaly as ranch hand Ray Krebbs, Pam’s ex, who would eventually turn out to be Jock’s illegitimate son, and Ken Kercheval as Pam’s brother Cliff Barnes, J.R.’s archrival.

The show initially borrowed a familiar premise from Romeo and Juliet — young lovers from feuding families — for one of its key plotlines: the marriage and subsequent drama between J.R.’s youngest brother, Bobby and Pamela Barnes, the sister of rival oil tycoon and J.R.’s chief nemesis, Cliff Barnes.

“Dallas,” with its tales of wealth and power, scheming intrigue, and dramatic feuds, quickly became an international favorite, and the exploits of the Ewing clan and their assorted relatives, allies, and enemies were eventually broadcast in more than 130 countries. Amid the never-ending saga of secret affairs, backstabbing, gunfights, car accidents, and various dramatic twists and turns, Dallas became best known for its cliff-hangers at the end of each season, especially the “Who Shot J.R.” episode at the end of the third season, which ended with J.R. lying on the floor of his office, felled by an unknown attacker. After a summer of frenzied speculation during which the phrase “Who shot J.R.?” entered the lexicon of American pop culture, the identity of the assailant was revealed in the fourth episode of the fourth season, which became the highest-rated single broadcast in American television history at the time.

And yes, I admit that I watched this prime time soap opera.

Previous BATZAP 2021 posts: A B C

Fandango’s Flashback Friday — January 1

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.

How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.

If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 1st) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.

This was originally posted on my blog on January 1, 2018.

Conversation About Drama

72F31045-5C6F-4A0E-A96E-A6E737E1082BThis month there are two daily one word prompts. One is from WordPress, like today’s one-word prompt, “conversation.” The other is something cooked up by Linda G. Hill called Just Jot it January (or #JusJoJan). Today’s #JusJoJan word is “drama.”

So, I thought my first post of 2018 would be a one-word twofer. Let’s have a conversation about drama, shall we?

I enjoy a good drama. At the movies. On TV. In books. Even as flash fiction on someone’s blog. But not in my real life. I try, as best I can, to keep my life as free of drama as possible.

Of course, sometimes drama in life is unavoidable. Shit happens. People do or say stupid things. Drama happens.

So what can you do to escape drama? Well, if possible, don’t get involved. If you’re not a party to the drama, get out of the way. Or if that’s not possible, maybe just lend a neutral and sympathetic ear to those immersed in whatever drama is taking place.

But sometimes you’re an actor in a drama that is playing out. Maybe at home with family, maybe at play with friends, or maybe at work with coworkers or your boss. What you want to do is to minimize the drama as much as possible.

How, you ask? Well, my first bit of drama avoidance advise is to determine if you, yourself, are the source of the drama. Are you the constant? Are you creating it? If drama is always swirling around you, you need to change your behavior, your perspectives.

And whether it’s you at the center of the drama or if it’s others, you need to think before you react. Maybe follow that old trick of counting to ten before you say or do anything. And you need to figure out a way to rein in your emotions. Don’t feed the drama, tamp it down.

So there you have it. Fandango’s words of wisdom regarding removing drama from your life. If you need more drama, read a book, go to the movies, or watch TV.

One-Liner Wednesday


“Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.”

Australian critic, broadcaster, and writer, Clive James

American film director Alfred Hitchcock had a very similar one-liner:

“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

I don’t know if Clive or Alfred said it first, but I think both quotes work. As writers and bloggers, do you agree?

Written for this week’s One-Liner Wednesday prompt from Linda G. Hill. Image credit: New Internationist.