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“Yellowstone” Is The Most Popular Show On Television, So Why Isn’t It Popular In Hollywood?

By Meghan Dillon··  6 min read
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“Yellowstone” Is The Most Popular Show On Television, So Why Isn’t It Popular In Hollywood?

“Yellowstone” is the most-watched show on television, which is a major accomplishment in the age of streaming. Despite its popularity, it’s not a Hollywood favorite.

The fourth season of Yellowstone ended earlier this month, which amassed 9.3 million viewers. Compare that to the sixth season finale of Game of Thrones, which had 8.9 million viewers (which eventually led to 19.3 million viewers during the series finale in 2019). You’d think a show with similar numbers to Game of Thrones would have multiple prestigious awards to its name, but it doesn’t, because it doesn’t cater to a progressive political agenda.

In 2021, American audiences saw shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl get social justice-heavy reboots, and nobody liked them. Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan cracked the code to success by skipping the political aspect of creating a show (which seems to be working out for him, as he’s also the creator of Mayor of Kingstown and Yellowstone's prequel, 1883), and Hollywood elites aren’t happy about it.

Yellowstone Gets Hate for Its Lack of a Progressive Agenda

Though there are some positive reviews of Yellowstone from critics, you don’t have to dig too deep to find more progressive publications criticizing it for not catering to their ideology. Vanity Fair called it a "white male conservative power fantasy" (even though the show isn’t inherently conservative or even political), and Vulture called it "The Most (White, Male) American Show" and “a persuasive, beguiling vision of white American masculinity.” The author of the Vulture article also criticized the show for having an unlikeable protagonist, seemingly forgetting that some of the greatest shows in recent memory like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, were led by antiheroes (we’ll get into that later). 

However, the most interesting part of the Vulture article was the comments section. One commenter called Yellowstone “obtuse” and “poorly devised,” but the best part about the comment is the final few sentences: “The show is niche. It's not going to win any awards. People won't be talking about it in 10 years. It's myopic world will have the same impact when it's all said and done.”

I’m not going to lie, I laughed out loud at this comment. This commenter obviously doesn’t seem to realize how popular the show is, which doesn’t make it very niche. However, the commenter is somewhat correct when they mention that it probably won’t win many awards. Through its four seasons, Yellowstone has only been nominated for one Emmy Award for Outstanding Production Design and was recently nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Fans are excited that the show is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but with competitors like Succession, Squid Game, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Morning Show, the odds of Yellowstone winning seem low. No Yellowstone actors or actresses were nominated for an individual award, which makes no sense because it has some of the best acting on television.

Why is Yellowstone so popular yet doesn’t win any major awards? Former co-host of The View, author, and columnist Meghan McCain says it best. She writes, “The show isn't woke, it isn't trying to lecture anyone about everything that is wrong with our culture. It doesn't portray the elitist perspective of coastal television writers and where they think America should be going. What is critically celebrated in Hollywood and the media is more determined by the values and tastes of television writers, than the tastes of the masses.”

McCain continued, “Most Americans don't live in the blue bubbles of urban communities where Hollywood focuses their energies. They enjoy entertainment with values that they share and characters that they can relate to – and if that's something you'd rather ignore as a leftist in media, well, then maybe it's you who is living in the bubble.”

Don’t get me wrong, shows can have a political agenda (whether it’s progressive or conservative) and still be great shows. The problem lies in Hollywood ignoring what American audiences want in order to preach what they believe, which makes them seem extremely out of touch with their audiences (plus it doesn’t seem like a very smart business approach).

Yellowstone Is Giving Audiences What Other Shows Won’t

American audiences love antiheroes. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos and Walter White from Breaking Bad are some of the most fascinating characters in recent television history. They’re awful and should be the villains of the story, yet we can’t help but root for them. There are many reasons why we love antiheroes, but the main reason is that they represent the darkest side of humanity, yet they’re incredibly relatable.

Most of the characters in Yellowstone are antiheroes, for they’re all morally gray at best. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) loves his family and will do anything to protect them, but he runs his ranch like a dictator. Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) looks to John Dutton as a father figure and is loyal to him — to the point where he’ll kill at the drop of the hat to protect him. Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) comes across as cruel and cold, but beneath her tough exterior is a young girl who blames herself for her mother’s death and would move mountains to help her father. Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) craves his family’s approval and will do morally questionable things to protect them, but he’s also not afraid to betray them when it works in his favor. Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) abandoned his family as a teenager to start his own family but finds his way back to them under tragic circumstances. Though he’s a loyal and good man at heart who wants to do the right thing and be a good husband and father, he tends to get himself into situations that require him to kill to survive.

Though one could argue that shows like Succession have similar characters, no show on television compares to Yellowstone when it comes to such dark and complex characters that audiences can’t help but root for. So many modern shows forsake storytelling and strong character development to send a social or political message, and Yellowstone’s popularity proves that a show doesn’t have to be like that to succeed.

Closing Thoughts

In an increasingly PC Hollywood landscape, the most popular show of 2021 was Yellowstone, a show that doesn’t follow a progressive formula. Yellowstone’s success speaks to how out of touch Hollywood is with most Americans. Though it might not lead to any major awards, it has won over the hearts of millions of Americans, which is worth a lot more than an Emmy.

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