I have never liked Westerns, but Yellowstone and 1883 are my current favorite TV shows.
That’s unfortunate because, between the two shows, it means my tender heart has been cut to ribbons multiple times already this year.
Both shows are filmed in Montana with incredible cinematography and feature the most gorgeous landscapes and big-sky scenery imaginable.
After my first few episodes of Yellowstone, I dreamed that I was riding horseback through that wild, wide-open countryside; I awoke excited and breathless as if it had truly been happening.
The thing that I love most about the show Yellowstone, besides the incredible natural setting, is that all the characters are equal parts good and bad. Each character has admirable qualities and terrible flaws; no one is a clear hero or villain. It makes it hard to know who to root for at times, but it also makes for extremely compelling viewing.
What I love most about the show’s prequel, 1883, is that it is a Western set amidst the terrors and woes of the Oregon Trail, yet the story is told through the eyes of a naive and hopeful young woman. This provides an interesting viewpoint and sets it apart from the Western genre as a whole.
Both shows are utterly tragic with deaths and sadness galore. Yellowstone is a modern show that brings to the forefront the plight of Native Americans and our planet at the hands of white men, while 1883 is a period piece that shows how awful some white men were and have always been.
Neither show is particularly feminist, but both feature girl power galore thanks to formidable characters like Beth and Monica Dutton (Yellowstone) and Margaret and – my favorite of all – Elsa Dutton (1883).
The beautiful countryside (i.e., “the land”) plays a huge role in both shows. In Yellowstone, it is all about holding onto the land you have or trying to get back land that was stolen from you. In 1883, it is all about trying to stay alive while crossing through a land that is beautiful but also full of deadly perils on every side.
Both shows have romance, family drama, amazing footage of horses and cattle-wrangling, and breathtaking scenery for miles. They also both have hunky, handsome cowboys. Yellowstone’s Kevin Costner at 67 can still get it – the tan, weathered, rich rancher role definitely works for him. As for 1883, the husband and wife team of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are flawless in their roles.
There are fatal shootings just about every episode – and a few suicides in 1883 – so if you’re sensitive to gun violence these are not the shows for you. In general, I’d say they are not meant for kids below HS or late middle-school age.
But if you’re a mom looking for a guilty pleasure show to watch in the evenings after kiddos are in bed, then cozy up to these shows as soon as you can. You’ll have to let me know if you love them as much as I do!