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Based on these Yellowstone reviews, is one of the biggest shows on TV in trouble?

Updated Jan 13th, 2023 3:28AM EST
Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan
Image: Omar Vega/Getty Images

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For the legions of fans obsessed with Taylor Sheridan’s juicy TV western about the Dutton family of Montana — which has been described as Succession with cowboy hats, although Sheridan himself resists the comparison — the record-setting Yellowstone Season 5 debut this week surely comes as no surprise.

Back when it first debuted, this series tapped into a red-state aesthetic and an audience that didn’t feel well-served by, well, pretty much everything else on TV at the moment.  And that audience has stuck around. So much so, that the Paramount Network show pulled in its biggest overnight launch audience to date for its Season 5 premiere, with an audience of 12.1 million also cementing the new season’s debut as the biggest scripted premiere of the year.

Yellowstone Season 5 reviews

Even so, is Sheridan’s narrative about the Dutton empire and the Yellowstone ranch at the center of it starting to lose some of its luster? Maybe, at least based on early audience reviews.

On Rotten Tomatoes, for example, there’s an extremely lopsided dynamic to the reactions among critics and fans, of a sort that you rarely see to this extent.

So far, Yellowstone Season 5 — at least, as of the time of this writing — boasts a percent 100% critics score on the review aggregation site. TV critics have been slow to come around to this show, one of several Paramount titles with Sheridan at the helm, but that’s a discussion for another day. Now, though, here we are with stellar feedback from the critics.

Fans and critics, though, rarely see eye-to-eye when it comes to a particular show or movie. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for critics to love a show that makes fans cringe and vice versa. The difference in the case of Yellowstone, though, is pretty extreme. The show’s fans seem to feel completely different about what they’ve seen so far of Season 5. In fact, the new season actually seems to be a complete flop with some parts of the franchise’s audience.

To be sure, one important caveat that must be pointed out here is that Rotten Tomatoes scores measure a very specific thing — it’s the sentiment from a subset of a subset of, in this case, Yellowstone viewers.

‘Off to a terrible start’

The first subset reflected here includes viewers so fired up one way or another about the show that they decide to go online and leave their feedback. But not all of them will do so at Rotten Tomatoes, which is why the audience score above — which, certainly, is pretty terrible — is still only reflective of the specific users from within the larger group that bothered to go online at all to talk about Yellowstone.

All that said, it can be argued that there’s generally a life cycle to TV shows, with the most hardcore fans often taking a harder line on later seasons of a series because they remember what it was like “back when.” Especially with a series like Yellowstone, which a particular demographic embraced and turned into a smash hit.

“Season 5 off to a terrible start,” one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer opined. “Did the writers run out of material? Two hours of re-run plot lines, with its signature mail-in-moment being Beth at the bar verbally undressing some guy. We get it. There is no maturation … good or bad … in these characters.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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