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What’s Wrong with Yellowstone This Season?

Image: Paramount handout.

“Yellowstone,” it’s clear, is a full-on phenomenon. The series, which debuted in 2018, has revived the leading-man career of Kevin Costner, while also changing the parameters of what a hit TV show can look like.

The show has already spawned a prequel series, “1883,” and at least two other series are also in the works. 

The show’s fifth season debuted in mid-November, and “Yellowstone” has aired six episodes so far, out of a planned 14. And the series has been posting boffo ratings, with the show gaining its largest audience ever with 12.1 million viewers of its premiere. This made it the highest-rated season premiere of any scripted show this year, even overtaking HBO’s “House of the Dragon.” 

In addition to its home network Paramount Network, the premiere was simulcast on  CMT, TV Land, and Pop.

“After four seasons, the show’s massive audience base continues to impress with its latest season premiere becoming the most watched scripted television premiere of 2022,” said Ashwin Navin, co-founder, and CEO of ratings-measuring firm Samba TV, told The Hollywood Reporter. 

Yellowstone Has a Problem: Fans Aren’t Loving This New Season

However, even with the ratings triumph, there are rumblings this season that audiences aren’t quite as into the show as they have been in the past. 

Forbes, early in the season, pointed out that the series has a large gap in its critical reception as opposed to that of the audience- judging by Rotten Tomatoes, the series at the time was approved by 100 percent of critics, and just 28 percent of audiences (as of now, those numbers have both gone down, with 90 percent of critics and 22 percent of audiences rating the show positively.)

The audience scores of the show had always been positive previously, with the season 4 score of 79 percent being its lowest until now. (Disclosure: I am part of Rotten Tomatoes, but I do not post TV reviews there and did not contribute to the “Yellowstone” score.) 

As pointed out by Forbes, Rotten Tomatoes audience scores aren’t always necessarily reliable, because they are sometimes subject to “review-bombing” campaigns. But in this case, that doesn’t appear to have happened. There doesn’t seem to be any political or social agenda behind the negative scores, and the critiques come from a variety of standpoints. As for the critics’ reviews, there are only 30 posted, which is typically the case when a series is in its fifth season; TV critics are more likely to review new series than returning ones. 

“Yellowstone has now become Dallas. Beth is Alexis Carrington. Kayce is the only saving grace,” one reviewer said, as quoted by Forbes. “The rest are soap opera cartoons. Taylor Sheridan must have too many projects and is phoning in this show relying on tired plotlines. First 4 seasons were so much better.” 

Sheridan, the show’s creator, is indeed making many shows at once, including the spinoffs and the new Paramount+ series “Tulsa King,” with Sylvester Stallone. But the comparisons to the popular 1980s series “Dallas” — another show about a wealthy businessman who owns a ranch, has business rivals frequently trying to steal his ranch, while a set of siblings often get in fights with one another — have been frequent ever since “Yellowstone” started. 

How Do You Stream Yellowstone? Not So Easy to Find

There’s another frequent critique of “Yellowstone” that has nothing to do with the quality of what’s happening on the screen: That it can be hard to find. 

Due to deals worked out prior to the show’s initial premiere, original episodes of “Yellowstone” air on The Paramount Network, which is a cable network and not a streaming service. However, the past seasons of the show stream on Peacock. The Paramount Network is not to be confused with Paramount+, a streaming service that does not offer “Yellowstone,” although it is the home of the “1883” spinoff. 

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Clearly, millions of viewers have been able to find the show. But this array of options can certainly be confusing, especially for those who caught up late on earlier seasons on Peacock and can’t remember if they have Paramount+ or Paramount Network. 

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.