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With Netflix’s new comedy The Ranch, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson are back together on the small screen a decade after starring together on That ‘70s Show, and it’s safe to say it won’t be hard to find other nods to the hit Fox comedy.
“Our favorite stuff on ‘70s Show was the Hyde-Kelso relationship of domination and abuse,” Masterson told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “So when the show was coming together, it was kind of like, ‘Let’s find adult versions of those guys,’ a little more realistic, but keeping that dynamic of how our comedy works together.”
The Ranch centers on a failed semipro football player (Kutcher) who returns home to Colorado to help run the family ranching business with his dad (Sam Elliott) and his brother (Masterson).
Kutcher said it wasn’t hard to tap into a brother dynamic with Masterson, whom he calls one of his best friends. “That ‘70s Show was my first job, and this guy was an absolute mentor to me, not just as performer but as a person,” he said. “Whenever I got a little too high on my horse, he would knock me back down.”
Kutcher continued: “We really just get to play a lot of our personal dynamic in the show, which is so much fun. It just feels like we’re shooting the shit, which kind of makes the job easy and fun.”
Masterson added that it was also advantageous that the two already had eight years of working together under their belt. “We both know what we’re good at and not great at,” he said. “There’s no ego involved in giving each other advice.”
Like That ‘70s Show, The Ranch is a multicamera half-hour comedy shot in front of a studio audience — one of the first on Netflix, following a string of single-camera success stories such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the fourth season of Arrested Development. Because the comedy landed at Netflix, and not a traditional network, Kutcher said The Ranch does its best to diverge from the “traditional” format.
“There’s some beautiful liberties you get when you’re working with Netflix that I’ve never experienced before,” the actor said. “Because we’re working with Netflix, we get to explore telling stories in a slightly different way.”
Kutcher and the rest of the creative team, which also includes Two and a Half Men writers Don Reo and Jim Patterson, who created and executive produce the series along with Kutcher, said some of those new freedoms include not having to worry about commercial breaks, episode lengths, lighting choices and swearing. Spoiler alert: The F-word will come up on the series, which has already been renewed for season two. “We wanted to make it a show as realistic as possible for a multicam sitcom, and the reality is, guys who live together, they swear,” said Patterson. “It just fe like it was being false to the show and to the audience if they said ‘friggin‘. … We don’t want to overuse it but we want to keep it as real as possible.”
Playing particularly to the Netflix model of releasing an entire first season on one day, episodes will also have longer character arcs “to get people excited to watch the next episode,” said Patterson.
“You have to respect what’s around you,” Kutcher added. “Assuming somebody may be coming from one show and moving into your show or going into something else, you don’t want something that’s going to just bleed fiction. And so Don and Jim, Danny and I, when we were creating what the look and feel of this was going to be, it was relative to the other things that are on Netflix. Ultimately what we want to do is break the convention of sitcom.”
The Ranch premieres April 1 on Netflix.
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