Get ready for a That '70s Show reunion on Friday, April 1st when Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson reunite for the new Netflix multi-cam comedy, The Ranch, from Two and a Half Men's Don Reo and Jim Patterson. Sam Elliott, Debra Winger, and Elisha Cuthbert also star in this new comedy, about a former semi-pro football player (Kutcher) who returns to Colorado to run the family business with his brother and father. Setting this sitcom apart from others of its ilk, however, is the fact that it looks a bit different. In a world where the rule is for sitcoms to be brightly lit, The Ranch goes a bit dark. "You know, when I go home at night I don’t turn on every single light in my house when I come home," EP Patterson told critics at the TCA Winter Press Tour. "I don’t think anyone does. And so that was one of the mandates we said was 'make it like how people live'."
"If you get up in the morning, you turn on one light maybe, and you wander downstairs, and eventually some of the lights come on," he said. "But, you live in the shadows. You know, when it’s night out, the moon doesn’t always perfectly go through the window and light up someone’s face. And so we wanted to try to make it as realistic as possible on a stage."
Kutcher also chimed in, to explain the low-lighting on the stage set for The Ranch. "When we went to create the look and the image of this show, you have to respect what’s around you as well, from a network perspective. And if you look at other things on Netflix in general, you don’t have these brightly lit stages, brightly lit shows. And so assuming somebody may be coming from one show and moving into your show, or going to something else, you don’t want something that’s going to just bleed fiction. And so Don, Jim, Danny and I, when we were sort of really crafting what the look and feel of this was going to be, it was relative to the other things that are Netflix as well."
And speaking of how The Ranch is able to separate itself from other multii-cam comedies - the characters gets to swear. "This is actually kind of funny," EP Reo stated, "because we were specifically talking about the 'f' word and how we were going to use it judiciously, and we would really take our time to pick a spot. We lasted two pages. So it was on the second page."
Patterson added "We wanted to make the show as real as possible for a multi-cam sitcom, and the reality is, you know, guys who live together swear. And Danny and Ashton, being brothers on the show, would give each other a hard time and screw around with one another. So it just felt like it was being false to the show and to the audience if they just said, like, “freaken” or “fricken,” you know, like we normally do on TV."
Reo continued with "We are fighting against the conventions of the traditional multi-cam sitcom with lighting and language and music, and every scene doesn’t end with a punch line, and there are dramatic moments. So using real language just was part of that process."
And how about Kutcher and Masterson working together again? "The amazing thing is," Kutcher said, "is when you set out to do various projects as an actor, you always end up creating this little family with the people that you work with, and most of the times you are on a movie set for three months and you become best friends with whoever is there and say, 'We are going to stay in touch, and we’ll talk all the time.'
"But you never see them again," Masterson said.
"Right," Kutcher agreed. "And then you are on different sides of the world doing whatever you are doing. And we are really fortunate. ’70s Show was my first job, and this guy was an absolute mentor to me, not just as a performer, but as a person. And I think, without him, I don’t know where I would be as a person, because he kept me on the ground, and he would always whenever I got a little too high on my horse, he would knock me back down. He kept me out of trouble."
Masterson then said "We met in ’98. We did eight years of ’70s Show and then spent some years doing different projects but always talking about getting back together and doing something together. Our favorite stuff on ’70s Show was the Hyde/Kelso relationship of domination, and so, when this show was coming together, it was kind of like, 'let’s find adult versions of those guys and a little more realistic, but keeping that dynamic of how we how our comedy works together'."
BY MATT FOWLER
Edited by Empire