Friday, May 05, 2006

Great television

What do three 20-something friends do for a fun Thursday night? Well they watch two hours of PBS, of course! In fact, for the last four nights Sergio and I have been watching Texas Ranch House, a show that takes 21st century men and women and puts them into an authentic 19th century Texas ranch setting. It is a mixture of reality TV and educational video, and we were addicted. Last night was the finale, and I have to say, no show has ever ended so perfectly.

The show is made up of the ranch owner’s family, the Cooke family, the Girl of All Work, Maura, the Foreman, Robby, and the Cowboys. And you should know from the beginning that Robby is Sergio’s new hero. A cowboy through and through and the only person that kept the ranch running while everything around him deteriorated. He and the cowboys seemed to be the only people on the show who could immerse themselves into the setting and get any enjoyment out of the experience.

So why was the ending so perfect? Well you need just a little background for this. The Cooke’s were abysmal ranch owners. Disrespectful of their cowboys, greedy, disorganized, and at times, just dirty. Mr. Cooke yelled at his workers early on, and tried to weasel them out of their money and horses after they had kept the ranch running and turned a profit despite bad management. He couldn’t be bothered to ride out with his men, was a nuisance when he did, and kept bad books though he is an accountant in his daily life. Mrs. Cooke spent time sewing, lazing in her underwear, and undermining her husband and men at every turn, while she should have been cleaning the dishes that sat outside in the heat with old food on them for EIGHT days. And then wondered why the flies were so bad they could no longer go outside.

The cowboys kept the show worth watching for educational benefit, wrangling cows, driving cattle, and embracing the cowboy way. And they were funny, too. Jared and Johnny were often the (intentional) comic relief of the show. The cowboys showed true camaraderie with one another and their foreman. You cheer at the end when they band together in the way you hope real cowboys might have done.

And just one quick note on Maura. Though I respect her feminist ideals, since she is an anthropology student in her daily life I feel she should have been able to empathize better with the women that lived over a hundred years ago, and respect them. She did a disservice to those women by not understanding the hard work they were accomplishing alongside the men, not trying to be the men.

The reason it ended so well is because PBS allowed a panel of experts to assess the ranch, determining whether it would have made it past the first year. Vindication at last. The bad guys were called out and lampooned for their bad decisions and blamed for the inevitable ultimate failure of the ranch, and the good guys were credited with the ranch’s initial success, especially Foreman Robby. It was absolutely perfect, if only because it brought the Cooke’s so completely out of their holier-than-thou delusions and left the cowboys laughing. Just great TV all around. I mean it is narrated by Cousin Eddie* after all, does it get better than that?

*Randy Quaid

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