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It’s Taylor Sheridan’s world these days, and we’re lucky to be living in it.

It’s been quite a ride for the onetime house painter who had to drop out of college just to make ends meet. He toyed with rodeo before turning to acting, appearing in a couple of TV shows (Veronica Mars, Sons of Anarchy), then reinvented himself as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Sicario, Hell or High Water), director (Wind River, Those Who Wish Me Dead) and one of the hottest TV producers working.

If you connect the dots in Sheridan’s career, you can see where Yellowstone came from. This phenomenally popular limited series, which recently wrapped up its fourth season on the Paramount Network, is what “binge-worthy TV” is all about. Starring Kevin Costner as the patriarch of a ruthless ranching family, it weaves a saga of greed, murder, racial exploitation, political backstabbing and sex over 40 episodes (and counting) that is as entertaining as anything playing at the multiplex.

The Duttons effectively rule Montana from the sprawling log mansion of their gigantic ranch. Like their killing cousins the Sopranos, they’re a dysfunctional unit whose distrust of one another is the tie that binds them together. Costner’s John Dutton is the widowed father of four children, three surviving. 

Youngest son Kayce (Luke Grimes), a former Navy Seal, is so ashamed of his family that he lives on a nearby Indian reservation with his Native wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), and their son, Tate. Daughter Bethany (Kelly Reilly) is a scheming financier and master manipulator with serious daddy issues. Adopted son Jamie (Wes Bentley) is the family attorney with political ambitions as large as the Yellowstone itself, but with an inferiority complex that’s even larger. Thrown into the mix is a rogue’s gallery of ranch hands and cowboys, overseen by foreman Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), who literally wears the Yellowstone brand and will kill anybody who threatens it.

The show offers Costner the most interesting role of his career, and the many moods of John Dutton give him plenty of opportunity to flex his acting muscles. We want to root for him because he’s Kevin Costner, one of the most likable movie stars in the business – solid, handsome, dependable – but beneath that placid smile lurks a stone-cold killer who will do anything to win.

His adversaries (not counting his kids) include Gil Birmingham as a Tribal Council leader with ambitious plans of his own, Danny Huston as a West Coast real estate developer who wants to monetize the magnificent vistas of Yellowstone by building luxury resorts nearby, and Will Patton as a shady acquaintance from Dutton’s past who’s out for a measure of personal revenge.

If you’re new to the series, as I was, the best way to watch it is to binge it – and the best way to binge it is on DVD. The first three seasons are available in special-edition collections loaded with all the extras and mercifully free of commercial interruptions, and season four is slated for release in early March. Otherwise, you’ll have to jump between streamers Peacock and Paramount to watch this saga unspool like a soap opera that’s too good to quit.

The Mayor of Kingstown just concluded its first season on Paramount+. Starring Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky, the de facto “mayor” of a Michigan city where several prisons form the lifeblood of the community, this Sheridan series is profane, violent and mesmerizing, in no small part due to Renner’s performance. If all you remember him for is his role as superhero Hawkeye in The Avengers, you’ll appreciate just how dangerous he can be on screen when the part demands it.

Mike is the black sheep of the McLusky clan. His older brother, Mitch (Kyle Chandler), is the mayor and uses Mike’s criminal contacts to keep things working in Kingstown. Younger brother Kyle (Taylor Handley) is a compromised cop on the city’s police force. Mom (Dianne Wiest) is a professor who teaches courses in history (and female empowerment) in the women’s prison. She considers her middle son a lost cause, a career-criminal “go-fer” between the guards and inmates. You want drugs, somebody hit, a truce between warring gangs? See Mike. He’ll deliver.

The 10 episodes of this first season introduce viewers to a roster of characters running the gamut from Iris (Emma Laird), a bruised young woman trafficked by mobsters; to Milo (Aiden Gillen), a slippery psychopath with connections seemingly everywhere; to “Bunny” Washington (Tobi Bamtefa), a gregarious gang leader who deals drugs from lawn chairs in front of his apartment. Watching Mike try to keep all these people from each other’s throats – and from his – forms the daily grind of his life in Kingstown.

Be forewarned: This show isn’t for everybody, but like Yellowstone, it’s highly addictive viewing.

Finally, 1883 is just ending its opening season, streaming Sundays on Paramount+. Starring country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (who give surprisingly authentic performances), alongside veteran character actor Sam Elliott, this series is a prequel to Yellowstone. It tells the story, narrated by Elsa Dutton (Isabel May), of how the Duttons got to Montana to build that giant ranch that their descendants will kill to keep. McGraw and Hill play Elsa’s parents, Margaret and James. Elliott is the grizzled wagon-train boss hired to guide them there.

The cast is large, peppered with guest turns (Tom Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, Rita Wilson), and the action is plentiful and violent. But this show is cut from different cloth than Yellowstone. There’s a strain of poetry running through Elsa’s narration that lends an air of melancholy to the long, treacherous trail the Duttons and the other pioneers – most of them European immigrants unprepared for the pilgrimage – have to travel to realize their piece of the American Dream.

1883 reminds me, this far in, of Lonesome Dove. I can’t think of any higher praise.

In another lifetime, Mike Orlock wrote film reviews for the Reporter/Progress newspapers in the western suburbs of Chicago. He has also taught high school English, coached basketball and authored three books of poetry. He currently serves as Door County’s poet laureate.