Though Ashton Kutcher built his stardom on network TV, Netflix was the only place he pitched his new sitcom, “The Ranch,” which Netflix has already renewed for a second season.
The reason: Kutcher wanted to advance what a sitcom looked, felt, and sounded like, he told Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode Podcast.
A Netflix sitcom doesn’t have the same demands as a network sitcom, according to Kutcher.
“[Network sitcoms] have to fit into this neat 22-minute box that advertisers will like,” he said. You can’t be specific about jokes or products, since that might interrupt something with an advertisers, and you can’t use “natural” language, because “that might offend somebody.”
Netflix didn’t have those same constraints, which is why Kutcher took it straight there, and didn’t entertain any other offers.
Recently, Netflix has faced criticism for allegedly asserting its power on the creative side of its original shows. Netflix, for its part, has made statements in defence of its methods. “Our creative involvement in the shows is collaborative and always invited,” Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos said in late September.
Kutcher’s perspective: Netflix has been a lot less controlling creatively than a traditional network.
“[Netflix] really [doesn’t] interfere with our creative process,” he said. At a traditional network, you get a list of notes at the end of a rehearsal. Not with Netflix. Kutcher attributes the standard network notes to “a lot of people afraid of getting fired.”
Kutcher did acknowledge that Netflix executives come to every table read, but said the big difference is when they give suggestions, it feels like more of a partnership. “It’s never a prescriptive note,” he said.
As to how “The Ranch” is doing, Netflix doesn’t even give Kutcher the exact numbers, but he claimed it’s doing well, especially in the Midwest (a market “The Ranch” is supposed to help Netflix open up).
There is some evidence, however, that this might not entirely be the case. Research by UBS in September suggested “The Ranch” was underperforming in the Midwest.
Here’s a chart showing the survey numbers of how “The Ranch” is faring across the US, put together by UBS: