Because Yellowstone is the biggest television show on the air today, the Paramount Network hit drama starring Kevin Costner as Montana rancher John Dutton has ushered in a revival of one of TV's most storied genres. The Western is back! Yipee! There are number of new Western shows hitching their wagons to Yellowstone's success, in various Western subgenres. Spin-off 1883, for instance, is a period piece about settlers, AMC+'s That Dirty Black Bag is a pulpy action piece about bounty hunters, and so on. One of the newest shows joining the stampede is Joe Pickett, a traditional drama about a game warden set in present-day Wyoming that's based on the novels by C.J. Box. If you're a fan of the drama of Yellowstone or the murder mysteries of Longmire, you're going to want to check it out.
I bring this up now because Joe Pickett is a Spectrum Original, meaning that the only people who got to watch it had to be Spectrum cable customers, but as of Sunday, May 15, it's now on a major streaming service in Paramount+. That makes sense, as Paramount is looking for a series to complement 1883, a Paramount+ exclusive. (Paramount+ is not the streaming home of Yellowstone even though Yellowstone is a Paramount Network series; Paramount is still kicking itself for giving the streaming rights to Yellowstone to Peacock.)
Joe Pickett stars Michael Dorman (For All Mankind) as Joe, a mild-mannered Wyoming game warden with a wife and kids who is charged with protecting the land and its wildlife from poachers and other bad seeds. What makes Joe different from Costner's John Dutton or Tim McGraw's James Dutton is that he's not a prototypical tough guy TV hero, and he's certainly not treated as such by the show or those he runs into. "You're just a game warden" is the refrain he's usually met with, establishing his underdog status as a man who has to earn respect, despite the presence of a uniform and a badge. Dorman's chill demeanor accentuates that even further; he's just a guy with good morals who wants to do his job. But part of the joy of Joe Pickett is watching Joe not back down from threats and emerge as a hero, even when a gun is pointed at his face. And yes, many guns are pointed at Joe's face throughout the first season.
Most of those guns start pointing at his face after the dead body of a man he tussled with earlier shows up on his doorstep and Joe becomes the only member of the law enforcement community determined to figure out what happened. Joe's investigation has him cross paths with all sorts of folks, from a rival criminal family to suspects with falcons to the local sheriff who doesn't appreciate Joe poking around. Add in the lawless nature of this part of the country, and you've got yourself a mood. The feel of Joe Pickett is one man against an establishment, and that being a game warden is a lonely job.
Thankfully, Joe has his wife Marybeth (Julianna Guill) by his side. The former lawyer decides to get involved in the case with Joe, even though she's expecting their fourth child. The two make a great team, aided by their affection for each other and their stable relationship, which is a bit of a rarity on TV days. Seriously, nominate these two for TV couple of the year because they are darling and fully have each other's backs.
Joe Pickett is an especially good watch for those who want to tone down the seriousness of Yellowstone. By comparison, Joe Pickett is folksier (in a good way), balancing daring shootouts and standoffs with some goofiness, like a pair of older emu-owning, silver-haired sisters who love to sing "Here Comes the Hotstepper" or the playful back-and-forth between Joe and Marybeth. But Joe is the real standout here, an underdog hero to root for, and Joe Pickett romanticizes the job of game warden with earnest admiration. He may be hiking the switchbacks of Wyoming and communing with the land on his own, but now that Joe Pickett has been renewed for a second season after becoming Spectrum's most-watched series ever and word is getting out, he won't be alone much longer.
Joe Pickett is now streaming on Paramount+ with new episodes every Sunday and the whole first season is available on Spectrum On Demand.