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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Ranch (2004)

"Let me tell you how it works here. The girls are on for three weeks, working ten to twelve hour shifts per day, then they're off for a week."
- Mary (Amy Madigan)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 22, 2004

Stars: Amy Madigan, Samantha Ferris, Jennifer Aspen, Bonnie Root, Jessica Collins, Paige Moss, Nicki Micheaux, Ty Olsson
Other Stars: Ken Tremblett, Brittney Wilson, Chad Faust, Marcus Hondro, Kelly Wolf, Veronika Habal, Giacomo Baessato
Director: Susan Seidelman

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:29m:56
Release Date: November 23, 2004
UPC: 027616920928
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C-B-B D

DVD Review

The Ranch was a Showtime pilot—from the pedigreed creative team of writer/producer Lisa Melamed (Party of Five) and director Susan Seidelman (Sex and the City, Desperately Seeking Susan)—that, for reasons never really made clear, missed making the leap to regular "Original Series" status.

Set in a legal Nevada desert brothel called the Diamond Ranch, Melamed and Seidelman tell the story of the women who work there, and it fell easily within the guidelines of standard issue cable drama. There were an assortment of easily identifiable characters (sex kitten, single mom, tough girl, good girl, girl-with-a-troubled-past), each with their own soapy backstory that is slowly developed over the course of this 90-minute pilot.

Essentially a soap opera disguised as a drama that can feature frank language and nudity, The Ranch bounces around introducing the various girls, and laying the groundwork for their storyline. There's Shayna (Jennifer Aspen), who is quitting the business to marry a clueless guy who thinks she's a flight attendant; Kim (Jessica Collins), the blonde bombshell with a deep secret; Taylor (Samantha Ferris), the crusty single mom struggling to keep her life in order; Velvet (Nicki Micheaux), a former television star turned prostitute; Emily (Bonnie Root), the requisite tattooed tough chick who wants to be a singer; and Rickie Lee (Paige Moss), the bitterly selfish loner with the schoolgirl persona. All are presided over by widowed mom Mary (Amy Madigan), who, in her own words, is "a manager, not a madam."

This whole thing is sadly a setup for a series that never came, and for that reason this is terribly incomplete, packaged as it is as a standalone. As trite and familiar as some of the subplots are, such as Emily's fledgling romance with bartender Other David (Ty Olsson), the main, so-called dramatic elements are introduced but are ultimately left to dangle without completion. Quite a bit of time is spent with Shayna's impending wedding or Taylor's troubled personal life, but both subplots only build components that need to be continued—in the next episode. Likewise with schoolgirl Rickie Lee, whose vague backstory is only hinted at.

I don't watch much regular series television (cable or otherwise), with the few highpoints—Dead Like Me, Twin Peaks, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wonderfalls, Lost—coming too few and far between for my particular taste. This would not have been a highpoint certainly, but a show like The Ranch just might have been something I might have "accidentally" added to a TIVO season pass (without telling anyone, of course), just to see how certain storylines play out; it's empty calorie entertainment to be sure, the kind of thing you wouldn't necessarily admit to following. The language is refreshingly graphic and realistic, and the nudity (two words: Jessica Collins) does not seem out of place or gratuitous, considering the setting.

Only here, there isn't any real satisfaction, and the problem with this release is that there is no finality to the storylines that have been introduced. The Ranch ends so quickly, and with so many unresolved issues, that I felt sucker-punched for having invested an hour and a half of my time in the first place.

In the end it is so structurally fragmented that it makes me question the logic of releasing it at all.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Ranch is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with a fairly crisp and detailed image. Skin tones are accurate, and the colors are pleasing without being overly saturated. There are, however, some fine grain issues at times, but this is largely a decent transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The primary audio track is presented in 5.1 surround, and while not an overly aggressive mix it offers a slightly above par separation level, with a fairly wide dynamic range; this is especially apparent during the frequent music beds used to propel the plot. Dialogue is clear, anchored in the center, with the occasional bit of ambient rear channel cue popping up from time to time.

A Spanish 2.0 surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Species III, Soul Plane, Intermission, The Saddest Music In The World
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much here other than a few trailers and a quickie behind-the-scenes Species III sneak peek (05m:2s). All I can say about that one is, Bring it on, baby.

The disc is cut into 16 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

The Ranch, on its own as a single 90-minute episode, is a frustrating experience.

It's a casually watchable (re: predictable subplots, stock character types) primetime soaper set in a legal brothel, boosted by frank language and the occasional bit of nudity, but without the benefit of being able to finish off what it started.

Had it survived as a series, it might have been one of those things that hooked you in as a guilty pleasure, but as a standalone film it is unfortunately incomplete.


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