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‘1883’ brings exciting twist to classic genre

PARAMOUNT+ Paramount’s new series “1883” is a dramatic portrayal of pioneers’ hardship in the west.

Paramount’s “1883” is making waves streaming on Paramount+. It premiered in December of 2021 and has been picking up momentum since. 

The 10 episode series aired two episodes on cable but has since only been available via Paramount+. According to an article on the TV Guide website, it has been a hit as the streaming service’s most watched premiere yet. 

“1883” is a series that acts as a prequel to Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” which follows the fictional Dutton family in their struggles to maintain ownership of their vast Montana ranch. “1883” chronicles the journey the Duttons’ ancestors made to claim that land and start the ranch in the 1800s.

“1883” may be about a family settling in the west, but it’s certainly no “Little House on the Prairie.” This show portrays the amount of hardship the pioneers faced when building lives upon untamed ground. In a world of kill or be killed, the Dutton family weathers storms left and right – literally and figuratively.

The series features big names including Tim McGraw and Faith Hill portraying main characters James and Margaret Dutton. Sam Elliot also appears in the series as a main character. The Duttons’ daughter, Elsa, is played by emerging actress Isabel May.

“1883” has a way of making the audience feel what the characters feel, as does “Yellowstone.” In my opinion, much of that lies in the execution of the music. Both shows have similar dramatic musical themes. “1883” also uses silence in a way that is just as powerful as sound. The music – and lack thereof – comes together to portray the physical, mental and emotional toll each hardship takes on the characters. 

“1883” is a graphic representation of the reality of death in the Wild West; it is not for the weak-stomached. There are obstacles around every corner with rivers, natural disasters, thieves and some characters’ lack of survival skills. It’s a story of death, sickness, sadness and struggles, but it’s also a celebration of the freedom and beauty that runs alongside tragedy. I generally am not a fan of dramas, but this series has something for everyone. The action and adventure balance out the slower moving portions of the show. 

Each episode is narrated by the character Elsa Dutton in a way that mimics journal entries. The wording is powerful, thought provoking and well spoken. 

The show is realistic in numerous ways but there were a few details that fell through the cracks. Some of the phrases and content didn’t quite add up to me as truly being from the era. However, the in-depth portrayal of correct details outweighs the inconsistencies. 

I would recommend “1883” to accompany “Yellowstone,” though it also works as a stand-alone.

Season one is almost over and can be streamed on Paramount+. There’s still time to catch up before the season finale premieres Feb. 27. 

“1883” gets 4.5 Lopes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the first season ends and if we get a resolution of the opening scene of the series. I speculate that there is more backstory that needs to unfold, and I don’t think it will disappoint.

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