Riding high in the west

It's damned hard to play a cowboy if you aren't one.

Kevin Costner (pictured) proved his cowboy credentials 30 years ago in Dances With Wolves, for which he won an Oscar as director for Best Picture, and he was nominated as Best Actor in the same movie.

Now, entering his third season in the leading role of John Dutton in the contemporary western Yellowstone, airing on Stan, he truly rules the Wild West, commanding a family dynasty that owns the fictional biggest ranch in the US, located sweetly on the edge of the Rocky Mountains in central Montana.

At its heart, it's a drama. But Yellowstone is coloured in fashionable dust, from the beautiful timber homestead at the heart of the huge ranch, to smart cowboy hats (John Dutton's is black, by the way), to shiny Four Wheel Drives and a heap of good-looking actors, particularly the Dutton clan of Beth (played by Kelly Reilly), Jamie (Wes Bentley) and Kayce (Luke Grimes).

The drama runs several plotlines, all coming back to protecting the legacy of the ranch and family. The Duttons face challenges from Native Americans (an Indian reservation sits adjacent to the ranch), developers who dream of holiday resorts and ski slopes, and politicians of every kind.

The driving forces of the show, writers Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, know how to tell a good story, with Sheridan's credits including Sicario and Wind River, and Linson's bio including the Sons of Anarchy series.

It's amazing how many lines of dialogue are clear, and meaningful. And that point may explain why it's so popular - the most watched cable TV series in the North American summer of 2019. There's a running dose of profanity, with a bit of romance, too, as well plenty of horses, cattle, stunning running rivers and snow-peaked mountains.

It's the kind of show that could catch your interest from the git-go in season three, and you could binge backtrack to fill in the missing pieces.