Bass Reeves was initially set as a continuation of the 1883 story, making it another prequel to Yellowstone. That’s all changing.
As per Variety‘s weekend report, the show now holds the title Lawmen: Bass Reeves. From there, future Lawmen series will tell the stories of other real-life legends of the American West. Effectively, the property is now being used to launch a historical fiction anthology. The new logline reads:
“Lawmen: Bass Reeves will bring the legendary lawman of the wild west to life. Reeves, known as the greatest frontier hero in American history, worked in the post-Reconstruction era as a federal peace officer in the Indian Territory, capturing over 3,000 of the most dangerous criminals without ever being wounded.”Paramount
There’s no mention of 1883 or Yellowstone in the latest update. Has Taylor Sheridan’s long-gestating Bass Reeves story completely switched focus? I’ve reached out to the studio for comment, and will update once Outsider has word.
For now, it’s a curious move, as the series was previously titled 1883: The Bass Reeves Story. It was very much touted as a direct continuation of Yellowstone‘s origins in 1883, too. So much so, in fact, that Rip Wheeler’s own Cole Hauser had shaved his iconic beard down to a goatee to film scenes as a pseudo-ancestor of Rip for the series.
What’s happens now with Bass Reeves and Yellowstone?
So why is this happening, and why now? My first gut reaction takes us back to that Kevin Costner/Yellowstone shakeup that’s made top headlines throughout 2023 so far. With so much drama surrounding the most-watched show on television, Sheridan & Paramount may be looking secure separate footing for future projects.
Damage control has been the name of the game for the franchise this year. Had its behind-the-scenes world not been utterly rocked, we’d be watching the remainder of Yellowstone Season 5 this summer. Now, there’s no way that Part B, which included a further 6 episodes, can hit screens as intended. If we see more of Season 5 in 2023, it’ll be the end of the year at soonest.
In kind, it’s not surprising that Bass Reeves is unhitching from the 1883 title. Better to put Sheridan’s talent into another franchise than bank on one that may be collapsing under it’s own weight.
Sheridan is also a history buff, and certainly knows his way around the annals of the American West better than anyone else in this space. It’s unsurprising that Bass Reeves may go the historical fiction route rather than prolonging the stories of his Dutton family for this reason alone.
Bass Reeves will test the Taylor Sheridan brand
Whether this is the “right move” or not, however, is the real conundrum. Drama or no, Yellowstone remains the strongest brand of the small screen and would all but guarantee an audience for Bass Reeves.
To this end, the now Lawmen-based series may prove the true test of Sheridan’s clout. As spectacular as 1883 was as both a Yellowstone prequel and a fictionalized retelling of the Westward Expansion, it wouldn’t have had the foothold it touted without the former. Audiences immediately tuned in to see the origins of the Dutton family tree first and foremost. Seeing the best modern retelling of this period in American history was simply a bonus. Yellowstone single-handedly revived the Western genre, after all.
On the other end, we’ve seen Sheridan’s storytelling succeed despite the franchise already. Both Mayor of Kingstown and Tulsa King have proved critical and commercial successes with no connection to his Dutton world.
Whether another show can do so amid troubling delays and negative buzz for Yellowstone, however, remains to be seen.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves is currently filming in Texas, and is expected to hit Paramount+ later this year.