Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren’s new western 1923 is the latest binge-worthy series part of the larger Yellowstone craze. In fact, 1923 is the third series and second prequel in the Yellowstone continuity. But do you need to watch the other shows to enjoy the new one?
If you’re new to Yellowstone and its permutations, here’s our quick cheatsheet to all the shows, what you need to know to watch 1923, where to watch Yellowstone, and why it’s not in the same place online as 1923.
The Yellowstone phenomenon, in a nutshell
Taylor Sheridan is the prolific writer-producer riding a wave of successes that includes the show that started it all, the contemporary Western, Yellowstone. In that series, which is set in the present day, Kevin Costner plays John Dutton, patriarch of the Dutton family and owner of America’s largest ranch. Everyone in the vicinity of the gorgeous Montana property seeks a piece of it, including locals, Native Americans, developers, politicians, members of his own family, and so on. There’s also 1883, a Yellowstone prequel that starred Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill, and centered on the Dutton family’s travels and travails before they settled in Montana. Yellowstone just faded to black on season five...for the moment. Meanwhile, 1883 recently concluded its run as a limited series.
What is 1923?
1923, billed as “A Yellowstone Origin Story,” debuted on December 18. It, like 1883, is meant to be a limited series. The action unfolds in Montana. Times are tough, money is tight, and Prohibition doesn’t ease matters for the Duttons -- on good days or bad. Harrison Ford, in his first foray as a TV series regular, stars as Jacob Dutton, the father of 1883 lead character, James Dutton (McGraw). Helen Mirren plays Jacob’s formidable Irish wife, Cara. Together, in the wake of James’s passing, they take responsibility for his boys, Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and John (James Badge Dale, assuming the role from young Audie Rick of 1883). Jacob aims to establish a foothold in Montana for his ranch, and he serves as Commissioner of the Livestock Agency, all of which will bring him into conflict with a variety of characters, including the angry Scottish sheep farmer Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) and powerful businessman Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton). It’s impossible to imagine a better cast – which also includes the criminally underrated Marley Shelton as John’s wife, Emma – and fanboys can geek out whenever the show’s erstwhile Indiana Jones and James Bond sneer at each other.
Do I need to have watched Yellowstone or 1883 before 1923?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that Sheridan is building a Yellowstone multiverse of sorts, or at least a Yellowstone family tree, and there are enough connections between the various shows – including flashbacks, name drops, attitudes, and even narrators – to recommend watching Yellowstone and 1883 so that you can best appreciate the full tapestry of which 1923 is now a part. Other spin-offs are planned, by the way, so it’s a good time to mosey in on the ground floor before it’ll take weeks of binging to catch up.
What's the correct viewing order for the Yellowstone shows?
Here’s this writer’s opinion: I started with Yellowstone because the other shows didn’t exist yet when Costner and company started almost five years ago. Now 1883 and 1923 have extended and heightened the experience. Even if, chronologically, it might make sense to watch 1883, 1923, and then Yellowstone, my advice is to watch it the way I originally did. I like that there are several seasons of Yellowstone to ruminate about, where the characters and situations are fully developed and explored, with 1883 and 1923 then filling in the blanks – or some of the blanks. They are, in many ways, standalone shows, with their own inherent dramatic situations, locales, characters, etc., So, again, I’d suggest starting with the fully realized Yellowstone saga, and then visiting 1883 and 1923.
Where to stream 1923 and Yellowstone
Yellowstone airs on Paramount Network and all five seasons are available there. (To be clear, the Paramount Network is a cable channel, not a streaming service.)
Confusingly, you cannot stream Yellowstone on Paramount+. Instead, Seasons 1-4 of Yellowstone are streaming on Peacock, with Season 5 likely soon to follow. Other Yellowstone streaming options, for a fee, include iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.
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