Actor/musician Billy Bob Thornton has been announced to star in a new streaming show on Paramount+, titled Land Man. The show is part of writer/director/actor Taylor Sheridan’s ongoing (and so far successful) quest to transform all of popular television into his particular brand of grim dramas led by squinty-eyed men. Land Man will be produced in part by MTV Entertainment and is inspired by the 11-part Texas Monthly podcast, Boomtown, which went in depth about the historic oil fields of the Permian Basin. Billy Bob Thornton’s as of yet unnamed lead will be a “crisis manager” for an oil company, which sure sounds a lot like someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure the oil keeps following, probably while squinting at the horizon.
Billy Bob Thornton actually holds a lot of similarities to Taylor Sheridan, the behind the scenes star of Paramount and its streaming service Paramount+. After struggling to breakout as actors in Hollywood, both turned to screenwriting (Thornton at the suggestion of legendary director Billy Wilder after encountering him at a banquet). Thornton rose to international acclaim for starring, writing and directing the 1996 drama Slingblade. He won an Academy Award for Writing the film, and followed through to mainstream success with parts as varied as a NASA scientist in Armageddon, a nebbishy barber in The Man Who Wasn’t There and Davy Crockett in The Alamo. In 2014, he pivoted to prestige TV with the acclaimed first season of the FX drama Fargo, starring as a psychopathic hitman with a Prince Valiant haircut. In many ways, Fargo and True Detective (which also premiered in 2014) set the stage for the current generation of grimly philosophical TV dramas, and that’s where Taylor Sheridan comes in.
In recent years, Taylor Sheridan has transitioned from being one of the supporting cast on FX’s Sons of Anarchy to one of the most powerful showrunners on TV. With his breakout hit Yellowstone preparing to begin production on its fifth season and seemingly gaining new viewers every moment, he has rapidly been expanding the Paramount roster of shows. The Yellowstone 1883 series starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (with special appearances by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson) has been ordered for new episodes, a Yellowstone 1932 has been greenlit and the series 6666 (based on the real-life historical ranch of the same name) are all in the Yellowstone brand proper. But in addition to drawing in Billy Bob Thornton, Sheridan is developing spinoffs for numerous other stars. Zoe Saldana gets Lioness (a CIA spy thriller), Jeremy Renner gets a second season of Mayor of Kingstown (same deal as Yellowstone, but about the prison industry rather than cattle), and Sylvester Stallone gets a mob show called The Tulsa King.
But as we draw ever closer to the Taylor Sheridan boom over-extending itself, we have to admit that Billy Bob Thornton is an inspired choice for a series about the backroom politics of oil drilling in Texas. The show is expected to begin production in 2023, by which time the majority of TV is expected to be created by Taylor Sheridan.