Texas Ranch House on PBS

Easily in the bottom 2% of shows on PBS. What a waste of time. So much potential and it degenerates into a stupid soap-opera about the battle of the sexes.

Mr. Cooke is a role-model for wimps in training. I wonder if his wife lets him wear his balls on Sunday? And that wife- she’d last about 12 hours if it really were 1876 (or whatever).

How did they find these people? Shame on you PBS!

Anybody else wasting your evenings on this dreck? What do you think?

It was supposed to be 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War. Yes, I watched the whole thing, all eight hours of it, and was pretty disappointed. Things just really fell apart at the end.

I’d place the blame about 90% with Mr. Cooke. He veered between trying to be an avuncular pal to the cowboys, and then asserting himself as a dictatorial boss. He would make “decisions” and firmly announce them, and then immediately backpedal if anyone squawked.

His wife wanted to help run the ranch and be involved in the decision-making, when it should have been glaringly obvious that the cowboys resented it. She wanted a 21st-century role that consistently backfired. Better, IMHO, if she had consulted with her husband in private but let him be the Voice of Authority to the ranchhands.

I actually believe that Mr. Cooke was acting in a principled way by refusing to negotiate the ranchhand’s return from the (noticeably plump) Indians, but he was so inarticulate that it just looked like he was being callous and/or a cheapskate, and that led to further resentment by the cowboys.

Still, the cowboys must shoulder some of the blame - they got increasingly ornery, and Robbie lost sight of the fact that Cooke was supposed to be his boss. Seemed like everyone got so tired and hot and irritable that hardly anyone was thinking rationally.

The post-mortem appraisal by the team of experts in the last 15 minutes or so sounded just about right to me.

I thought the assessment at the end was spot on. The boys were, well, boys. For them it was a big summer camp. But they did the work. Nacho was insane. I wonder if in the real world, Mr. Cooke deals with all employee difficulties by firing the employee. He really need to stand up to Mrs. Cooke, and to listen to what the men had to say. Not that they were always right, but he never cared to hear them, because “I’m the boss. You’ll do what I say.” I think the reason the hands didn’t interact with the Cooke girls was because they were told they had to stay in their place by Mr. Cooke on the first day. He said early on that he anted to be out there with the guys, but every time they rode out to hunt cattle, he’d have an excuse to stay at home. All in all, I think he spent one real day in the saddle. I loved his impotent threat about kicking Jared’s ass at the end. It so symbolized his interaction through the whole thing. The women were for the most part useless. Can’t clean, can’t garden, didn’t wear the clothes. The animals are pets, rather than food (although I’m sure I’d be that way, too).


One thing I was thinking of last night was how disgruntled the boys were when Cooke took the family out for a ride. They said they used the hands’ saddles, but they also said they had two side-saddles. Nacho and the Colonel had been fired. Mr. Cooke had a saddle. They had plenty of spare horses. So really, they should’ve been okay to send out the cowboys to hunt cattle.


Because of my weird TV schedual, I’ve only gotten thru part 6. I guess they’ll wrap it up tomorrow.

I’m not even sure if I will watch it (of course I will! I’ve seen all the other episodes!) after the lame “Indian Attack” tonight. How pathetic, contrived and just plain dumb. Its bad enough they stick unqualified people out in the Texas desert and expect them to run a ranch, but they pull crap like that, then dumb it down so far as to make it a joke.

You want the “realism” of an indian attack? Hell, they would have razed the whole ranch! Why PBS half-assed it is beyond me. The whole thing was pointless.


I thought it was quite good, despite the poor performance of the Cookes. I watched several of these experiments in the same vein and they all seemed to have turned out rather well, it’s not particular surprising that one would go badly.
Cooke’s leadership skills were almost non existent, along w/ his ability to adapt. His wife tried to portray herself as a strong woman, but she let the domestic side of the operation go to hell, while she meddled in his business.
Cooke talked a good game, but didn’t measure up in performance. He’s a hospital administrator IRL? Why is it that he wasn’t sharp enough to keep better records? I hope he mostly a bean counter and not in charge of many people. He shouldn’t have fired the colonel, but rather reprimanded him and told him violence was off limits and given him a second chance. Actually I was surprised that a retired colonel would use that tactic to begin with.
He was a poor choice for foreman, but Cooke should have tried to work w/ him and Nacho, despite their shortcomings. If it was really 1867 he would have had to deal w/ what was available. I think it’s entirely possible that the shows planners forsaw that they were hiring some people w/ problems, just to test Cooke’s ability.
As far as the indians were concerned, it was a simulation. Aside from that, most indians, back then, were either sneak thieves or used intimidation to get what they wanted. Massacres were fairly rare. Cooke should had negotiated the ransom, that’s the way things were done back then.
The cowboys were a little slow getting started and pretty lazy in the beginning, but they picked up the slack in the end.
Cooke should have been working 12-14 hour days, riding and working w/ the hands much of the time and then keeping his records, making his wife and daughters toe the line and doing whatever else was needed, instead he acted as if he was on a vacation instead of putting his heart into the spirit of the experiment.
The critique was very accurate. If I were Cooke’s boss IRL, I’d be taking a close look at his work at the hospital.

A.R. Cane - I wondered, too, if the Cookes realized how their behaviour appeared to people outside the family. I can imagine them having their friends and family over to view the program, fully expecting everyone to agree that they were perfect managers. I hope their RL acquaintances had the gumption to tell them the truth.

It would’ve made much more sense in that heat for the cowboys to be in the saddle at first light, take a break during the hottest part of the day, then ride into the evening. I live in Tennessee, where it’s hot and humid, and in the summer I ride either early or late, both for my sake and the sake of my horse.


I agree StGermain, I think “back in the day” ranch folks would have been up a couple hours before daylight, had breakfast and been at work an hour or so before sunup. They would likely have taken a “siesta” midafternoon and then worked 'til near sundown w/ maybe a short day on Sunday. I don’t know if Cooke had the latitude to set such a schedule, but that would have been my plan if I were in his place.
I did find a couple of post show Q and A’s w/ some of the participants. It seems that the firing of the colonel was not Cookes choice. The participants had apparently signed a contract which stipulated no laying on of hands and when the colonel shoved Nacho they decided to let him go. They asked Cooke if he’d be willing to fire him on tape and he agreed.
Here are links to the interviews, they are very enlightening:


I just saw one ep on an eve that I was extremely bored - but not bored enough to watch any more.
Kept thinking how Cooke typified the clueless adminstrator who thought he was so in charge but was just childlessly playing a role. Such as when he just HAD to have the last word when Nacho was leaving.
Actually felt sorry for the people involved, such as when the one girl said she really didn’t want to be there anymore.
Wonder if the Cooke’s marriage took any permanent hits from the experience?

I actually applied to be on the show. Nothing came of it, which is just as well since they probably would have made me “maid-of-all-work” and I’d have been just as bitter about not getting to ride herd. :slight_smile: I’ve seen most of these and these people seem by far to have had the most wretched experience.

In Colonial House, the conditions were more brutal, but Hell, as they say, really is other people as Ranch House shows.

Dinsdale - Oh, no - the Cooke family seemed as strong as ever, secure in the delusion that everything they did was perfect. When they were reading the assesment at the end, Mrs. Cooke said “I don’t know why we’re bothering to read this.”


If you read the second link I posted above it’s an Q&A w/ Lisa Cooke and Nacho. Both lay blame on the shows editing, or other participants, and are clueless that they were anything but perfect. I’ve watched most, if not all, of the “House” programs and this one, by far, had the most people problems. In all the others, while there was some grumbling, the people faced the reality of the situation and rose to the tasks at hand. There was some “cheating”, because they weren’t nearly as isolated as this one, but the people problems were at a minimum.

I grew up in the 40’s & 50’s. We didn’t have electricity until I was 7 or 8. We hand pumped water, heated w/ a coal stove, Mom cooked on a kerosene kitchen range and used an icebox on the porch to store perishables. Mom cooked everything from “scratch”, no cake mixes, frozen foods or TV dinners. We always had a garden, and “meatless” meals several times a week. Dad was in the Navy for part of that time and when he got out he held a full time job. He also made concrete blocks, one at a time, built a new house w/ the blocks and started on a second house. When I was 13 we sold that property and moved into a brand new 3 bedroom/2 bath house w/ all the modern conveniences available in 1952. I guess life was hard, but I have nothing but very fond memories of my childhood. It was one of the best periods of my life. I had chores, but I felt important doing them.