Rejoice, Ree Drummond fans! The Pioneer Woman is back.
On Tuesday, the beloved Food Network cooking show host shared a joyful photo of herself, her husband, and the show’s cast and crew on Instagram. “The crew is back!” it said. “First time together since Jan. 2020.”
Hearts and a “Welcome Back” gif decorated the image, which showed the husband and wife, plus six-member crew standing arm-in-arm behind a stove and kitchen countertop. Fans of the popular show will recognize this as the Pioneer Woman set – a kitchen in a lodge on Drummond’s Oklahoma ranch – where hundreds of delicious dishes are shared (and later made in homes across America).
The happy reunion follows a lengthy break from professional filming, as the show’s UK-based crew remained in Britain the first two years of the pandemic. During this time, Drummond’s adult children — Alex, 25, Paige, 22, Bryce, 19, Todd, 18, and Jamar, 18 — kept the series afloat, filming easy recipes made with a combination of fresh and packaged ingredients, and putting a new spin on an old adage: “While the crew’s away, the kids will play.”
And play they did. The Drummond kids’ relaxed version of the show was more quirky home movie than well-honed production. Naturally, audience reviews were mixed. Some loved its youthful exuberance and authenticity; others yearned for the streamlined and scripted show of yore.
Comments on Yahoo.com’s reporting of the show’s return exemplify this divide. Commenter NH thought the show was much more “free and fun with the kids there,” and commenter Renee said simply, ”Save the money and keep the ‘fam’ crew.”
Commenter Aran was less enthusiastic. “Watching the show while the kids were filming was not the best,” he wrote.
Regardless of the response, the kids get kudos for keeping the show on the air and giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Drummond’s family.
“It’s been an incredible bonding experience for the kids and me,” she told PEOPLE in May, noting that filming together enabled her to get to know her in-laws better. “Alex and Mauricio [her daughter’s husband] weren’t even engaged yet when the pandemic initially hit. And so it was a really great time for us to get to know Mauricio and just kind of have that purpose together during that crazy first few months.”
Drummond added that having the kids to joke around with while filming the show allowed her to be more spontaneous and natural, which is why the kids will continue to make appearances on the show despite the end of family filming in June.
“We’ve all been talking and we kind of want to create a new version of the show that sort of marries the two eras — the kids shooting era and then the original,” she said. “So it’ll be fun to kind of see where the show goes when my crew comes back … to create a whole new kind of a hybrid show.”
We couldn’t agree more, Ree! If there’s one thing the pandemic served to remind us all, it’s that family is the first and foremost important thing in life. Welcome back, Pioneer Woman cast, crew, and family!