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I just lost my entire weekend to the first season of Deadwood.

To most people, the excellence of the HBO produced series will not come as a surprise. You've seen it, you've made up your mind. But I live in what one Prime Minister called The Arse End of the World and I live on dialup and my hard drive is a touch smaller than my Ipod, which means using a bit torrent is just plain pointless. Plus, I have this thesis to write (among other things). Right now my only real distraction is this blog, but if I had access to TV From Around The World I'd probably never get anything done. All this is my way of saying, "Yes, I know you've seen it. Shut the fuck up."

I'm not quite sure what place the town Deadwood holds in American history, but I've known it as the lawless town that sprung up round the gold rushes, and it's where Wild Bill Hickok was killed. I suspect it holds some significance outside that, but my knowledge on this stuff is pretty minor. Still, the show takes what I know and don't and puts it in a muddy, shit stain of a town and assures you that that life is so cheap that even legendary gunfighters are shot in the back of the head. They're left there to lie on their table and twitch until they die.

The show follows ex-marshal Seth Bullock and his friend Sol Star into Deadwood where they plan to open a hardware store and start anew, but it quickly spreads out into an ensemble cast with the introduction of the Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen, the rich Garret couple, Doc Cochran, Calamity Jane, the prostitute Trixie, and Cy Tolliver, who opens a rival saloon. There's about half a dozen other characters, but in this mix, the focus points are Swearengen and Bullock, who when in the same scene together, display a healthy animosity for each other. Bullock believes in the law, in being right, even honourable, and Swearengen believes in himself, in the business he has created in Deadwood, in the cost of whores and liquor, and the price it takes to bribe a man or the time spent to kill him. Yet despite these almost two opposites, it is Swearengen who is the more likable and complex character. This is best displayed in his relationship with Trixie, who we first meet having shot a john in the head while he beat on her; and we watch Swearengen in turn beat on her and threaten to break her neck; and later, we watch Trixie climb into bed with him.

The plotting of the twelve episodes is an intricate, slow thing, moving at the pace of a fat novel. The only complaint I have with Deadwood is that it becomes apparent, half way through the twelve episodes, there there will be no end. Certainly, there will be an end, and the series uses Bullock to provide that, but there's no real sense of the series building to a climax. By this, I mean that you know, half way through, that there is no way these conflicts and differences will be resolved, that half the cast will not be finding themselves being taken over to Mr. Wu's pigs, who will consume their flesh and bones without care of what brought them there. It's one of those complaints I have about things in general, in that fiction is unwilling to provide a definite end knowing that there might well be a chance for a sequel, for the story to continue, for money to be made. In Deadwood's case, I believe they are up to season three in the States.

But it's a minor complaint. The series is just brilliant. I want more. More of that dirt stained world, where new starts are offered to everyone, regardless of their past, and those starts are to be defended through any means.

I particularly love the language of the series, with its fucks and cocksucker and cunt strewn through it. It's not that I like seeing this language on TV, but I enjoy how the way these words, in their frequency and usage, are able to characterise. In Swearengen's everyday usage they reveal the working class man, the man who has clawed into his position by doing whatever is necessary, and who, despite his fine suits, knows that he will still need to get his hands dirty. In opposition, Cy Tolliver, who puts on a finer suit, who rightens his top hat and convinces men to play craps and runs a cleaner, though no less morally bankrupt world, the use of the language reveals the vanity that forces him to put on airs of culture. It make his violence, when it happens, all the more crueler and pointless.

I could spend a whole heap of time going through each character, listing their various ticks and allegiances, and if it wouldn't make for a hideously boring post, I would. There's much to admire in each of the characters and their shades of greys and moments of moral uprightness and deceitfulness and vanity and how these factor into their narratives that take them from one conflict to another and the resolutions. But you should just really watch the show and experience it.

I lost a whole weekend and I want season two.



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Aug. 22nd, 2005 03:49 am (UTC)
I was more looking forward to Rome, but based on the reaction to Deadwood, and early reviews of the new series, I'd be better off in the wild west.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)
it is total coolness.

i've not heard of ROME, though, but i'm wary of any kind of roman thing coming out of the states these days.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:04 am (UTC)
I think a Sopranos-type look at the Roman Empire would be potentially fascinating, and am still looking forward to it (of course it will be ages away, since it hasn't even played on telly in the States yet).

Deadwood meanwhile hasn't grabbed me with its concept, but I do keep hearing good reviews.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 04:11 am (UTC)
i just had a look at the promo stuff for ROME. (i'm at uni. broadband.) i dunno, man, i'm just get flashes to GLADIATOR...

DEADWOOD is a bit dirtier, more emotionally charged and rough. i like a bit of that. indeed,i want season two after seeing the promos there.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 04:50 am (UTC)
At the risk of putting myself in front of the famous Ben Peek scorn, I always thought Gladiator was good.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
the famous ben peek scorn?

anyhow, i like the first thirty minutes of the film, but i thought the decision to make each battle smaller than the one before (thus making it more personal in theory) made the film anti-climatic. also, i didn't think there was much story. if russel crowe hadn't been reasonable, the film would have been a waste, i think.

mostly, however, i don't like rome for how easy it is to use it as a metaphor for america right now.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 06:08 am (UTC)
Meanwhile, here's the review I mentioned: HBO's Roman Holiday. But I hope it's better than suggested there.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 08:41 am (UTC)
Deadwood is only up to season two in the US. Three starts in February, I'd think. But the series will have a planned end. Creator David Milch clearly has plans, and he says he only intends for their to be five series.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 11:11 am (UTC)
you even have a deadwood icon :)

but that's cool. thanks. i hope it only runs five seasons, and doesn't limp on after him.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
I've actually become fond of the series that gets axed after one season and doesn't outstay its welcome, like Wonderfalls and Greg the Bunny - although Greg has been repurposed for a new series on cable I notice.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 12:33 pm (UTC)
i don't particularly want shows to get axed, i just would like some shows that are one season, and one season only. but i suppose the world doesn't really work in this way, and there's got an unwillingness to do this in tv, especially where shows so often gain audiences as they go.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)
Tangentially, I like series that restrict themselves to 12 or 14 episodes a season. It produces a lot less filler.

One of my favourite ever shows (American Gothic) was axed after its first season, but I am fond of a quite a few that only really hit their stride in their second or third year.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC)
american gothic was love. sheriff buck was nothing but joy.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC)
And it's on DVD come October 25 -- in R1 of course.

Based on the previous year, it might even make R4, but I'm not that trusting, so will grab the US version.
Aug. 24th, 2005 04:47 am (UTC)
i got to get me that multi region dvd player.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
I love Deadwood. Season 3 hasn't started yet in the States, but we're all waiting with bated breath.
Aug. 22nd, 2005 01:46 pm (UTC)
I am not the most technologically advanced person but I take it Australia is in a different DVD "region" than the U.S.? Because HBO will re-run Season 2 again before Season 3 starts this winter--and it won't come out on DVD til after they do that. My good friend has tivo with a DVD burner but alas, I bet you are in a different region, yes?
Aug. 23rd, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)
yeah, we're region four over here.

not, of course, that it makes a huge difference. it's easy enough to get a multi region dvd player or some such thing to work it out, and i am sorely tempted by this offer. so very much. so much. but i'm telling myself buying a new dvd burner cause of this is not a rational choice, and hopefully they'll release season two out here soon.

but thank you muchly for the offer.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 12:21 pm (UTC)
Well, let me know if you change your mind. If I have my HBO figured out (always a question) they will start re-running Deadwood November or December and then the new season will start in February or March. BUT it might be pushed back for the last season of the Sopranos. I doubt whether they would run the last season of the Sopranos and a new season of Deadwood concurrently.

And it's truly no problem for my friend to burn a few DVDs for me--I was with her when both of her kids were born, was matron of honor at her wedding and such. Plus she and her husband like to justify the DVD burner. "Look--we're using our DVD burner off tivo that costed us beaucoup dollars!" :-)
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