Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deadwood - Season 1

Deadwood is similar to a few other great HBO shows. It has the deliberate pace and brilliant writing of The Wire, the period debauchery of Rome, and all of them owe something to The Sopranos' high watermark of quality and willingness to show anything. They're all the definition of entertainment for adults, and I wish other networks were able to match their high level of production. Deadwood is a somewhat historically based drama about a camp that springs up in the 1870's and eventually turns into a town in the Dakota Territory. It's pretty much the quintessential Western, with plenty of lawlessness and tough sons of bitches. The cast is great, especially with Ian McShane and Powers Boothe as two rival businessmen and Tim Olyphant, who looks kinda doofy as a bald guy but fits the role of a rough hardware man-turned sheriff quite well. McShane's really the star though. Everything bad in the town revolves around him, and he owns every scene he's in.

The show was created and a lot of it was written by David Milch, who's been in the game for a while. He knows what he's doing, and the dialogue is always entertaining and sometimes masterful. There was some stuff made of the anachronistic swearing, but I think it works as intended. We know they didn't use these words, but it achieves the effect of conveying the intended mood of a line and doesn't sound out of place, unless years of cowboys never cussing in movies has affected your thoughts on what they sound like. When doing something in the past, it's hard to keep it sounding authentic without it getting hokey and still managing to make it interesting to the modern ear, and the writers nail it. When you have a great cast and just seeing and hearing the characters speak is so intrinsically interesting, you don't have to do much more to have a good show. As I mentioned before, the show moves kind of slow, with episodes only covering about a day's worth of events. There's still enough backstabbing and shifting alliances to keep things moving, and you're always curious to see what's next. I know the series doesn't have a real ending, but unlike a lot of shows that rely on the carrot on a stick of seeing where it's all leading, the fun of Deadwood is just watching it.

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