Well Worth Watching: Deadwood

Okay now that I have your attention I wanted to talk to you about Deadwood, a gem of a show that aired between 2004 and 2007 for 36 episodes. Set in 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota the western series focuses on the people within the camp and sees it grow from a tent city into a full fledged mining town. If you were looking at comparing similar tones and quality imagine a mashup between Boardwalk Empire, The Wire and The Quick and the Dead. The 3 seasons are carried by the legendary performance of Ian McShane as Al Swearengen, owner of not only the Gem Saloon but also some of the funniest and crudest dialogue the west has ever seen. Al’s banter with Mr Wu is a sight to behold with some zingers now in regular rotation with my vocabulary. Couple Al with other real historical figures such as Seth Bullock, Wyatt Earp, George Hearst, Wild Bill Hickok and George Crook and you are in for entertaining dialogue and some even better story lines.

The first season opens shortly after Custer’s last stand, in 1876 when there is “no law in Deadwood”, the town is still an illegal settlement upon Indian land, land rich with gold which attracts a heady mix of miners, killers, pimps, whores and gamblers. No town can survive without any form of rules, however, and the three seasons brilliantly capture Deadwood’s evolution into something similar a society – a metaphor, perhaps, for America itself.

The creator of Deadwood, David Milch used real life newspapers and journals from actual residents who resided the town during the 1870s to get a true look and feel surrounding the various events and characters, this is just one of the many good things about this show. The key ingredient within Deadwood lies with its characters, Milch has created perfectly fleshed out portrayals of actual historical figures as well as some made-up ones, too. Saloon owner Al Swearengen is a ruthless operator who cannot help but long for an easier, more peaceful way. Seth Bullock demands justice from those around him, but constantly surrenders to his temper and his libido. Calamity Jane is a many layered character, tough and kind, offensive and caring, vulnerable and impenetrable all at the same time. These are only a sampling of the many deep and conflicted characters in the show. By the third season, there were nearly 30 cast regulars, all of which were people you genuinely cared about.

Another highlight (or low light depending on how politically correct you are) is the heavy use of curse words from the pilot right up until the end of season 3, f**k was said 43 times in the pilot alone!! The show is written in complicated verse and Milch’s love for dialogue and profanity is clear from the get go, it may be a shock to some but even after multiple viewings I believe that the barrage of f-bombs and the like fit in perfectly both from a creative and historical sense.

Myself like countless other fans of the show are still grieving with the sudden cancellation of Deadwood, especially with the climactic scenes at the end of season 3 left unresolved. There were initial talks to conclude the series with 2 TV movies but sadly the plans never came to fruition.

For anyone who wants the most out of their TV shows and are searching for something to become immediately engrossed in, Deadwood is a perfect, vulgar gem well worth your time.