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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Last night, I finished up the twelve episodes that make up the first season of Deadwood. This is a great television show. HBO television shows seem to me to be far, far better than anything else on Television (Think "The Sopranos", "Curb Your Enthusiasm". I suppose you shouldn't think "Sex in the City", but oh well). Deadwood is as good as any movie in the theater. The production quality is equal to that of the most expensive Hollywood film. The story is compelling, the characters well drawn, the script superb, and the acting flawless. It's really a marvelous show.

First, let me say that this show is most assuredly R-rated. Very R-rated. The language alone would peel the paint off of your car. There is quite a bit of nudity (including some folks who really need to keep their clothes on) and a number of people meet graphically violent and untimely deaths. But that's par for the course in an unincorporated town in the Black Hills in 1876. Deadwood is an "illegal" settlement, started in land that technically belongs to the Sioux. Thus, they have no law and no government. Deadwood is as "Wild West" as it gets. Deadwood also happens to be settled near a big gold strike, so money is in the air, even if the streets are full of mud and manure. (As an aside, Deadwood was a real settlement and remains to this day. I guess I don't give away much when I say that it is the place where Will Bill Hickok was murdered and buried.)

The main hero is Seth Bullock, a former marshall in Montana, and now a hardware store seller in Deadwood. Bullock is a good man with a fierce temper -- a temper than usually results in some scumbag getting what they deserve within the confines of the morality of the times and locale. The main bad guy is Al Swearengen, the owner of the Gem Saloon and the kingpin in town. Swearengen is a simply marvelous character -- he's ruthless, funny, smart, and compelling to watch. The rest of the cast of characters is brilliant, including Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, a grouchy doctor, funny, semi-competent henchmen, and sundry prospectors, hotel owners, whores, and merchants.

The show is gritty and real. There are no happy endings here -- only real life. The storyline is compelling -- of the sort that makes it really hard to save an episode for tomorrow night. The first western I ever read was Lonesome Dove, and that ruined me for all other westerns. No book could ever match it, and so I couldn't read westerns anymore (at least until I discovered Elmore Leonard's westerns, anyway). Deadwood is on par with Lonesome Dove, and anyone who knows me knows that is saying something.

I've always been attracted to tales of the American Frontier -- the freedom, the hardship, the hopes and dreams that it represented, and the strength of character that it took to succeed there where the rewards for hardwork were great and the dangers real. Deadwood brings all this to life. If you can take the f-word every three seconds, I heartily recommend Deadwood and eagerly await the second season's release to DVD.

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