Sunday, September 13, 2009

Deadwood

I should preface this post by writing a bit about our curious relationship with television. We have a 30 year old 13 inch TV set (yes, it's a colour set), and we don't have cable. We do have a set of rabbit ears, but since the American channels went digital, we can't pick those up anymore. We've aquired the very addictive habit of watching television series on DVD. Over the past couple years, we've watched The Wire, Homocide, The Corner, Prime Suspect, Cracker, The Sopranos, and now Deadwood.

I told a friend we were watching Deadwood and his comment was, "yeah, fuckin good show", referring to all the swearing. Swearing is so common throughout the series that hardly a moment goes by without it. The exceptions are some conversations involving the few women in the show who are not prostitutes. These conversations are spoken using a stilted, careful, formal language that reminded me of simultaneous translation of United Nations speeches.

Some of the characters in Deadwood, such as Wild Bill and Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen are based on actual characters who were in the Deadwood camp at that time. Others are composites or completely made up.

Deadwood is about life in a community which initially has no law, and how that community develops from a "camp" to a "town". We see how characters with cross-purposes learn to live and work together for the good of the community against a common enemy. It is set in an historical town in South Dakota in which prospectors set up camp on native land after gold was discovered.

At the core of the series is the relationship between pimp Al Swearengen and hardware store proprietor come sheriff Seth Bullock. Swearengen is a brutal murdering thug who sees the need to support a character like Bullock to front the town. As brutal as Swearengen is, he is depicted in complex humanity and we see sides of this character that include acts of kindness. Bullock is the good reasonable sheriff but he is also a hothead and a complex character in his own right.

I thought Deadwood was a splendid series, though there were sections of it I didn't think were as successful. The detail around the acting troupe was mostly lost on me. As well, I didn't think the character of Mrs. Garret/Ellsworth was so believable. What makes the series successful though was the ability of creator David Milch to deal with law and politics and power and at the same time all the personal relationships. Well done.

Did you see this series? Do you have any favourite charactors or actors or episodes?

10 comments:

Wandering Coyote said...

My brother & Dad are huge fans of this show and I've seen parts of some episodes. Not sure if it's my cup of tea, but I've heard excellent things about it. Wyatt Earp shows up at some point & the actor who plays him is the serious hottie from Queer as Folk. I'd watch his episodes for sure....

mister anchovy said...

Yes, Wyatt Earp and his brother show up at one point and are referred to offhandedly at as "those assholes".

nursemyra said...

I LOVED this show. I also have an enormous guilty crush on Swearengen

L.M. said...

Cocksucking right I did! And why does everyone go on about the language? Nothing out of the ordinary here.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I've never seen Deadwood myself, and to tell you the truth, I have not watched tv since we left the offspring at university a week ago. Apparently, for me, tv watching is a buddy activity.

Gardenia said...

I haven't seen the series, but think I've lived it in that certain State right next to South Dakota.

Candy Minx said...

I was mad about this series. I was absolutely heart-broken it was cancelleed. Even the kids swear!

I've wondered about some of the inconsitencies because I imagine they would have come to a full circle if the show had lasted the following ppotential two seasons. I interpreted the storyline of the theatre troupe to suggest that art is linked to education. They are supposed to invest in a school. The powers that be do not invest in the education of children...but ironically the people who live by imagination will.

There were rumours Milch was writing two, two hour movies to conclude the storylines but I don't know if that ever got production funds.

I loved Trixie, Swearengen (see his name hints at the swearing as he is the power behind the town "swear engine"), Calamity Jane, Bullock, Eddie Sawyer (played by the card sharp genius Ricky Jay) and Joanie. The transition to corporate America is quite well done. Violence, greed=corporate capitalism. Ouch.

:)

mister anchovy said...

Interesting comment about Swearengen...he was an historical figure I believe.

Az, curiously your comment came through to my email but didn't show up here. Sorry Blogger has been such a drag for you. I haven't had much other negative feedback about it. If you think switching is better, suggestions are appreciated.

Karlo said...

I also only watch DVDs on an analog TV (the rabbit ears went in the trash years ago). It works just fine. I'm sure I'll never pay for another cable connections.

azahar said...

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