And The Winner Is…
Welcome back to Lost & Found, folks. The votes are in and tallied. You’ve selected the next show I’ll cover here, and I want to say thanks for taking the time to participate. If the show you selected didn’t make the cut in this round I hope you’ll still decide to pop in on Friday afternoons to read my thoughts. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the next show I’ll cover will be…
Well, fuck me sideways and color me excited about it.
You folks are going to have to get used to profanity around these parts for a while. It comes with the territory. Deadwood’s not a place for the fainthearted or the squeamish. They’d as soon murder you in your bed as pour you a drink – all for a few bucks or a ball of dope.
And there’s really no place I’d rather spend time in. But why should you want to spend time there with me?
After all, this is a Western we’re talking about here. You’re either a fan of Westerns or you’re not, and if you’re not? Well, then Deadwood probably doesn’t sound like the kind of show you’d like to commit yourself to.
Plus, there’s the whole language thing. There’s the profanity of course, which flies fast and furious, but that’s not really the issue. If you’re on Chud.com you’re not going to get the Vapors from hearing these characters try to set a World Record for most uses of the word “cocksucker.” The issue, for some of you, will be the way the characters express themselves in general. The fact is that “normal” people do not talk this way (although I dearly wish they did). You and I do not talk this way. Hell, the people of the real Deadwood likely didn’t talk this way.
The realism of the show’s setting, the costumes, the conditions, is set off against the kind of highly-stylized dialogue that few shows can really, truly pull off (it helps that Deadwood is chock-a-block with gifted performers). It’s been described countless times as “Shakespearean,” and there’s good reason for that. For one, just like with ol’ Bill’s plays, the show’s dialogue can be difficult to click with right away. The sentences that these characters summon are ornate, twisty and dense, filled with obscure and/or antiquated words. Some folks get the rhythm and the language of it right off without any trouble. Others might not. That’s okay. Don’t give up right away. Give yourself a few episodes to soak in the feeling of it all and you’ll find yourself rolling right along with the rhythms and the flavors of Deadwood’s particular patois. Your patience will pay off. This language that creator David Milch has created – Deadwoodese, if you will – is vibrant and alive and furiously intelligent; moving and passionate and often-hilarious and just insanely cool.
As for the worry that this is a Western, and how interesting can that be, really? Well, here’s the thing: it is…and it isn’t, to quote the Sage and Prophet known only as Gene. It’s a Western, in that it’s got horses and gold claims and saloons and men with guns who aren’t shy about using them, but it’s also much more than that. Deadwood concerns itself with all aspects of Life: law and justice, ethics and morality, community and individualism, wealth and power, love and betrayal, death and duty, and the occasional bicycle. You’re likely to identify with some of these people, because they are us. Their speech may be strange, and their surroundings may be the stuff of History books, but their motivations, concerns, hopes and fears are timeless. They are our concerns, and have been since time immemorial.
The first two seasons of Deadwood are magnificent stuff – profane and poetic and powerful. I can’t speak to the third season, because I’ve never seen it. I loved the first two so completely that when I learned that the show had been cancelled I put off watching the final season; saving it for a special occasion like a rare, treasured whiskey. It’s finally time to open it up and savor it.
My brother (a truly gifted musician – check out the site for NUFO, his collaboration with Eric Mitchell) was kind enough to give me the entire series on Blu-Ray last Christmas, and after sampling the first episode again I’ve been waiting semi-patiently until you selected the show to re-experience it in that format. If you’re able I highly recommend you seek out the Blu-Rays as well. Deadwood is Great Television for a number of reasons that we’ll talk about as we go. One of those reasons is its look. As with Carnivale, HBO threw down a lot of cash to realize a wholly-believable, gorgeously filthy environment for these characters, and each episode possesses the visual beauty of a feature film. Blu-Ray brings out all the craftsmanship and care that went into the creation of Deadwood, and you owe it to yourself to experience it in all its glory.
It’s been pointed out that Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix is doing a rewatch of Deadwood this summer and that covering the show now might be seen as redundant. I’m not concerned. I was one of approximately 1,000,000,000 people doing recaps of Lost in the lead-up to the final season, yet we all manage to co-exist rather wonderfully. When Lost’s final season aired I enjoyed composing my Hydra-like weekly columns, and afterward reading up on what folks like Jeff “Doc” Jensen had to say. It’ll likely work the same way here. Mr. Sepinwall is a talented professional, and his columns on the show are likely to be illuminating and entertaining. I look forward to reading them.
So get thee hence and find yourself a copy of the first two episodes. Watch ‘em, then come on back here next Friday and we’ll talk. How in the hell am I going to deal with covering a show that doesn’t feature wonky mysticism, a convoluted mythology or a hefty dose of surrealism? Find out next week!