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Archive for September 2nd, 2017

by Maurizio Roca

How can one assess a show that was never properly completed during it’s initial run on cable TV. Only three seasons aired before Deadwood was hastily cancelled by HBO. Unlike other short-lived programs on the network (such as Carnivale and Enlightment) Deadwood feels unfinished. It’s hard to compare Deadwood to other well-regarded contemporaries such as Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, or The Wire. Those latter series’ were allowed to conclude accordingly, with a story arc that felt natural in its sense of closure. Deadwood, on the other hand, is like an unfinished Franz Kafka novel (The Trial at least had an ending). We can speculate or assume how things would have turned out, but in the end, there is a huge void gnawing at how the final product stands.

Rumors have swirled for years that showrunner David Milch was preparing to wrap up the story by making one or two TV movies. In fact, Ian McShane (co-lead as saloon owner Al Swearengen) even confirmed in 2017 that a script had been submitted to HBO, and that the network held the final say in the movie being produced. If this piece of news actually comes to fruition is anyone’s guess. It already feels like an opportunity lost, since the show has been off the air for more than 11 years. Unlike something like Twin Peaks (which made it’s return after 25 years) Deadwood had a more structured and chronological/historical timeline to adhere too. Jumping forward many years later will probably feel awkward and unfulfilling to most viewers. Not to mention the passing of Powers Boothe, who as Cy Tolliver, was an essential character in spearheading much of the show’s drama.

For those who don’t know, Deadwood is a period western that takes place in the historical town of South Dakota in and around the 1870’s. The main themes are built around the forming of communities (showing a lawless camp slowly transforming into a bustling town), capitalism, justice, and the forging of bonds between people thrust together in cramped dwelling spaces (and from different backgrounds). The first season also touches upon the subject of fame and the burden of living up to a reputation/legend (similar to The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and Unforgiven). The stories and characters are a mix of fact and fiction. Within this time period, we get to see such historical figures as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock. Milch used newspapers and journals to flesh out the stories he wanted to tell, and the show sticks to a western template while diverging from them in some interesting ways. (more…)

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