Deadwood: The Complete First Season

Deadwood: The Complete First Season
While all the HBO glory continues to go to heavy-hitters such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, their "next gen" series may not as of yet be garnering the critical acclaim they have earned but that doesn't diminish their quality. And although not everything HBO touches is gold, or even good (Arli$$), Deadwood hits the mother load. Using actual historical elements as a base — it is rather loosely inspired by real life characters (Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Calamity Jane) and events (the gold rush of 1876 in the Black Hills of South Dakota) — Deadwood is a plot-heavy, challenging period piece featuring an excellent but expansive ensemble cast. These elements may work against it garnering mainstream accolades, but it makes the show one of the best HBO has ever offered. The series revolves around Deadwood, an "outlaw" gold-mining town founded on Indian-owned land (and therefore not subject to any law) and magnet for all the misfits, criminals and fools seeking to make their fortune. But while ex-lawmen/men of conscience such as Hickok and Bullock come to Deadwood to make their riches, clashing with its lawless nature, the black heart that drives the show belongs to bar owner/criminal entrepreneur Al Swearengen (played phenomenally by Ian McShane), whose profanity-laced tirades, ruthless nature and numerous illegal ventures/interests encompass all the other characters and drives the show. The appeal of Deadwood is that all its characters are flawed (unlike its western inspirations, there are no purely white or black hats). Even the irredeemable seem able to fleetingly touch redemption and even the purest step in the shit covering the streets. In one of the four featurettes, creator David Milch reveals that Deadwood was originally to be a "cops and robbers in Roman times"-type show, and that it uses a number of themes from that initial pitch. It's a peculiar concept, but befitting of Milch, who is nearly as engaging as his characters. While Milch claims to have no interest in making Deadwood historically accurate, "The Real Deadwood" explores the genuine aspects Milch based his series on, if not the events. And while many have attacked the voracity and plentiful nature of the show's vulgarity (you will never hear "cocksucker" uttered more), "The New Language of the Old West" defends it. With season two just around the corner, it's time to jump on this (band)wagon before its gone. Plus: selected episode commentary. (Warner)