440 of 464 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down the best series on television in 2004.
The best kept secret on television is Deadwood, a semi-true story of the lawless town in South Dakota that popped up during the gold rush days of the 1800's. The real Deadwood boasted legendary residents like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock. Both figure prominently as characters in the TV series but are far from the only great characters on display...
Published on November 5, 2004 by Jason Whitt
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The story was great and the acting was great but the language ruined ...
I think HBO really messed up on this one! The story was great and the acting was great but the language ruined it for me. I',m certainly not against profanity in movies but this was over the top. I got sick of hearing variations of the F-word in every other sentence and sometimes several sentences in a row, not to mention c...sucker nearly as much. I managed to get...
Published 4 months ago by glenn karr
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440 of 464 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down the best series on television in 2004.,
The best kept secret on television is Deadwood, a semi-true story of the lawless town in South Dakota that popped up during the gold rush days of the 1800's. The real Deadwood boasted legendary residents like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock. Both figure prominently as characters in the TV series but are far from the only great characters on display.
Perhaps you've heard of the series, but never gave it a look. Or perhaps you were warned by others that the language was so profane as to render it unwatchable. True, the series isn't for anyone under the age of 18, but it must be understood that this semi-historical piece was written to represent the actual dialect and social tenor of the region at that time. Deadwood was a rough place without real law, and gold was on everyone's mind. All the elements for great drama were there. Greed, corruption, deceipt, innocence, morality (or a lack thereof), hope, hate, fear, addiction, murder, jealousy and love. Deadwood truly represents a kind of sociological study of human evolution within a laissez faire society.
It was clear from episode 1 that the new Deadwood series on HBO was something special. By episode 4, I was certain that Emmy nominations/awards were imminent. The show was largely ignored by the Emmys, likely sufferering from a combination of "newcomer syndrome" and overshadowing by The Sopranos. But make no mistake, it was more than worthy with the actors comprising a splendid balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar. Regardless of fame however, there isn't an off performance to be found in the season. Nor is there a grossly derivitive one. The characters are all satisfyingly deep, nuanced and often downright quirky.
The writing, as is the case with most HBO original series, was entirley engaging with a character and rhythm all its own. It is to be savored as a fine wine or concerto. Unlike many adult drama series on the "other networks", Deadwood never loses its momentum. There is no need to manipulate the audience with cheap antics to get them to care week to week. The story, actors and writing take care of that. Each episode flows to the next with amazing fluidity while always maintaining an anticipatory mood.
There is really no need to get into plot points as it would require a review the size of the Deadwood script and would involve spoiling much of the drama that one should experience as purely as possible. Suffice it to say if you enjoy adult themed series such as The Sopranos, you will love Deadwood. Even if you don't like westerns, it won't matter. The acting, writing, and plot are just that good. Give it a chance. You won't be sorry.
71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I don't mean to upset you, it's always about the money",
This is my nominee for best new drama. This revisionist western will knock your socks off with its fascinating characters and atmosphere. It's May 1876 former Montana marshal Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and his business partner Sol Star (John Hawkes) open a hardware business in the gold-mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. Deadwood becomes the crossroads for the famous, infamous and the people they kill. Bullock meets Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) and has a run in with Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). Swearengen lives up to his name; he's a man with the foulest mouth one can imagine and a pretty nasty fellow to cross. McShane's portrayal of Swearengen makes him one of the most complex villans this side of Tony Soprano.
"Deadwood" becomes the nexus for some of the most important figures of the old west creating a great opportunity for storytelling from writer/creator/producer David Milch ("NYPD Blue"). A sprawling, down and dirty revisionist western, the pilot directed by Walter Hill ("Southern Comfort", "Hard Times", "The Warriors") features marvelous performances from Ian McShane, Brad Dourif, Timothy Olyphant, Molly McShane, Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe. Authentic right down to the pig crap, "Deadwood" features the great dialogue, action and storytelling skills we've come to expect from Milch, Hill and the other collaborators on this cable TV series. A warning for viewers--you'll hear a lot of bad words because, well, because Milch feels that folks spoke like that back then.
There may only be 12 episodes included here but they're all high quality. My only complaint is that the series probably could have been packaged with more episodes per disc making the set less cumbersome. The price is a bit steep for what you're getting as well but given the quality of the series, packaging and extras, makes this a worthwhile edition to pick up.
Twelve episodes spread over six discs presented in a high quality anamorphic widescreen presentation, ensures that the image quality of the show is kept sharp, clear and with nice, robust rustic colors. The 5.1 sound mix actively surrounds you in the environment of the old west. Since much of this drama is dialogue based the 5.1 atmosphere comes across most effectively when there's action sequences.
Although this isn't an extra per se, the designing and packaging of this series makes "Deadwood" special right away. One of the best packaged boxed sets I've seen, the box resembles the Star Trek: The Next Generation sets with a sturdy outer box and an accordion fold out holder for the DVDs. It's big, bulky and personally I like the package that way. Sure, it takes up a lot of space but, hey, it's better than some of the flimsy packaging we've seen lately with these expense sets. While there isn't any booklet to tell you about the show, each episode has a brief synopsis of each one. There's also a preview and recap for each and every episode included.
There's a featurette on the making of the show with a generous helping of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Milch and the cast. Featuring vintage photographs of the actual Deadwood. Milch, the cast and crew appear in the featurette as well discussing the intersection of fiction and reality in this 25 minute glimpse into the inspiration for the show. Milch and his collaborators discuss both the attraction of the town and the mythos that it represented. Essentially a promo piece for the series it also provides a nice introduction to the series with a generous helping of clips from the show. Interviews with local historians highlight the featurette on the real Deadwood. Keith Carradine and Milch interview each other for "The Language of the Old West". There's a number of commentary tracks with Milch and most of the main cast. The quality of the commentary tracks vary quite a bit but all are informative and interesting.
A terrific series well packaged (but you end up paying for the packaging) with excellent extras, "Deadwood" will keep you involved in the petty dealings of saloon owner Swearengen and his conflicts with the residents and prospectors of the town.
174 of 207 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Milch turns "Deadwood" into the Wild Wicked West,
Of all of the HBO series that I have watched in their entirety, I think "Deadwood" is the weakest of the lot (the other are "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under," and "Carnivàle"). However, before I convince you this is damning with faint praise I would add that "Deadwood" is one of the ten best shows on television and that it has one of the most captivating characters around with Ian McShane's Al Swearengen, the profane overlord of the frontier town as the owner of the Gem Saloon. Ironically, Al is so good at being bad, with his fingers in every pie in town and always looking for more, that he ends up dominating all of his scenes and all of the other characters.
"Deadwood" was created by David Milch, who always gets mentioned as being the creator of "NYPD Blue," but whom I always laud as the writer of "Trial by Fury," the third season premier episode of "Hill Street Blues," which remains on my personal list of ten best television episodes I have ever seen. To jog your memory, it is the one where a nun is raped and murdered and Frank Furillo coerces a confession from one of the killers by threatening to drop charges and have them released to an angry public. The threat was of vigilante justice, which is certainly an element of "Deadwood."
The time is 1876, which is when the nation's centennial was soured by the news of Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn. Deadwood is in the South Dakota Territory, where statehood threatens to bring law and order, which the locals consider more of a threat than Indian attack. The men play cards, get drunk, and dream of mining for gold, which allows them to indulge in more gambling, drinking, with money left over for buying the services of a woman for a night as well. This is not the glorious West of Manifest Destiny or even Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis, but a cesspool of human existence that is the gateway to the gold of the Black Hills.
Our entry into this world is the arrival Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), a former lawman from Montana who arrives with his buddy, Sol Starr (John Hawkes), intending to open by a hardware business and make their fortune off those who want to make their own by mining for gold. They have to deal with Swearengen to get their operation going, but Bullock becomes acquainted with Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine). Circumstances force the pair together a couple of times and they are similar in temperament, morals, and ability to shoot a gun and they become friendly, but not friends. Of course, if there is one thing we know about Wild Bill, it is that he is no long for this world.
Also in this world are some rather interesting women, especially Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert), who is the second most fascinating character on the show. She loves Wild Bill even though it will never be reciprocated and when he plays his last hand of poker (two pairs, black aces and black eights) she has to find a new reason for living. Then there is Trixie (Paula Malcomson) a prostitute who ends up caring for a young girl who is suddenly orphaned by one of Swearengen's machinations, and Alma Garret (Molly Parker), who comes from the East with her husband and suddenly finds herself a widow and a claim that might not be worthless. If you want to talk about the most desperate women on television, then check out this trio.
In Milch's Deadwood the vermin are always interesting and my attention is most drawn to the Brad Dourif's Doc Cochran, who stubbornly insists on doing the right thing in a world where right and wrong are irrelevant concepts, and William Sanderson as Eustis Baily (E.B.) Farnum, who thinks obsequiousness translates into something that somehow approaches confidence in the service of Al Swearengen. Everything in Deadwood comes back to Swearengen, literally. We get the feeling that Bullock is supposed to be the force for good to counter Swearengen in Deadwood, but we have no reason to believe they are in the same league. Powers Booth shows up as Tolliver, ostensibly Swearengen's new competition in the saloon business, but we do not think he stands a chance either.
The only thing more omnipresent that Swearengen and his assorted interests on "Deadwood" is the constant swearing. For Swearengen profanity is not just an art form but necessary verbal punctuation, and for many of the characters swearing is on a par with breathing (especially for Calamity Jane). Milch research the historic Deadwood and has justified the language on that basis, but the profanity is part of the texture, as much as the art design, the sets, and the costumes. If you want a constant reminder that the rules of civilization do not apply here, then all the foul language suffices. I bet the demographics on this show skew more male than "Monday Night Football."
Ultimately, with this HBO series the comparison is not to network television shows but rather the genre of the Adult Western that can be traced back to "High Noon" and "Shane." But Milch pushes it to a time and place that predates those particular morality plays. Those mortals stupid enough to want to have a civilized impulse in a place like Deadwood quickly learn to hide it or sublimate it in some way that might keep them alive another day. In the end, the dreamers in Deadwood are not the ones who picture personal riches, the benefits of statehood, or a honest man wearing a badge bringing law and order to this hell hole, but those wretched individuals who actually think they will live to see another day and that such a day might be worth living.
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian McShane! Keith Carradine! This is the real deal!,
Deadwood, the latest product from David Milch, is an intelligent, authenic and foulmouthed western that just actually may be one of the most well written shows of all time. You can put up on the same pedestal as Milch's Hill Street Blues, West Wing, X-files and the Sopranos, all of which exemplify continuously unflawed scriptwriting which is a real feat for weekly ongoing dramas. Set in the squalid, illegal town of Deadwood, South Dakota, the show recreates a hyperrealistic, gritty vision of the old west without dispensing the classic iconography and romanticism we usually associate with it. The formula is there: lawless town, the hero rides in, there's the mustached coniving villain, the damsel, the weasel, the harlot, the sidekick, the town drunk, the quick draw, the indian; everything we expect to see is there and it shows it to us in a way we can actually beleve in, it refuses to compromise the integrity of it's vision by avoiding offense to viewers. It tries very hard to recreate a time period and never glosses over 19th century life where everyone walks around in pressed, clean clothes, clean streets sitting inside under flourescent lighting instead of lanterns. Gunsmoke it ain't. It takes the classic modern western cliche and turns them into a harsh brutal reality, propelling it with some seriously guttaral, poetic 19th century dialougue. This is seriously action packed dialogue, folks, that'll rattle and richocet in your mind for awhile and the cast is just awesome across the board. Keith Carradine is tragic and powerful as the tired, burned out Wild Bill; Timothy Olyphant as the angry hero, Seth Bullock, Molly Parker as the grieving widdow and Brad Douriff is terrific as the tormented town doctor. But it's British actor Ian McShane who's the real phenomenon of the series as the Villain; the calculating, ruthless barkeep and town boss Al Swerengen, who literally, eats the set. He drives this show playing a wild character that has no qualms about killing people with his bare hands and at the same time posesses a sensitivity and obligation to helping and saving the town. McShane is one of the best actors of today and since he's spent most of his career underground, it's great that he's finally gone mainstream. It's like watching Pacino or Spacey, that sort of kinetic, riotous performance, he's that good. The show definately belongs to him. And be forewarned before you watch it. McShane say's c***sucker constantly with so much flare, so much panache and relentless audacity that you'll wind up saying it all the time too. Hey, it's catchy dialogue. (It also has the best theme song of any show.)
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable television,
This is one of the best shows on Television. The acting and plot lines are mesmerizing. The actor playing the main villian, Al Swearengen, is by far the most interesting character you will see on any type of visual medium. Why this guy didn't win an Emmy is one of the biggest crimes in television history. The one knock on this show is the language. Cursing is used liberally and beyond. At first it takes away from the show, but it eventually calms down and it really seems realistic. If you love westerns and enjoy seeing something new in that genre, you will love adding this to your western collection.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be Missed,
Ignore those who have criticized this highly original HBO series for its free-flowing cursing and hard-edged violence. While those elements are certainly in the forefront, they are only part of the entire mosaic. People that shut off their televisions because of the frequently used "coc**ucker" epithet (which seems to serve as a password of sorts around Deadwood) didn't give themselves a chance to experience the moving and genuine characterizations as they developed. That's a shame, for "Deadwood" is as unique and special in this regard as any series that HBO has aired to date.
The acting is superior. All concerned, from those in the lead roles to those "jest passin' through," convey who they are in depth. While some require more than one episode to fully reveal all of the subtlities and nuances of who they are, such texturing exists right from the start.
Some folks have given up on "Deadwood" after watching the first few episodes, claiming it was going nowhere at a slow pace. The fact is, there are a lot of characters introduced in rapid order. As such, they must become familiar and well-established in our minds before their stories can be told with anything resembling a meaningful impact. At such time, they begin to matter to us.
Once we understand who they are and why they are infused with such drive to achieve their dreams and goals (regardless of what it takes and who may suffer along the way), the audience becomes hooked. We care. These people are three dimensional. They are full of the traits and contradictions that all human beings possess, from the noble to the coarse. By the time the first season concludes, we can't wait to learn more about the residents of Deadwood. Their individual stories have become both engrossing and very real to us.
Focusing on the two main "villains of the piece", some folks have written that competing saloon/gambling house/whorehouse owners, Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver, are virtually identical. I can only imagine that those who make such a statement have merely glanced at the surface and not dared to delve any further. In fact, the two are very different people, indeed!
There's one basic (and huge) difference that becomes apparent as the series develops: Al Swearengen is a pragmatist. His seemingly coldhearted actions are all committed in the name of "doing business." (And in many cases, Ian McShane's performance is so beautifully layered we get the sense that he is almost as disgusted by his actions as are we, the viewing audience).
Cy Tolliver, on the other hand, has strong sadistic tendencies. He frequently enjoys the pain and suffering of others. While he too can make the claim it's all a matter of necessity, Powers Boothe conveys that his character often relishes his use and abuse of power. His handling of the two "thieving kids" is proof positive of his preference for barbaric behavior. So, while the motivations that drive the two men may superficially resemble they also contradict, raising the very real possibility of conflict at any given time.
"Deadwood" is a one-of-a-kind series. For adults only, it's not for the squeamish. It's also not to be missed.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Past the Profanity and Enjoy!,
I can't help but notice that the only bad reviews of this incredible series have been based almost exclusively on the profanity, and that's a shame. I admit that the very first time I watched Deadwood, I was a little turned off by the language. But I didn't let it stop me, and boy am I glad I didn't! (I read one reviewer who referred to it as "aural wallpaper," and that's exactly how I find it - part of the backdrop, like the scenery. After a while, you don't even notice it, but it's definitely part of the feel of the show.)
If you're not watching because of the language, you're really missing out on something. This is, without a doubt and hands-down, the greatest series ever to appear on television. The characters are so interesting that you'll find yourself watching over and over and then thinking and discussing long after about exactly what they meant by this word or that gesture.
Al Swearengen is probably the best character that I have ever seen portrayed in TV or the movies. Ian McShane gives Swearengen a depth of character that you can't imagine when first you meet him in his Gem Saloon. Upon watching the very first episode, I thought that it was going to be no more than another good guy (Seth Bullock) in white hat vs. bad guy (Swearengen) in black hat story. One-dimensional characters. But within a very few episodes, each of these characters had developed layers and sides that were amazing.
I'm not sure if it's the directing or the acting or some combination of both, but the performances, for the most part, are flawless. Often things are conveyed with a look or a gesture, no words needed. Every character is given life by actors who all seem at the top of their game.
The language, and I refer here not to the profanity but simply the dialogue, is one of the highlights of the show. The characters speak in complicated sentence structures that lend so much interest to the story.
Deciphering this language, as well as the complexity of the plot, makes every episode require intense concentration and repeated viewings. This show is not for the casual viewer, which is why I think so many people don't "get" it. They're turned off by the language, so they don't give it a chance to win them over with its dialogue, scenery, acting, character development, complexity, etc. There's so much going on in every episode that it takes more than once to figure it all out and to put it in context.
Please, if you value entertainment that requires you to think and doesn't talk down to you, give Deadwood a try. I highly recommend catching it from the very beginning, so you'll know the characters inside and out, which is one of the show's greatest strengths. Buy the DVD and then watch the second season when it's re-run or comes on DVD. You won't be disappointed if you really give it a try.
And (to quote a line from the second season) "Welcome to fu&*ing Deadwood!"
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Oz" meets "McCabe & Mrs. Miller",
It took me a while to get used to the mud, rhythms, challenged characters and odd syntax of this strange and often repellent Western series. But, as with the best of HBO's hourlong dramas, patience pays off.
It's as if David Milch, taking a cue from Tom Fontana, had wandered onto the set of "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" and plotted a series that describes the darker side of the west and of America's post-Civil War expansion.
Although there are many characters, the central conflict is between saloon keep and crime boss Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) -- who wants to milk his town for everything he can -- and Bullock (Tim Olyphant), a chronically noble, hard-nosed sheriff-turned-hardware salesman who has a tendency to chafe the corrupt. They're the axels of the wagon, surrounded by a host of colorful characters.
Much has been made of the show's profantiy but not nearly enough has been said about the strange moments of friendship and sweetness that float through the darkness. There's something strangely bittersweet about the shine the gruff Charlie Utter takes to Bullock; about Bullock's quiet bond with his partner Starr; Calamity Jane's devotion to Bill Hickok; and especially Brad Dourif's Doc, who treats everyone with tough-love compassion and a intense curiosity for the stranger side of medicine. Even Swearengen has rare flashes of virtue and, in fact, in his dealing with Reverend Smith he performs the biggest act of kindness in the entire season.
Unlike the four- and twelve-letter words (which are reportedly historically accurate to the time and place), the moments of mercy and humanity aren't as overt and have attracted less attention from critics. They're subtle and require more attention and, in the end, elevate the series beyond its gritty surface.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Character on TV Right Now is Al "Swear-Engine",
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I never really got hooked on HBO shows like The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. I enjoyed the first three seasons of the Sopranos and then I quickly lost interest (once they put Tony's family over the mob). Then I started watching Carnivale in 2003 and remain hooked to this day. I love the western genre, so I gave Deadwood a try when it premiered last March I believe. From the first episode I was hooked and have been ever since. The acting is some of the strongest to ever be seen on a television show of any kind. Of course the great Ian McShane as Al Swearengen leads the way (I was so glad he got that Golden Globe), followed strongly by Keith Carradine as Wild Bill, Timothy Olyphant, Powers Boothe, and Brad Dourif just to name some of the great performances found on this show. Deadwood and Carnivale have given me a reason to watch TV again. It's nice to see that HBO hasn't fallen into all the reality show craze (which is starting to slowly die away) and produces shows worth staying up late on nights that we should be going to bed early before work. As long as shows like Deadwood stay on, I will go work my early shift on Monday...tired and satisfied.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As fresh and creative as Six Feet Under!!!,
I'm a middle-aged female marketing writer from the midwest and I've only loved two westerns in my life - Blazing Saddles and the Outlaw and Josie Wales.
Deadwood's story line has heart. It's nice to know this depth of creative integrity and intelligence still exists. The photography transports you to another time and place; and I would kiss the casting director right on the lips. He or she is BRILLIANT.
This series presents characters so richly developed we can predict how they MIGHT react in any given situation. "Sweringen" is a guilty pleasure. When first introduced, I thought "I can never get into this series, the male character is pure ee-vill." But he gradually won me over.
Bill (RIP), Jane, Charlie Udder, Wu ... we see that the rough exteriors conceal fragile innards and we care what happens to them. (I think Udder is my favorite character; the uncomfortable dynamic between Charlie and Jane is a hoot.)
Seeing what troubled folks of that time reminds us that we haven't come that far baby. Key human issues remain. I guess that's why I find it strangely comforting and totally addictive.
About profanity. I know if I walk into a donut shop I'm going to see crullers. If I go to the dentist's office I'm gonna hear drilling. I know if I turn on Deadwood I'm going to hear cursing that would make a biker blush. And you know what? I LIKE it! If you don't, don't watch. Turn away, go about your business. Nothing to see here.
Get real people, the ladies of the time lifted silk petticoats to step over steaming "roadapples"; and that wasn't just rain puddles pooling in the streets. We're not talking Boston during the day, we're talking a frontier town where the people had to be as tough as the place.
Thanks to on-demand, I have probably seen every program in this series three times. Where Six Feet Under has quirkiness, this series has soul.
Anyone who writes a bad review should be fed to Wu's pigs:-)
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