Stream-It Saturday: Deadwood (TV)
In my continuing selfless service to the world (ahem), I'm always looking for the next awesome thing to stream. And, of course, I must share my finds with you fabulous folks. Hence, Stream-It Saturday.
One of the great television travesties of the modern era is that HBO's foul-mouthed western, Deadwood, was canceled after a mere three seasons. The series was supposed to conclude with two movie-length episodes, but that never happened for reasons that remain unexplained.
Set in 1870s Deadwood, South Dakota shortly after Custer's Last Stand, the show revolves around a fantastic ensemble cast--many of whom portray real historical figures from the settlement of Deadwood and the gold rush. The two primary leads are Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Olyphant, who--between Deadwood and Justified--should win a Lifetime Achievement Award in hat wearing) and Al Swearengen (portrayed brilliantly by the scene-commanding Ian McShane).
The chemistry between these two character is explosively adversarial, and it's one of my favorite dynamics on any television show. (Warning: The language in the video below--and the show as a whole--is extremely NSFW.)
I read an interview with Deadwood creator and writer David Milch in which he said that in creating Deadwood, he wanted to explore how civilizations comes together and that's probably the best summary of what's at the core of this show's appeal. All these people in Deadwood are trying to effectively make a society. They don't have rules and structure, so they've got to figure it all out.
In the three seasons of the show, we see the town become increasingly ordered, as institutions (including law enforcement and a bank) are created to bring some semblance of civilization to the lawless, chaotic town. All of this makes for brilliant human drama and loads of tension.
Westerns aren't something that people gravitate too all the much anymore--Justified and possibly Longmire (both set in modern day), are the only currently-running shows I can think of that capture the vibe of that type of storytelling, and that's really too bad. When done well, the genre can be a fantastic lens through which to explore all sorts of aspects of humanity, the gray area of good versus bad being what shines most in Deadwood.
Note: I highly recommend reading this fascinating 10-years later interview with many of the cast members of about the experience of being involved with Deadwood.