If you read my previous post re: the TV show Justified, you’ll know that I was suitably impressed; both by the show itself and particularly by Timothy Olyphant’s portrayal of the lead character (Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens).
Whilst waiting for Season 4 of that particular show, I went looking thru’ Oyphant’s back catalog; to see what other performances may have lead to his current role. Hence me stumbling across Deadwood. A show that had been recommended to me by a friend way back when it first aired (in 2004); but thus far, I’d never managed to check out. Boy am I glad I finally did. Enjoyed this sucker more than Justified.
Deadwood: a period drama of a different kind. The flowery language and politeness bring to mind characters like Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice. Tho’ the addition of a healthy measure of expletives, mud & whiskey lends a certain realism to the scenes; so that words jump from the page (or screen in this case) and make characters like Molly Parker & Mr. Bullock a lot more engaging.
The series (3 seasons of 12 episodes each) charts Deadwood’s growth from gold mining camp to full-fledged town; incorporating themes ranging from the formation of communities to western capitalism. The show also features a host of historical figures, from the annals of the Wild West. Some, like: Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane & Wyatt Earp…I’d heard of. Others, such as: Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Sol Star, George Crook, E.B. Farnum, Charlie Utter and George Hearst…I hadn’t.
The series was created, produced and largely written by David Milch. I must admit I was gob-smacked by the results. (Guess I’ll be thumbing thru’ his resume next).
The plot lines include historical truths as well as substantial fictional elements. The show has it all really. Great scenery and cinematography; costumes; dialog and strong characters with real depth. Milch apparently used actual diaries and newspapers from 1870s Deadwood residents as a reference for characters, events, and the whole look & feel of the show. Some of the characters are fully fictional, tho’ they may have been based on actual persons.
The characters are what actually made the show for me and I was really disappointed that it only lasted 3 short seasons. Highlights for me included:
- Everything to do with the Al Swearengen character. As I say Timothy Olyphant (as Seth Bullock) drew me to the show, but Ian McShane stole it…fair’n’square.
- I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Mr. Wu, a Chinese gentleman who speaks very little English. The conversations between these two (Wu and Swe’gen) reminded me of exchanges between Harpo and Chico (or even Lassie and his owner: “what…Timmy’s stuck down the well”)!? Wu seems to know his numbers, possibly days of the week and the English word for man (c*ck-s*cker), which he obviously picked up from Al. The rest is sign language, grunts and head-nods. (Also appreciate the logic: as Chinese man translates to Wu-c*ck-s*cker and Caucasian man to Swe’gen-c*ck-s*cker). Class!
- Everything to do with the Calamity Jane character. The expletives, falling asleep in the saddle or standing up come to that (“How much they paying you to hold that building up”)? Let’s just say that Robin Weigert’s rendition is nothing like Doris Day’s 1953 portrayal. More alcohol & urine than songs & sunshine.
- The sycophantic E.B. Farnum character (and his moronic side-kick Richardson) rocked.
- Loved Charlie Utter picking a fight with Francis Wolcott.
- Plus Swearengen’s right hand man Dan having his 1st clean fight with George Hearst’s flunky Captain Turner.
Seriously, there were just too many great scenes for me to list here. Well worth a viewing. Grab yourself a pizza, a six pack, the box-set and ship the kids off to your mother’s for the weekend. Sit back and enjoy. Let me know how you get on.