by Billie Doux
[This review includes spoilers for season one!]
I recently rented the first season DVD of Deadwood because it was highly recommend to me. Heavy drama is totally not my thing, and westerns are out of my realm, but after three episodes, I was hooked.
There's something so compelling and addictive about this show. It reminds me a lot of Lonesome Dove, but more so. Lonesome Dove aired a millennia ago and I don't even remember the basics of the plot, but I remember that it showed us in vivid detail how dirty, dark, short and brutal life actually was in the old West. Deadwood is like that. There's disease and death. There's exploitation of children. There's no law, no morality, and clearly, not enough soap.
Our leading man, Seth Bullock (played by the talented and may I say, extremely hot Timothy Olyphant) is in many ways your typical Gary Cooper western hero, morally upright, a man of honor. A former marshal from Montana, Bullock came to town to open a hardware store; despite his outspoken desire to avoid the job, Bullock's frustration with the lack of law and order grew throughout the first season, and he succumbed to the inevitable and became sheriff in the finale. Bullock is a married man who takes his vows seriously, and yet there he is, having a hot affair with the Widow Garrett, and it makes him more likable, not less. And he appears to be bonding with Swearengen, which I certainly didn't expect.
Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is the character everyone is talking about. He was so utterly black in the first few episodes that I almost didn't even want to watch him. But as the first season progressed, Swearengen began to intrigue me. How can an outright murderer, drug dealer, pimp, and exploiter of women be so fascinating, and almost -- dare I say it -- likable? It's (of course) because of the bits of humanity and compassion we see in him. The way he killed the preacher, who was suffering so horribly, was outright tender. And we were given a strong hint (in a jarring scene where Swearengen is ranting to one of his prostitutes as she is servicing him) that Swearengen was prostituted himself as a child. It doesn't excuse him, but it certainly helps explain him.
All of the characters, good and evil, are so human, complex, fragile and fallible, ordinary people living in an extraordinary time and place. And they're played by exceptional actors, nearly all of whom deserve Emmys. I hate to single one out since they're all so good, but I have to mention the brilliant Brad Dourif as the town doctor. Tortured by his experiences tending to the wounded in the Civil War, the Doc is so emotionally scarred that he almost can't stand seeing people suffer. I loved the way he recruited the drunken (and also emotionally scarred) Calamity Jane to help him nurse people during the smallpox epidemic. During the final episodes of season one, Doc goes to great trouble to get a leg brace for the disabled woman (Geri Jewell) who cleans Swearengen's saloon; the scene in the finale where they danced together was just lovely.
A review of Deadwood wouldn't be complete without discussing the extreme profanity. There is so much of it that I doubt they'll ever be able to strip this series and show it on TNT. The profanity is all the more striking because of the accurately old-fashioned way that the characters speak. I found it off-putting at first, but after a few episodes, it just felt right. (One scene that I thought was hilarious was Swearengen and Mr. Wu, who spoke no English, discussing a drug theft using sign language, drawings, and a few obscene words.) Frankly, if extreme profanity bothers you, you may want to give Deadwood a miss; it's that bad.
But the writing in this series is exceptional. The final episode of season one where so much happened was television drama at its best. I cannot wait for the season two DVD to come out. I may even subscribe to HBO so that I can watch season three when it airs.
So I guess you could say that I highly recommend Deadwood. You think?
Is it me, or does Deadwood remind you of a twisted version of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman? I mean, think about it. We have a female lead who finds herself in circumstances where she must adopt an orphaned child. The male lead is the only truly moral man in town. The doctor is idealistic, the Peter Coyote character stood in for Custer, and Keith Carradine's Wild Bill did the Johnny Cash part. They had to form a "town council" at the end of season one. And aren't Swearengen and Trixie a more realistic version of Hank and Myra, with Sol Starr playing the Horace part?
by Billie Doux
I couldn't stand it anymore.
The new Battlestar Galactica is so freaking good. (Okay, frakking good.) All through season one, I kept thinking about reviewing it, and telling myself that I just didn't have the time. And I really don't. I'm reviewing three shows right now. I reviewed four at once a few years ago, and I thought I was going to go nuts. But at least it airs during the summer, so theoretically, I'm only doing two at a time. :)
My review of the season two premiere will be up by tonight. http://www.billiedoux.com/bsg.html
And I started a BSG discussion list yesterday, too, mostly because we kept talking about BSG on my Lost list. http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/bsgreviews/
by Billie Doux
I finally got around to watching the movie Troy the other night. Just couldn't get around to seeing it in the theater.
A lot of it was pretty good. The battle scenes were spectacular, but repetitive. I thought Eric Bana as Hector was marvelous. The two LotR alumni, Orlando Bloom as Paris and Sean Bean as Odysseus, were also very good. The role of Paris in particular is a thankless one, and Orlando made it work. Peter O'Toole seems to have moved into the spot Richard Harris used to occupy as "elderly veteran actor best suited to playing a king in a costume drama." The scene where he begged Achilles for Hector's body was the most moving in the entire piece.
But what deranged casting director hired Brad Pitt to play Achilles?
Don't get me wrong. I like to look at Brad Pitt just as much as any other hetero female. He's even a pretty good actor; I adored his Louis in Interview with the Vampire. But Achilles? Come on! Biceps aside (Brad has very nice biceps, I'll give you that), he is just not by any stretch of the imagination the right actor to play Achilles. Have you read The Iliad? I have. Okay, not lately, but I did read it. Achilles is an invincible brute who lives for war and glory. I'm picturing Vin Diesel in Pitch Black. (That's Pitch Black, not Joe Black.) Or maybe the Rock. Maybe Schwarzenegger when he was thirty. He's certainly better suited to play Achilles than he is for his current job.
And where did Hector's cousin the virgin priestess come from? I don't seem to remember her from The Iliad. Was she an attempt to make Achilles' love for his cousin Patroclus look platonic?
Fairly watchable -- two stars -- but ultimately disappointing. Every time Pitt was on the screen, I kept wondering what the casting director was thinking. I also kept wishing that they'd do part two with Sean Bean.
by Billie Doux
Yes, that's Deadwood, not The Dead Zone.
I love DVDs with a passion. It wasn't all that long ago that the only way we could re-watch something we loved was by waiting for reruns. I remember hearing that in the early 70s, fans of the original Trek would make audio tapes of their favorite episodes so that they could at least hear them whenever they wanted. And of course, they wrote fan fiction. That's how fan fic started.
Anyway, I was talking about Deadwood. Dan talked me into trying the first season DVD. Heavy drama is totally not my thing, but after three episodes, I was hooked. I'm now up to episode seven.
There's something very compelling about this show. It reminds me a lot of how I felt about Lonesome Dove. Lonesome Dove aired a millennia ago and I don't even remember the basics of the plot, but I do remember that it showed us in vivid detail how dirty, dark, short and brutal life actually was in the old West. Deadwood is just like that. There's disease and death. There's exploitation of children. There's no law, no morality, and clearly, not enough soap. Some of the characters -- like Bullock, Sol, Trixie, Calamity Jane, and the Widow -- are likable. Most are not. Swearengen, the main arch villain of the piece, was so utterly black that at first I didn't even want to watch him. They've softened him just a tad in the past couple, which was a smart move.
What do you all think of Deadwood? Post your comments!