The Death of Deadwood

I've just heard that HBO is planning to cancel Shakespeare in the Mud after its third season airs. Only twelve more episodes, and possibly a TV movie. That's all we're getting, folks.

Fans of the show are outraged. They're threatening en masse to cancel their subscriptions to HBO. And who can blame them? I'm pretty deeply into Deadwood and this news does not make me happy. But somehow, I'm not surprised. Let's face it. Deadwood was too good to last for long.

Deadwood is difficult to adequately describe to someone who hasn't seen it. It is unique, brilliant, and when it comes right down to it, unmarketable on any channel other than HBO. It was clear to me from the first episode I saw that TNT or FX would never be able to buy it, bleep out the profanity, and strip it every night at 7:00. How can you trim something like Deadwood, with its cast of killers and hookers killing and hooking, and having entire conversations consisting of four-letter words? There would be nothing left to broadcast.

Everyone talks about the profanity. It's so extreme that it's hard not to talk about the profanity. (One of my absolute favorite scenes in season one is Al Swearengen and Mr. Wu having an entire discussion using hand gestures, Pictionary-like drawings, and one obscene word starting with the letter c and ending in r.)

But there is a lot more to Deadwood than profanity. This show is about an illegal camp of scoundrels living in an extraordinary place and time -- a gold rush in the 1870s. There's no law, no morality, and clearly, not enough soap. The characters, many of whom are based on historical figures, are just fascinating. The acting is first rate. And the spicy dialogue has an old-fashioned tang to it that just feels right. They don't call it Shakespeare in the Mud for nothing.

I didn't subscribe to HBO until recently, so I just finished watching season two of Deadwood on DVD. Frankly, I'm spending a lot more time lately watching shows on DVD; network television has too many commercials. And a subscription to Netflix costs a lot less than cable.

So go rent Deadwood. And enjoy it while it lasts.
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Scuttlecliff said...

Better to die with glory now than to fade away into the mediocrity. We always complain when our favourite shows are taken off the air but in some cases I think its the right thing for them. The Simpsons has been on the air for nearly 17 years but hasn't been funny since '99. ER is just a empty shell of it once great self. And lets face facts Alias never reclaimed it's season 2 high and limped towards its eventual demise. I say let Deadwood end now so it goes out on top with it head held high, not buried in shame as it quitly wonders off unnoticed.

Anonymous said...

I thought some of your readers would like to know, 4400 season 3 premiers this Sunday. I remember last year, the only reason I kept watching the deteriorating Dead Zone was that it was on right after the 4400. From what I've heard, this season will be the best they've done.

Gavrielle said...

I agree that it's better for shows to go out on a high than to wind down into mediocrity, but the point about Deadwood is that David Milch always planned for four seasons. Having two two-hour movies instead of a fourth season is a compromise at best and a crying shame at worst. Word is that HBO spent so much on Rome that they couldn't afford "Shakespeare in the mud" and try as he might Milch couldn't raise the money elsewhere.

Sooze said...

HBO On-Demand (in my area) is finally re-running Deadwood. We just finished watching the 1st 6 episodes, and are eagerly awaiting the next installment. I am a big Timothy Olyphant fan, so couldn't wait to watch. I am watching this in-between catching Seasons 1-3 of Eureka on Netflix. Thank goodness for Netflix!!