Deadwood

Friday, 4 March 2005

Stepping out of character briefly. Deadwood

Deadwood–though it’s not for everyone—is the best television show that is on today and it is quite likely the best show that has ever been on or will be for another 10 or 15 years. More people need to know so that it continues to run. Another Western, Gunsmoke, ran for 20 years. Should Deadwood be so lucky.

There is nothing that equals it for sexuality, violence, human decadence, immorality, and blue dialog. That’s obviously not why it’s so magnificent. To understand why, we have to look at an “also ran,” The Sopranos.

The Sopranos is also sexual, violent, and all too human. Its honesty makes it a compelling show. The problem with it is there is not one character on the show who isn’t a piece of shit. While the writers make some really horrible characters fairly sympathetic, they wouldn’t be in real life. You’d hate Tony Soprano if he were your neighbor and hope they found a way to give him the needle because he’s a revolting, petty, useless buffoon who is not even a particularly adept crime lord. You can’t even respect his evil.

Deadwood has the strongest, smartest, most complicated, most charismatic bad guy to make the scene since JR Ewing went down under Kristen Shepard’s hot lead: Al Swearengen. Ian McShane offers some of the best acting ever put before any audience bringing Swearengen to life. He took a Golden Globe for it.

It’s historical fiction based on a real place filled and real people—the real things they were saying and doing. Whores galore. Blatant racism. Opium addicts. Murdering claim jumpers. Celebrities and shit-heels. The peerless combination of sets, costumes, dialog, and acting that make it completely palpable.

One of the opening scenes was the town doctor passing a stick through the bullet hole that traversed a man’s skull. The man wasn’t dead yet. The doctor was just curious as to how he was still alive with daylight passing through his frontal lobe.

But that’s still not why it’s the best. It is why it’s not for everyone though. This is not acceptable television for children.

The reason why it is so much better than the rest is that it has a moral center. It has a good guy. This became passé somewhere in the post-1950s world. It’s not irrelevant though. Anyone who looks objectively at the American political scene, the rampant corporate corruption in the world, or the atrocities in the Middle East for one second knows that when western culture made the assumption that good guys were no longer relevant, it signed its own death warrant.

If you’re an adult, watch this show. The 2nd season starts Sunday night, 6 March 2005. Don’t let this show disappear. Don’t even give them a reason to consider cutting its budget.

update

03/14/2005 I forgot one more reason it’s better than everything else. It doesn’t explain itself to you like you’re a fucking child. Complex or historical issues are thrown in constantly without a word of explanation or supporting illustration. I much prefer a show that might sometimes make me feel stupid to one that treats like I am.

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