On May 13, 2006, HBO confirmed it had opted not to pick up the options of the actors, which were set to expire on June 11, 2006. This meant that a fourth season with the current cast as it stood was unlikely, though HBO had stressed that the show was not cancelled and talks regarding its future were continuing. The chances of the show returning with its current lineup of cast and crew, however, were limited.
On June 5, 2006, HBO and creator David Milch agreed to make two two-hour television films in place of a fourth season, after Milch declined a short-order of 6 episodes. This was because in the show's original form, each season was only a few weeks in length, with each episode being one day, in the town of Deadwood. The final two-hour format would release these time restraints and allow for a broader narrative to finish off the series.
In a January 13, 2007 interview, David Milch stated that he still intended to finish the two films, if possible. On July 12, 2007, HBO executives admitted that producing the telefilms would be difficult and put the chances of their ever being made at "50-50".
Actor Ian McShane claimed in an interview on October 1, 2007 that the show's sets were due to be dismantled and that the movies would not be made; however he was referring to the show-related set pieces, i.e. front added to the buildings, props, etc., the set as itself, "Melody Ranch", being unchanged at least as of 2010. Actors Jim Beaver and W. Earl Brown commented a day later that they considered the series to be over.
In the March 17, 2009 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, McShane repeated that 'Deadwood is dead.'
In a January 14, 2011 interview in Esquire, Milch said "I don't know that the last word has been said on the subject ... I still nourish the hope that we're going to get to do a little more work in that area."