Deadwood (TV Series 2004–2006) Poster

(2004–2006)

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9/10
The old west brought back to life
gogoschka-111 August 2014
If you want to experience the – real – old west first hand, look no further; you'll find it in 'Deadwood'. There has never been a show or a film that came as close to showing what life must have been like in those lawless young towns that got built nearly over night wherever gold was found. A magnet for all kind of fortune seekers (gold diggers, whores, outlaws – but also settlers who were just hoping to build a better life), the town of Deadwood was notorious even by the standards of the time. In the show, this "cesspool of vice" is brought back to life with great attention to historical detail. You'll find no romanticised view of pioneers who lived and died by "the code of honour", but real people whose moral standards are – in most cases – murky at best. And the world they inhabit is a rough, dirty, violent place where only the fiercest – and the most cunning – survive.

As far as the historical characters depicted in the show are concerned, the writers naturally had to take some liberties (after all, nobody knows exactly who said or did what at the time), but the depiction of the era and the historical background are very accurate. Yet this is not a history lesson; it's an immensely entertaining western-show blessed with some of the best writers and actors working in television and film today – and especially the cast of 'Deadwood' really can't get enough praise: there is not a single performance here that isn't excellent. Of course, the one who steals the show is Ian McShane. His Al Swearengen is one of the most morally complex and fun-to-watch characters I've ever seen (and he misses absolutely no opportunity to show you just what the first five letters in "SWEAR-engen" stand for). The power-struggles in Deadwood he is involved in – and since he wants to maintain his position at the top of the food-chain he's involved in all of them – are equalled in complexity and entertainment value only by those in top-notch shows like 'Game of Thrones', 'House of Cards' or 'Breaking Bad'. And the lengths Al is willing to go to achieve his goals secure him a place in the top ten of "all-time great bad-asses".

So my verdict: While certainly not for the easily offended or those who prefer a "sanitized version" of the old west, 'Deadwood' offers a fascinating look at a time we mostly know from myths and legends and gives us a chance to revisit those and see them from a different angle. Great, intelligent and informative entertainment. 9 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
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10/10
TV doesn't get any better than this
nick-18961 July 2007
Absolutely superb. I don't think I've ever given anything a 10/10 before, but for a TV show, Deadwood is excellent - and given the crap we're generally subjected to on the box, absolutely outstanding. The sets, the research, the directing, the characters, the acting - all shine. And without wanting to sound gushy, the script is close to Shakespearian in its prosaic yet pragmatic tone. The juxtaposition of the grit and dirt and blood of the real 'Wild West' with formal Victorian language is genius. Even the opening credits are beautiful. It may not be everyone's cup of tea (the language and content can be a little 'strong' although entirely appropriate and in context) but anyone who's a fan of quality entertainment, shouldn't go past it.
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10/10
They finally got the western right!
killgore8623 September 2004
Don't get me wrong, there have been great westerns to come before Deadwood, but none of them really got it right. There is just a reality that some people aren't willing to deal that after 50 years of our history being whitewashed through film and TV, we're finally starting to see the truth. David Milch has done his research and discovered the wonderfully bizarre contradiction of languages used in the old west. Watching the cast of Deadwood converse with a combination of old world English laced with profanity straight from the gutter is incredible and feels right for the first time. Where do people think our language came from? People always want to think that they were the first to do something, when things like profanity, substance abuse and prostitution have been around since before man walked erect.

Along with the incredible dialog and storytelling, David Milch has introduced possibly the greatest character to ever come to TV or film...Al Swearengen. Ian McShane plays Al with the same intense conviction and truth that the character himself lives by. In Al's world things are black and white and never apologizes for a second for living his life by a strict code of morals of his own making. I don't think we've ever seen a character go from crying after a mercy killing to watching a murder he orchestrated stone faced.

This is indeed a special show that is continuing to pave the way for the facts of our history to finally be told with truth...Instead of the whitewashing we've seen our whole lives to make us feel better about ourselves.
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10/10
The best TV drama ever made
derek_seymour-12 June 2008
I write this beholden to no cock-sucker when I say that Deadwood is, quite simply, the best TV series of all-time. This show raised is light-years ahead of most of even the so-called great TV series around, for example, the Sopranos. HBO are a disgrace for canceling this show. The dialog , characterization, acting, plot, costumes - everything - is first rate. This is a TV drama which really makes you think. You can actually learn what makes people tick watching this show. Even though its set in a gold mining town, Deadwood, in the 1880s it's themes are still relevant to modern day life : people are still trying to cheat, kill, control, alter their state of consciousness, and get rich. Has that much really changed?
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Very simply magnificent
AnneOBrienRice15 June 2004
Ian McShane as the evil Al has established himself as one of the greatest actors of the moment and of the time. He's up there with Pacino, DeNiro and Keitel. The magnificent writing and directing of Deadwood support him completely in mesmerizing the audience. This is for my money the finest work being done on television today. The show has a sure moral compass and a daring to take the violence to the level of Shakespeare or the Greek Tragedy while maintaining verisimilitude with brilliant dialogue and perfect art and set direction, as well as a flawless supporting cast each of whom engages us immediately and convincingly no matter how intimate or distant the focus might be. I can't get enough of this show. I want to see it all in reruns, to cherish it later on DVD. Each episode is fresh and surprising and at times astonishing. But Ian McShane steals the show, no question of it. His face is profoundly expressive and his lines are so marvelous that some of them surely must be ad lib. The guy's a scoundrel but my heart's breaking for him. The Season Finale was the single greatest television drama I've ever seen. We have here a villain who isn't morally bankrupt. And thank heaven, we have a show runner and a writer who isn't morally bankrupt either. Bravo!! I've run out of superlatives. Please, more. And more. And more.
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Very Good
lakotawolf7114 December 2004
I felt I needed to write after reading the comment made of the show. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but the individual the wrote the comment "Falls Short" does not know anything. I live in Deadwood and with the exception of stuff added by Hollywood to quicken the story it is quite close to our history. None of the characters are fictional, the all lived at one time. I admit the show in vulgar but cleans up as the show continues and the town grows from a miner's camp to a town. Don't let the first few episodes scare you off. The show is very good and quite close to the truth. If you like old west history you will love Deadwood.
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10/10
A Hell of a place to make your fortune...
Gary20 September 2006
This stands out for me as one of the best series I have ever seen hit the small screen. The attention to detail,story and character is second to none. Deadwood is brought to life by the good, the bad and the very ugly- with some of the most wonderfully theatrically profane, but ultra-realistic dialogue of any western. True, you could question some of the dialogue for exactly how accurate it is to the time it is set- but it sounds absolutely convincing in the world they have managed to build. Lets face it- not too many Westerns even bothered all that much in the first place! The 3 series have impeccable standards of production, weaving some of the real historical events of the time into a fictional Old West testament. The degradation, ill manners, costumes, dirt, mud and profanities are all present and accounted for.

Aside from the "real" characters we know of from Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and even the Sheriff Bullock), we have some of the most unsavoury villains of the time as well.

The various stories, historical events and personal issues of the characters interweave with no discernible template or pattern to formalise the show. The only thing that is certain in the old West is that where the desire for excess, fortune and greed are combined, human nature will see to the rest.

Stand out performances are plentiful in this series- but Ian McShane is incredible, a true tour-de-force, a foul-mouthed, back-stabbing bad ass villain- who manages to humanise a repellent character in Al Swearengen.

As the series wore on, the writers broadened his character and nature a little more so it was unavoidable but to side with him- even agree with his nastiest ideas.

This was not a compromise or sell-out of the principally dark natured and notoriously ill-tempered brothel owner! "Sparks" of humanity seem to have warmed his character, particularly from his confrontations with the flint-like moral code & core of Sheriff Bullock (Timothy Olyphant). However, even Bullocks is prone to questionable actions, as he wrestles with his own conscience to resolve things in a "civil" way, or resort to a pistol-whipping to get the job done.

If you have never seen this- look out for repeats or go buy the box sets and enjoy the best Western experience ever made. My only regret is that its all over after 3 series (apart from a couple of 2 hour specials they plan to make to round it off.) Short but ever so sweet!!
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Rough, gritty, realistic portrayal of Western history
smokehill retrievers28 March 2004
Judging by other comments, the realistic portrayal of the crude language and immorality may be a bit too much for those used to tame, glossy horse operas where the Good are very, very good and the Bad are very, very bad.

As for the language being "over the top," anyone who's spent time in an Army unit or aboard ship in wartime knows this is EXACTLY the kind of language young men under stress use, and probably even worse back in the late eighteenth century when most of them were uneducated, illiterate and had a projected life span of around 30. If they were lucky.

Most people familiar with authentic Western history will recognize this as a very accurate portrayal of Deadwood, or any other frontier boom town, with all its ugliness and warts. Like it or not, it's history. I think they did a superlative job so far (first two episodes).It also looks like it's going to be the most accurate version of Bill Hickock's death -- which was far more than just the simple barroom murder usually portrayed -- ever put on film.

The number of truly spectacular actors here is simply staggering. Ian McShane's riveting performance is no surprise for "Lovejoy" fans; he was long overdue for something equal to his talent. Who else stands out? Damn near everyone. Calamity Jane, Tolliver, Farnum, the Doc ... there aren't enough "supporting actor" awards from any source that could do justice to such a large, stand-out cast. For those of us who despair of the putrid crap in the theaters, peopled by actors who should be doing dinner theater in Dubuque, well... now we have hope. And DEADWOOD truly puts the lie to the propaganda about public broadcasting being necessary to provide "quality programming that commercial television just can't or won't do." In the entire history of public radio and TV they have NEVER reached this level of excellence even once -- yet cable (once referred to disparagingly as 'pay TV') pulls it off on a shoestring budget. Score one for capitalism.
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10/10
Welcome to f*cking Deadwood!
Bobske_21 March 2006
I've been a fan of HBO since I saw Band of Brothers on Dutch television. Unfortunately, the Dutch television companies don't know anything about good programming. Most television series are cut short during the season so that the second part of the season can be shown the next year. Sometimes when they stop mid season, the rest of the episodes aren't shown at all and they start all over again. This is one of the reasons that I don't watch series on Dutch television. I usually rent or borrow the DVD's. Although we get to see most popular HBO series (Carnivàle, Sopranos, Six Feet Under) I never watch them on television. Although I'd never seen the show, I decided to buy the DVD after reading some reviews. Thank God I did!

Deadwood is a very very good show. The setting of this drama is the town in the title. Deadwood is a town where there is no law and where anything goes. Seth Bullock, sheriff in Montana and his partner Sol Star, decide to leave Montana and depart for Deadwood after hanging their last prisoner. When arriving in Deadwood they set out to buy some property so that they can build their hardware store. Before they've actually purchased the ground, you've met all characters including E.B. Farnum (hotel owner), Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. This show's strong point is its character driven storyline. The characters are so well cast that you have no problem accepting them. The foul mouth of Al Swearengen, the short temper of Bullock or the preaching's of the reverend are features that you'll come to love. All characters have certain features that you love about them, even the bad guys. In addition, all characters have certain features you really hate, even the good guys.

This show is so well written that you'll be on the edge of your seat with suspense or you'll be laughing your ass off because of the brilliant and funny lines. An example; Commissioner Jarry has been imprisoned to keep him safe from a mob. Calamity Jane is guarding him.

Jarry: I'm thirsty! Jane: Lie on your back, take aim and p!ss!

This show has so many great lines that it is hard to pick a favorite. One thing people might not like about the show is the amount of swearing. Some may think it's too much but I'm not bothered by the amount of swearing. Most great lines are delivered with a couple of swear words and yes you'll get used to the swearing and I found myself even using some of them on my friends... Euhmm, anyway, about the language, some may also have problems following the show because of the use of Western Period English. My native tongue is Dutch and although my English is pretty good (don't have to watch movies with subs :P) I had a hard time following the show without the English subtitles. I don't have problems with the English itself, but a lot of the dialogue is very specific for the period. Words like, Hooplehead, Squarehead and sentences like "My bicycle masters boardwalk and quagmire with aplomb" got me stumped for a while. Just turn on the subtitles or you might miss some of the amazing dialogue.

One last thing about this show. The last episode of season 1 has to be the best finale to a season I've ever seen! Sold Under Sin is so good you'll certainly shed a tear.

This show is brilliant! Just, brilliant!

10 out of 10 stars.
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One of the best TV dramas I've ever seen
MJ Bassett2 November 2004
This is a stunning achievement. Performance, writing, direction, casting, design, everything about it is of the highest quality. It seems so obvious and in your face at first with little in the way of compelling traditional story (ie each episode has a 'plot') but every layer has another layer beneath and they all build into an amazing portrait of this moment in time. (real or fictional it makes no difference to me) For all the apparent lawlessness and depravity on display it is about love and responsibility being forged against the most brutal of times. Ian McShane is a stunning revelation and Timothy Olyphant is superb as the calm fury at the centre of the storm. Cannot praise it highly enough. Better than Sopranos - and that's saying something.
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10/10
Fantastic, take a bow!!
rictomos-122-7227629 February 2014
What an amazing landmark achievement in television. A superb cast, for the most part, with fantastic writing, wonderful delivery and an unrivalled marriage of diligent research with stellar writing and a tour de force performance from a cast of moderately accomplished actors and true class outfits, of which McShane is the standout beacon.

As I arrive midpoint through season 2 my biggest gripe is the casting of Garret Dillahunt, for me the most over-rated and overused television actor of his generation. Season 2 would have been so much improved and enjoyable had this no-mark's character been cast with greater care, as his performance was absolutely the wrong side of mediocre, an enormous crime given the acting talent available for such a lauded endeavour.

Anyway, I digress. It seems to me the noughties has emerged as a golden era for great television, and I would put forward Deadwood as the cream of the crop, surpassing even The Wire in its achievements. Milch was already a legend before turning his attention to this project. Take a bow, son!!
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Excellent
zetes10 March 2013
Chronicling the Black Hills settlement of Deadwood in the post Civil War era, this HBO series is one of the most ambitious Westerns ever created for television. Its most notable element is its ornate dialogue, a stylized dialogue created by David Milch that ranks as probably the most sophisticated ever written for television. Hell, it's so thick and beautifully composed it's downright Shakespearian, you know, except for the abundant curse words, which are an art unto themselves (IMDb's trivia section claims that the F word is used a total of 2,980 times in the show's mere 36 episodes!). The dialogue is kind of a double edge sword, I would say, because it's sometimes so complex the series becomes a tad difficult to follow. I'd say a second run through might make some of the plot a bit more clear. The other major flaw is that the series was cancelled after three seasons, and it kind of ends on a cliffhanger. There was a plan to continue the series with a couple of movies, but it never came about, which is more than a little disappointing. The series boasts some fantastic acting, most notably from Ian McShane. McShane really owns the series, but other great performances come from Robin Weigert, Jeffrey Jones, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Powers Booth and pretty much everyone. I was a tad disappointed that I didn't like Timothy Olyphant (ostensibly the star of the series) and John Hawkes more than I did, because those two guys are favorites of mine. Both are great, but wouldn't rank in my top 10 performers in the series.
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10/10
"A hell of a place to make your fortune"
classicsoncall23 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
First off, the Western is my favorite film genre, however "Deadwood" transcends that genre so completely that it seems like a new one altogether. If you can, try to get your hands on the Season I DVD set with the special features disc. I was surprised to learn that many of the main and supporting characters beyond Wild Bill and Calamity were in fact also based on real life people. Al Swearengen ran an operation that took in between four and six thousand dollars a night, while other notables with a true history include Doc Cochran and the Reverend Henry Smith. Though the story playing out in the series is often a product of creator David Milch's 'imaginative reality', that in no way lessens it's impact as a narrative of the Dakotas and it's overly rich history of villainy, debauchery and profanity.

Deadwood itself grew from a small mining camp to ten thousand inhabitants in a dizzying matter of three months in 1873. Word of a substantial ore find literally led to the phrase 'there's gold in them thar hills', creating an endless stream of immigrants to the Badlands. The territory itself was relegated to the Sioux Indians, and the U.S. Government was supposed to keep settlers out. But as everyone knows, money talks.

With a series so rich in characters and story lines, it's hard to pick a favorite. Backed against the wall I'd have to pick Brad Dourif's portrayal as Doc Cochran as my own choice, but that's today. Individual episodes offer stunning performances by William Sanderson as E.B. Farnum and Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane. Of course, series stars Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane have rewritten the rule book for Western heroes and villains with their portrayals. It's too bad Keith Carradine couldn't hang around more than four episodes as Wild Bill Hickok, but he drew those darn aces and eights in Deadwood.

Not for the squeamish or faint of heart, "Deadwood" remains true to the gritty origins in the mud, blood, manure and urine of it's namesake. Prepare to be shocked, terrified and at times even amused, but most of all, watch "Deadwood" to experience one of the most unique television events ever created.
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Polished yet in the rough
cablemonkey23 July 2004
Though i never considered myself a western fan, i realize i've seen a good many, from the Anthony Mann masterpieces, to Leone's revolutionary films, to more recent flicks like Unforgiven. But none has moved me like Deadwood. While the series did have some ups and downs (like life itself), it is truly enchanting. The season finale alone is one of the most moving things i've seen on TV, and having rewatched it many times (the joy of tivo) i still find myself driven to tears. The dialog is fantastic, bordering on Shakespearean at times as others have pointed out. Its a shame that so many seem to be bothered by the language, perhaps i am just overly jaded. Remember though that profanity at that time was predominantly based on religion (or rather defiance of such). These days of course, hellfire and tarnation don't have quite the same effect. If the dialog were more "period", i imagine it would be like watching yosemite sam cast as swearengen (heaven forbid). In their translations of Kurasawa movies, Critereon has faced the same issues, and i agree with their and David Milch's choice. Stay true to the meaning and feeling, more than the literal. Especially with profanity, this is key. Profanity's entire purpose is to offend, and if it becomes through age or paradigm shift inoffensive, it loses all meaning and effectiveness. It helps bring us into the world of deadwood, and better understand and relate to the characters who live there. Which, IMHO, is a wondrous thing to experience.
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10/10
Fantastic!
camillusdsl28 February 2009
I'd been hearing about Deadwood from my friends for some time and figured they must be wrong; nothing could be that good. Guess what?... I was wrong! Deadwood is without doubt the most enjoyable series I have ever watched. It's gritty, course, violent and foul, that's what makes it great. I have a brother who worked in mining camps in Canada in the 1970's. When one camp was being struck they found three bodies of guys that had never been missed! He reckons Deadwood is right on the mark. The quality of script and acting is top-shelf. The fact that (allowing for the necessary poetic license needed ) it is a true story makes it absolutely fascinating. I have no hesitation in recommending this wonderful series to anyone.
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10/10
Wonderful drama
Neil Weightman15 August 2008
This is an amazingly brilliant TV series. Nearly all the performances are utterly convincing (the only serious exception for me is Powers Boothe), the dialogue is fantastic, plot fascinating, sets and filming terrific and music totally absorbing. I love westerns (post-Wayne mainly), but I reckon that this would appeal to anyone with an interest in great performances and serious drama dealing with universal themes... provided you have a strong stomach for cussing, of course.

I'd rate this with The Sopranos in terms of overall quality and with just about any Hollywood movie. Obviously, the much greater length means that a TV series can develop plot and characters much more than is possible in a movie, but the production values of this series are easily on a par with most movies.

My favourite character is the smouldering Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant is a revelation in this role), although there are many other fine characters. Most irritating is E B Farnum (also very well performed).
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8/10
There's something powerful and moving about 'Deadwood'…
Nazi_Fighter_David4 August 2007
After executing his last legally ordained job as a Montana marshal, Seth Bullock moves to a gold-mining camp known as Deadwood, where he and his partner Sol Star strike a deal with Al Swearengen, on a lot for their hardware store…

While suspicions arise that 'road agents' may have been the true perpetrators of the killing of an entire family on the Spearfish road, competition arrives for Swearengen in the form of the Bella Union, a new joint from Chicago operated by Cy Tolliver…

Deadwood—a town without any laws or courts—is the center of a gold rush and is presided over by Al Swearengen, a saloon owner, and a brothel operator… His showing makes two different things between the coward and the lapse of momentary fear… Let him doubt those he's trusted, this camp will run red with blood…

The show centers on Seth Bullock, a young man with a powerful temper who got a lot of Hickok's qualities… But being a man with an active conscience Bullock declines to accept the horrors around him…

We are rapidly introduced to most of the other important characters:

Wild Bill Hickok—an asset to any saloon, and any joint he frequents—comes to look for business opportunity and sits there, losing at poker… He is the fastest gun around… While his respect for Bullock grows, he commissions 'Montana' to do a review of the Garret claim...

Cochran—the town doctor who takes heat from Al Swearengen every time one of the whores is poorly sick—was full of opinion and took the most comprehensive view when he treated the bright widow… Now he doesn't feel at such perfect liberty to opine on her husband's case as he did on hers…

E.B. Farnum—Judas Goat looking fellow, coyote-moving type—is Swearengen's water boy, the innkeeper of a thousand faces staring straight at extinction…

Brom Garret—the naïve city investor who had to go all his $20,000 to turn Farnum away and purchase a gold claim—pursues his remedies in some other fashion…

Sophia—the little survivor—could settle who killed her people, road agents or Sioux…

Jewel—born with difficulties and hardships that got no cure—wants the doctor to brace her leg so her dragging it doesn't drive Swearengen crazy…

Charlie Utter—who considers himself an important hand at the freight business— plays a man too loyal and honest for his own good…

Whitney Ellsworth—who saw something he shouldn't have, a man pushed off from a ridge—seemed very competent and trustworthy…

Mr. Wu—the only source of opium in the camp—finds a common language with Searengen when an opium theft occurs…

Smith—the Reverend who has a distinct, clear set of morals—knows from past experience that it's a solace having friends…

Ian McShane is a joy to watch… He gives a first-class performance as Al Swearengen, the oppressive boss who can order the execution of any man in the settlement with just a word… McShane who runs his Gem with the help of his cronies, emits power in every order he gives…

While McShane is a marvelous villain who generates a palpable menace, Boothe is maniacally evil as Cy exuding despicable charm … Well dressed Cy is the gentleman on the outside while more cruel as Swearengen in beating, kicking, and killing…

Such a performer was found with Timothy Olyphant, very effective as a formal marshal who understands the danger of his own temperament… Seth Bullock stood before Alma Garret as a married man to his brother's widow after he was killed… He took their five-year-old boy as his own son…

The 4 show women that are trapped in a man's world are: Molly Parker as Mrs. Garret, the beautiful addict wife who suspects foul play… She inevitably feels she's had some part in what befalls her husband; Kim Dickens as Joanie Stubbs, the very attractive solitary woman who uses to make Cy warm; Paula Malcomson as Trixie, the prostitute who must've done some fancy to keep Al from Killing her… She tries to help Alma with the orphaned child while keeping her master in the dark; Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, the sewer mouth that follows Hickok around… When she confronts the greasy-haired dangerous man who pulls all the strings, she fell apart, broken and weak…

There's something powerful and moving about 'Deadwood'… It's truly a drama of memorable characters, dark and ultra-violent… If you love Westerns, don't miss it!
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Stake your claim in the lawless West
UnCritic9 April 2004
I love this show. This is a worthy successor to the Sopranos. Brilliant acting, brilliant writing, brilliant direction. It's been a long time since someone came along and breathed new life into the Western genre. This is probably the best ensemble cast ever assembled for a TV show. The show's creators surpass Peckinpah in presenting the cruel, gritty, violent life in parts of the Old West, when people sought to make a life for themselves in a lawless environment, after the Indians were wiped out but before there was government. People have different motives and intentions for living in such a place, and those elements mix into a pungent brew in a place called Deadwood.
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10/10
HBO's Latest Masterpiece, A Down and Dirty, Brilliant and Bold Western that Will Blow You Away!
Michael Margetis13 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
HBO's 'Deadwood' is such a remarkable achievement from 'NYPD Blue' creator, David Milch. It's a down and dirty western with enough grit and f-word usage to give an old lady a heart attack. Many people attack 'Deadwood' for being too inappropriate and offensive, and especially hate the continuous obscenities spewing from the creeps of Deadwood's mouths. But, David Milch would tell you to calm down because back then in mining towns people talked like that all the time. He's correct, and that is one of the numerous things that make 'Deadwood' so authentic and brilliant.

'Deadwood' was a small mining town in the 1870's that attracted those hoping to make a fortune, and those looking to escape the law (since the town of Deadwood had no law). In the series we meet Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) who comes to the mining town after leaving the position as Sheriff in South Dakota. He takes his deputy, Sol Starr (John Hawkes) with him and they embark to this town. In Deadwood, there is many characters such as Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine), Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert - Emmy Nominee), Al Swearegen (Ian McShane - Golden Globe Winner), Trixie (Paula Malcolmson), E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson), Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown), Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe), Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif - Emmy Nominee), A.W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones), Tom Nutall (Leon Rippy), Jack McCall (Garrett Dillahunt), Ellsworth (Jim Beaver), Johnny Burns (Sean Bridges), Reverend A.W. Smith (Ray McKinnon), Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie), Joannie Stubbs (Kim Dickens), Eddie Sawyer (Ricky Jay) and Bullock's love interest, the widow Alma Garrett (Molly Parker).

The acting is outstanding, and 'Deadwood' boasts the best ensemble cast on television currently. Timothy Olyphant gives perhaps his best performance to date as the hero of the show, Sheriff Seth Bullock. Brad Dourif is magnificent as Doc Cochran, and Robin Weigert always steals scenes with her portrayal as Calamity Jane. Keith Carradine did the very best Wild Bill Hicock I've ever seen, and Powers Boothe provides a great loath-able character. Molly Parker and Paula Malcolmson play their roles with dead-on intensity, but by far the most amazing actor in the cast is Ian McShane. He gives such a ferocious, incendiary and amazing performance as Al Swearegen the nasty criminal saloon owner, that he takes the place as the best actor performing in television currently. McShane received a Golden Globe Award and damn well deserved it for his haunting and brooding portrayal as one of Deadwood's most notorious historical inhabitants.

The show is still running strong mid-way through it's second season (the second season is even more provocative then the first). There are new actors on the show now including Alice Krige, Anna Gunn, Titus Welliver, Garret Dillahunt (in a different role as George Hearst's #1 man who is a crazed businessman who kills hookers), and a rumored Helen Mirren, who is said to have a part towards the end of this season. 'Deadwood' is an outstanding program, and a perfect addition to HBO's lineup. Buy the first season on DVD, and be sure to catch new episodes of Season 2 Sunday night at 9:00. Grade: A
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great acting and great writing, despite the constant swearing
Aroo5212 December 2004
This show is wonderful, great characters and perfect actors chosen to portray them. But what seems most amazing is how the show transcends the simple western genre and creates a complete world full of rich characters.

The best examples of this are McShane's Swearengen and Olyphant's Bullock, the "villian" and "reluctant lawman" respectively. Swearengen is a stomping, violent, angry, ruthless, brilliant, petty and hilarious whore-master. Bullock is conflicted, passionate, belligerent, but ultimately the most justice minded person in the town. Both men could have easily fallen into the classic trap of genre entertainment, but they in fact rise above it and create complete people.

I recommend this show to everyone, but be warned, the swearing in constant. And i mean constant.
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Thankfully It's By HBO
Theo Robertson25 August 2005
My dad handed me a DVD set of DEADWOOD

" Have you heard of this ? " he asked

" Aye . It stars Ian McShane and is produced by Home Box Office , the company that makes shows like Oz and Sex In The City "

" Take it home with you . It's a brutal series . You might like it "

So I took it home and watched the first episode and like several people have said beforehand watching it on DVD instead of TV transmission is something of a blessing because the opening episode is heavy going as it introduces the characters . Thankfully by the end of the second episode I was hooked as I began to understand the conflict between characters and recognised where the plot strands were heading

DEADWOOD is like I said produced by HBO the cable company which allows " adult content " in their shows and to be honest if it was made by a mainstream American TV company I wouldn't have watched the show because we'd be watching one of those dire PG western series something like THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE with better cinematography . The selling point of the show is that it's brutal adult drama set in the wild west and if you enjoyed Roy Rogers , John Wayne and Gary Cooper strutting their stuff in those old monochrome movies it doesn't necessarily mean you'll enjoy this same as if you enjoyed THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION doesn't mean you'll enjoy OZ .

And speaking of HBO's classic prison drama if DEADWOOD resembles anything it resembles OZ the way the characters interact as they try to get one over on each other . When watching OZ I used to rub my hands in sadistic glee whenever the likes of Adebisi , Schillinger and O'Reilly were on screen because you just knew something nasty was going to happen . It's the same here when AL Swearengen makes an appearance like the scene where he asks his cleaner if she's cleaned up properly:

" Did you get get the blood off the floor ? "

" I scrubbed real hard "

" I didn't f--kin' ask you if you scrubbed real hard I asked you if you got the f--kin' blood off the floor ? " Inspects blood stain " Get me the f--kin' bucket and brush . If I want something f--kin' done in this town I have to f--kin' do it myself "

Did I mention this scene shows Al at his most merciful and compasionate ? The way Swearengen is written is and played really makes this series stand out though I do confess my favourite plot strand of the first series was the one that revolved around a couple of teenage con artists who met a sticky end at the fists of Cy Tolliver .

Despite being compelling DEADWOOD is an acquired taste . No doubt history students will point out that while Swearengen , Seth Bullock , Sol Star , Calamity Jane etc existed other major characters like Alma Garret and Doc Cochran didn't so many of the plot strands and situations of the show are pure invention on the part of the writers and producers but did anyone market DEADWOOD as being 100% accurate ? One slight problem I did have was that one of the subplots featuring a child survivor of a massacre , a young girl called Sofia Metz , remains unresolved at the end of the first series . But apart from that DEADWOOD is a very well produced show with very good performances and I look forward to my Dad purchasing the second series on DVD
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Great series with two acting revelations (not who you think)
William (wmattifo)11 April 2004
Boy I sure enjoy this series. Sure there's a lot of swearing, and some of the nudity is from folks that shouldn't be filmed naked (yechh) but this is a great series. The directing is superb, and (so far) the writing develops the characters and allows the actors to do what they do best. This series has an impressive group of actors. Keith Carradine will probably win an Emmy for his "Wild Bill", and the bad guy (Ian McShane) is one REALLY bad guy.

The two revelations are Tim Olyphant as Seth Bullock AND William Sanderson as the crooked inn keeper. Olyphant has been the kind of quality actor who has just been waiting for a real breakout movie or series and this will be it for him. The Emmies will be calling him. Sanderson, on the other hand, has probably been typecast since his days as Larry with his two brothers named Darryl. This is a long way from the "Newhart" set and Sanderson is outstanding in this series. We'll see how this series goes and if it can keep up the outstanding directing, writing, and acting, we will surely see this series honored as it richly deserves.
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1/10
South Park visits Ye Olde West: a big disappointment
LilyDaleLady2 October 2006
I read about this for years before being able to get a hold of a copy of the DVD set (first season), and how wonderful and unique and groundbreaking it was. Gee, what a letdown! There is nothing special or even original in this series, except perhaps for using the "f" word three times in every sentence. Unless you are a very juvenile type, this gets mind-numbingly boring after a few episodes. (Interviews with Mr. Milch, who swears about as much as his main characters, suggests that he is referencing his own behavior and not the norms of the Old West.)

The REAL Deadwood was a fascinating place that existed for a very brief time, before becoming a sort of ghost town tourist attraction. Some traditional westerns show the violent action set in places that eventually grew into sober, stable cities and towns -- not the case here. That sense that Deadwood is doomed is entirely lost in translation, though.

Is the profanity realistic? (The DVD even features a short documentary talking a bit about this.) In my opinion, NO. While rough miners and brothel owners undoubtedly used profanity in 1876, it was not identical to the profanity we use today. The "f" word dates back to the Shakespearean era (if not earlier), but it was used as a verb to describe sexual activity and NOT as an adjective, modifying literally every noun. This is entirely a modern adaptation of that word. As such, it is as out of place in 1876 as cell phones and i-pods.

There WAS a lot of profanity, but what was considered profane in the 19th century were phrases like "god damn" or "blast" or "tarnation" -- seriously, those were heavy duty, obscene swear words.

Another problem I have is with the depiction of women -- and I mean how they are dressed. (For the record, I studied both fashion and historical costume at the university level, with the intent of being a curator at a fashion museum.) Modern day filmmakers have long had a problem with the fact that prior to the present era (post 1960s), virtually all adult women wore their hair UP. The modern fashion of long, loose hair simply did not exist -- it would have been stranger to see a woman with her hair all about than to see her walking down the street naked. Part of the reason was that nobody had the resources (detergent soaps, unlimited hot water) to wash their hair on a daily basis as we do today. Nor did they have hair dryers! Washing one's hair meant taking many hours to let it dry -- and possibly in cold or windy weather...it would have been impossible.

Look at photos from the era: every woman, even whores, are wearing hair elaborately styled UP, often greasy looking to our modern eyes, but firmly arranged with lots of hair pins. Most women wore hats in public -- most men, too. It entirely ruins a period film for me when women are shown with long loose contemporary hair, not to mention things like eye makeup and lip gloss. Bad form and certainly not within the "ultra realistic" premise of "Deadwood".

On top of that, all the women depicted are rail thin, per the present desire for a very thin body. However, that style is fairly recent, and would have seemed very bizarre to anyone from the 19th century -- this was the absolute era of plump, curvy, corseted women (fat by our odd standards). Of course, some individual women were thin, perhaps sickly or even consumptive, but this would NOT be considered attractive.

I could go on -- no woman would have appeared on the public streets undressed, in short garments exposing her bare legs, in underwear, etc. -- not even a whore. (If you look at actual photos of 19th century prostitutes, they are wearing normal, if gaudy, clothing.) Any community of Deadwood's size (about 10,000) would have had some children. Where there are women, even whores, there are going to be babies -- that's simple biology. Birth control was non-existent at the time, and yes, prostitutes did get pregnant.

Basically, this is a stupid, badly researched show made largely for the kind of childish audience that thrives on potty mouth stuff like South Park, where genuine humor and cleverness is undone by a constant need to use shock swear words (in that case, coming out of the mouths of cartoon kids). On the positive side, some excellent performers, including the rightly praised Ian MacShane as Swearingen (based on a real life Deadwood resident, but how lame is it to take a character with such a name and have him "swear" a lot???), the excellent Powers Boothe, and Keith Carradine in one of his very best roles.

This would have been vastly better as a trimmed down, four-to-six hour mini-series...with swearing and costumes true to the era. A wasted opportunity and vastly overpraised. Don't bother to subscribe to cable for this -- I got the DVD set at my library for free.
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9/10
Even when you get so little, you'll be yearning for more
kosmasp24 November 2014
Three seasons do not seem to be a short term for a TV show. Look at other shows like Firefly who didn't even get that much time on air. But as with some of the other shows, after this is over, you'll be wanting more. And it is obvious that there was more planned, but it is very doubtful if this ever sees the light of day (maybe in a comic book/graphic novel incarnation).

Having said all that, one of the greatest things about this show is its dialog. It is written wonderfully, unless you have an issue with swearing of course. And the way the characters express themselves is something to cherish. One of the most amazing screen characters is Mr. Al Swearengen (or Swengen or something similar as one other fellow calls him too). This might be a role of a lifetime for Ian McShane who is simply mesmerizing, whatever your feelings are towards the character.

The pacing might seem (and actually is) a bit slow for some, but if you stick around, you'll be treated. And it's not the ending most people would want, but as I stated earlier, there was more to come. So this Western, with a touch of Aristocracy peppered with a lot of swearing and some odd shooting here and there, is fine dish indeed
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10/10
Deadwood? This is anything but
A_Different_Drummer26 August 2014
Very deceptive, if you do not give it a chance you will miss one of the greatest series in the history of the medium.

After I got hooked, I found a longish review which said that, devoid of the trappings, this is essentially a stageplay about human nature. That there is something in each of us which, while dealing with the lesser aspects of our nature, simultaneously strives for the better and purposeful.

This is a story about how a small group of distinctively idiosyncratic individuals somehow found it within themselves to come together for a greater purpose and start a town. On a broader scale it is the story of the American west. On a still broader scale it is the story of civilization.

Nor do I want to suggest this is prissy or Disney-esque. Quite the contrary. The people in Deadwood are raw to the point of oozing. But what drives the show from week to week is acting good enough to win Emmys for the entire cast and writing so close to a Broadway play you would expect the show to be up for a Tony as well.

Some of the best TV of all time and totally addictive. Like the commercial used to say, bet you can't watch just one.

ADDENDA: after finishing the series the second time I will add this: while the entire cast is nothing short of perfection, I believe that McShane and Rainey give the performances of their career here. Aided by incredible writing, the evolution of both characters over the series is literally a sight to behold.
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