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Deadwood: Radley Balko over at Liberty & Power loves HBO's Deadwood as much as I do. Like him, I thought the season finale was superb. Here is a portion of Radley's post:

The show bustles with themes of rugged individualism, and explores the troubles and travails of a small community emerging from Hobbesian anarchy into a loose-knit system of law and property. I love the scene from a couple of weeks ago where the town's newly-appointed fire inspector Charlie Utter — who was appointed only to give the town some credence in the eyes of Congress — gets into a squabble with saloon-owner Nutall over the proximity of his stove pipe to the wall.

The dialogue is wonderful. In addition to the colorful profanity (how many different variations on "cocksucker" are there, anyway?), I love the NYPD Blue approach to character interaction, conversations sprayed with rough but real-world transitions — lots of "anyways," and "like I was sayins."

When the Doc Cochran is examining one of Swarengen's prostitutes he inquires about her menstruation cycle with, "So where are ya' in yer' moons?"

I think the season's best line came from Swarengen himself, though, when talking to Doc Cochran: "Announcin' your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."

So good show, HBO. Again.
I second the comparison between Deadwood and NYPD. It is the dialogue of that show that enables me to enjoy it as it captures how people in the criminal justice system really talk. No one knows for sure how settlers in a far western mining camp would really talk, but Deadwood has the ring of authenticity.

I rate this as simply the best show on TV, including the Sopranos. Deadwood combines fascinating character studies with intelligent writing and an absorbing plot. It is a "realistic" western that is not cynical, just raw. There are genuine (reluctant) heroes and real villains, and the most interesting character in between who is based on an historical figure from Deadwood history named Al Swarengen. The Indians (who Swarengen calls "dirt worshippers") are demonized by most, while the Chinese are dehumanized (but curiously not by Swarengen) by some. Sex is commodified--90% of women living in Deadwood in 1876 were prostitutes--but one subplot builds with real sexual tension born of denial. You can feel the town growing as the season progresses, and apparently the set was being built and expanded as the series was being filmed. Most episodes pick up almost exactly where the previous one ends. [Warning: There is an unprecedented amount of cursing even for HBO and, while this does not bother me, it may turn off others.]

I disagree with Radley's choice of favorite lines from the finale. I liked his choice just fine, but mine was "Get the fuck out of here, doc. I'm working on my deployments and flanking maneuvers." Then again, maybe it is when the Doctor's exclaims that he is discussing "a human being in his last extremity, not a bag of shit," to which Swarengen replies, "A human being in his last extremity is a bag of shit." This is a show with 5-10 "best lines" per episode.

When Deadwood reruns on HBO, as it inevitably will, start watching it from the beginning. Then enjoy the new season next year. You will thank me for the recommendation. This is series television at its best--novelistic like the best of the BBC and now HBO, the network that is responsible for a new golden age of series television.

Speaking of which, HBO is just starting to rerun the second season of The Wire to build up to the season premiere of the third season. This is the best, most true to life, cop show in the history of television. The dialogue is the equal of Deadwood, and often better than the Sopranos. While I found the first season better than the second, this was probably because I had never seen a cop show so reminiscent of my experience as a prosecutor (with one glaring exception in the penultimate episode of Season 2). The show shows dirty cops, corrupt and political bureaucracy, flawed heroes, and the criminal's perspective. No character is given a pass, but you can understand where everyone is coming from. Another amazing series that is well worth the commitment of time.

Update: A reader writes:

Everything you say about Deadwood is right.

Al Swarengen is probably the most interesting character on TV, ever. At first, he comes across as just evil. But it turns out that he just has a warped morality. He's not entirely self-serving. He has a sense of responsibility for the people who rely on him to generate revenue, like any good capitalist. His methods fit what was probably the requirements of the time and place for a hard-nosed businessman. He's flawed, In fact, if you believe the characterization of Ken Lay, it would probably be a disservice to Swarengen to call him the Ken Lay of his time. Put Swarengen in charge of Enron and you have one rich son of a bitch who cuts corners, but not at the expense of his long-term best interests. Or at least, that's how I read him.

It's been a long time since I reached the end of the season on a show and felt a real pang of regret that it was over. I'll probably watch the re-runs, which I never do for any series.


Update:Gene Healy adds his comments here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Dirty War:
  2. Deadwood:
Dirty War: Just watched the HBO Film Dirty War. As is to be expected with a BBC production, it is very well done. British actors are capable of conveying a sense of realism in their dramatic performances that is usually unmatched--at least in the productions that make it over here. Here is the description:
In a post-9/11 world, how do you prepare for the unthinkable? This alarming HBO Films thriller chronicles the hypothetical story of how a terrorist "dirty bomb" attack might be planned and executed in London despite the best efforts of law enforcement--as well as how devastating such a strike would be. Warned of the possibility of a radioactive-weapons attack, members of Scotland Yard--including an Islamic undercover detective and several high-ranking terrorism experts--desperately try to find the perpetrators before they can construct and detonate their dirty work. But when the worst happens in the financial heart of London, the city's inadequate emergency-services are put to an immediate test...with disturbing results.
Highly recommended. Check out future show times here (enter "Dirty War" into the search box).

And speaking of highly recommended, HBO is nearly half way through rerunning the first season of Deadwood, the best western drama ever televised. For my original review of the show click here. If you can stand the profanities, the dialogue, plot, and performances are riveting. Check out show times here.

Update: A reader writes:

For those of us without HBO, PBS is scheduled to air Dirty War on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 9:00 p.m. (check local listings). The PBS presentation will be followed by a half-hour panel discussion with experts in homeland security, emergency preparedness, nuclear weapons and terrorism. BTW, I understand they will be editing a nude scene that appears in the original.
(The brief nude scene is of women being decontaminated in a shower.)

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Dirty War:
  2. Deadwood: