GCU Stout Heart,
Without attempting to predict if you or someone else will enjoy/tolerate Deadwood I will try to point out a few features of the show that attract me.
- It has settings, furnishings, props and costumes that appear to be legitimate attempts to recreate the styles of the era. Not the 20th Century revisionism of things like Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Rawhide and those other decent 50’s-60’s Westerns that were good for their time because they used the Old West to make other points. There have been other productions (include Eastwood’s efforts, especially Unforgiven) that have sought the raw and dirty nature of the period and even tried to approach the mood of the era. But Deadwood rates an A in this category.
2a) The language is a tantalizing blend of Elizabethan (call it Shakespearean if that helps) formality (an interview with David Milch revealed that it’s written in iambic pentameter, (as is much of David Mamet’s work, but that’s another issue)) and the crudeness of the frontier in a lawless place. I forgive the excessive and probably anachronistic use of the f-word and its variants as an effort to be as extreme (for our period) as “goddamn” would have been for the period in question. My forgiveness is based on the notion that in early 20th Century drama, “goddamn” was as extreme as things got.
2b) In writings from that era (Civil War to turn-of-century or maybe even WWI) there was an elaborateness and even a preciousness to the language. I’ve read things my grandparents wrote, and they were public school through high school educated, not academics by any means, and the stiltedness of their prose was noticeable. Even my aunts and uncles from that generation (1890’s-1920’s for birth years) had a formality to their writing. Their speech was much less stilted, however. That fact makes me a little leery of the authenticity of the spoken word, but I can accept it as a dramatic device.
The characters are (without an exception I can think of) three dimensional and fully portrayed by an excellent cast, especially Ian McShane.
The semi-accurate historical aspects are not blown out of proportion too far while allowing the fiction to work.
The violence is no more excessive than in other modern dramas, perhaps a little more creative (a la Coppola and Scorsese) than the run of the mill Western from eras past, but not quite as excessive (sorry to say!) as Peckinpah.
Having said all that, I’ll add that although I will watch any reruns of The Sopranos over and over again without losing any interest, Deadwood doesn’t have what it takes to draw me back beyond one rewatching (with the closed captions tuned on) so I can be sure I got all the dialog.
I think the show is for a limited audience, as are most of HBO’s attempts, and it’s not a sure thing for anybody. From what you say of your needs to devote effort to new shows, I’d caution that one or two episodes may not be enough to get a full flavor of the show. By the time you can decide if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be, you may be sorry you took the time. Or, if you’re like I have been, you won’t be able to wait for the next episode/season!
Hope this helps.