Will I like Deadwood?

My Tivo thinks I’ll like Deadwood, but I’m not so sure. I’m not a fan of Westerns at all. So, Dopers, what do you think? Can you recommend it? Do you hate it? To help you work out whether I might like it or not, here is a list of some of my favourite telly progs off the top of my head (some will maybe only be familiar to UK Dopers):

Green Wing
Rescue Me
Dalziel and Pascoe
Agatha Christie (Miss Marple/Poirot)
Firefly (now there’s a Western theme, come to think of it…)
Midsomer Murders
Law and Order (all flavours but Criminal Intent is my fave.)
Jonathan Creek

Hmmm, that doesn’t seem very helpful, now I look at it. Well, for me, the common denominator is intelligent writing in an individual style, and a touch of humour in even serious stuff. And characters I can get to know.

So, what do you think? You think I should just watch an episode and make up my own mind, yes? Well, I suffer from depression and anxiety, and mad as it may sound, at my current low ebb, starting out on a new programme requires a huge effort on my part. (Ditto starting a book, going places I’ve never been, meeting new people. It’s a nutter thing, you’ll just have to trust me on this!) Will it be worth it?


I think this perfectly describes the show. The western theme is almost a backdrop to the real plot. If you can take a fair amount of cursing then it’s worth it.

Ditto what rooves said. What he quoted is an apt description of the show.

Except I wouldn’t say “fair amount of cursing”.

There’s a TON of cursing. And quite a bit of violence too, but some of your shows have some violence in them, so that probably isn’t a turn off for you.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. The characters are (without an exception I can think of) three dimensional and fully portrayed by an excellent cast, especially Ian McShane.

  2. The semi-accurate historical aspects are not blown out of proportion too far while allowing the fiction to work.

  3. 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.

I can’t stand westerns. Loathe, despise, hate them even. I consider Deadwood the best show on television. Since I hate westerns so much, it is actually difficult to get motivated to watch, so I tape them. Weeks go by, tapes fill up.

When I finally sit down to watch? I sit in stunned silence basking in its greatness.

One tip: watching recorded Deadwood is very helpful for the periodic rewind and close-captioned review, to help catch some of the dialogue you will inevitably miss.

Can someone refresh my memory as to what the rythmn of iambic pentameter is?

An iamb is two syllables, accent on the second. Pentameter simply means five of those.

Thus, iambic pentameter is 10 syllables, with the accents on the even-numbered syllables. Think “Shall I ** compare** thee **to ** a summer’s day?”

Iambic pentameter

I rewatch Deadwood every chance I get – partly to catch the dialogue, but mostly to appreciate the plot, especially Al’s plans and machinations.

A good example is in Season One, when Al, E.B. and Tim Driscoll are setting up Brom Garrett to buy Driscoll’s gold claim. On first viewing, you know Brom’s being scammed, but you might be puzzled about all the steps, and why Al was so pissed off that E.B. kept bidding.

When you rewatch, you can see E.B.'s greed taking control, and Al starting to fume – it’s just beautiful.

Same with rewatching the Miles and Flora story, and in Season Two, the storyline with the tutor, Al’s manipulation of Wu and Hearst (especially in comparison with Cy Tolliver’s methods), and the personal evolution (however slow) of Johnny Burns and Dan Dority.

I’m still enjoying the annexation storyline, trying to figure it out, and that’s after seeing all the Season Two eps at least five times.

When Deadwood was originally conceived by David Milch, it was going to be set in Ancient Rome. HBO already had a show about Rome in the works, so they shifted the action to a mining town in the Black Hills, and renamed it.

You can enjoy Deadwood without liking westerns.

Deadwood is mesmerizing.

Not exactly. Milch devloped a show about two Roman ‘cops’ in Neros Rome. HBO had ROME already in development. So he came back to them with a show about Deadwood that could explore similar themes. Its not like they just changed locations. The two shows would have been very different.

When is ROME supposed to be starting?

I don’t know, but it wasn’t built in a day.


If you’ve read (or glanced through) the book that Jon Stewart and the Daily Show writers produced called America: The Book you should have seen their timeline. Somewhere in the BC period (I forget which year and which exact date) there’s something like April 11, 535 BC: Rome Built.

A scream as is much of the book.

I never cared for Westerns, but I do love me some Deadwood.

The HBO website says Rome will air “This Fall”. :slight_smile: They can’t be any more specific than that? Weird.

If Rome was in development when Milch was pitching Deadwood, why do we have two seasons of Deadwood before anything from Rome?

Not that I’m doubting, just wondering what the holdup is.

From what I have read, the time line is accurate. Rome had problems that Deadwood did not, so Rome started over after the powers-that-be saw a few episodes. Pateince, it will probably be good.

I don’t generally like westerns at all. I just started watching season 1 of Deadwood on DVD this week, and I’m hooked.