Archive for the ‘Deadwood’ Tag

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There’s a lot of uncertainty, even now, whether Deadwood ranks as an excellent show or an alright show. Speaking for myself, a few years ago I was solidly in the latter camp, but after re-watching the show recently, I’m now committed to the excellent camp.

Deadwood centers around the people and events of an illegal prospecting camp in the middle of Sioux territory in the late 1800’s. The town is more or less completely lawless, as no official governing body recognizes its existence… which means that the old powers of Might Makes Right rule this mining camp. The show’s primary leader is Albert Schwarengen, a brutal brigand exquisitely played by Ian McShane. Al established himself in Deadwood very early, and operates the town’s primary saloon. Most of the early season works to establish him as a man losing his absolute grip on the camp — as the town becomes more prosperous, competing interests begin moving in, and he can no longer rule as absolutely as he did the day before. Indeed, in the camp’s early days, he need only find an opportunity to literally slit his competition’s throat in order to solve the problem, but as the town becomes more established, the risks of doing so become more hazardous. So he must resort to “doing business” with these “cocksuckers.” 

The other main character of the show is Seth Bullock, played by Timothy Olyphant. Bullock came to Deadwood after quitting his job as a sheriff in Montana, in order to open a hardware business. His hardware business does quite well (as you’d expect in a mining camp), and he moves to buy the lot of land in order to establish an actual store instead of selling his goods out of a tent. This brings him into contact with Al…

These two characters are the guts of the show. While the show literally has dozens of characters splitting the screen time, Seth and Al are invariably the axles that everything revolves around. At first they absolutely hate each other, as they tend to be more similar than they’d like to admit. However, as the show progresses, they needs of the camp force them to find a working relationship, which evolves into something approaching friendship. The evolution is one of the better arcs in the show, and it progresses in an authentic way.

I think one of the reasons Deadwood works so well is because it traces rise and fall of the Western. Most of the characters in Deadwood went to Deadwood for one of two reasons… they either wanted to strike it rich, or get the hell away from the law of the East (or both). So you get this diverse group of people living together, but once they have something up and running, their own needs prevent them from operating in the cutthroat manner that was the de facto rule of the beginning. Indeed, once the town realizes that the Sioux have surrendered their claim to Deadwood, the town “elders” hold a meeting to organize a municipal body in order to better pay bribes to territorial politicians to make sure that their land claims are found to be legitimate. As the show progresses, there are increasingly larger forces outside of any of their control which come into play, and all of people in camp have to figure out how to make the best of their situation when the bigger players come to town. 

The biggest criticism is that it doesn’t really end, because it was prematurely canceled by HBO before its ending was planned. This was the chief reason that I wasn’t a big fan on my first viewing. However, with that caveat being there, because it is something of a bitter pill, the show as a whole is still an excellent thing to see. There’s some excellent acting throughout the show. McShane and Olyphant deserve particular applause as absolute masters of their characters. Brian Cox is a late arrival, but might win the prize for Most Charming Character in Fiction, as his portrayal of Jack Langrishe is perhaps the most lighthearted influence on the show otherwise dark subject matter. There are many more characters who could get honorable mentions for compelling or humorous moments, but none that would make sense outside of their context. For now, all I can say is that, if you have the time to watch it, do yourself the favor and do it. It’s three seasons, and you’ll enjoy the ride.

5 stars

The Ricky Gervais Show 

If you had asked me what, if anything, was worth checking out during the summer of ’10, I’d have pushed you in the direction of the Ricky Gervais podcasts. These podcasts follow Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (of England’s Office fame) conducting a series of interviews with Karl Pilkington. Now, Karl Pilkington is hard to describe. To call him an idiot makes irrelevant his unintentional bursts of genius, yet to call him a genius is to ignore the fact that he’s an idiot. However you describe Karl, his views and theories have a subtle pull which makes you want to listen to more of what he has to say, and the show works best when Merchant and Gervais probe Karl’s head without resorting to calling him an idiot (which they can’t resist doing for too long, albeit for obvious reasons).

Myself, I find that the more you listen to Karl, the more you can sort of understand where he’s coming from. Make no mistake about, a lot of what he says is retarded and ridiculous, but every once in awhile he hits on something, oftentimes without even realizing it himself, that strikes you as being absolutely on point. It’s one of the more interesting facets of the entire series, that while Karl can opine (for example) about how difficult things would be if his doppelganger suddenly entered his life, he can’t answer the simple question of how old he is without a long pause to figure it out.

I think the chief charm to this show is that, the more you listen to their banter, the more interesting it becomes. This project never comes off as a job by any of participants, and instead seems to be a very fun way for them to pick Karl’s brain. Gervais, in particular, seems to gain a healthy respect for Karl as the podcasts progress. You do have to give Karl credit, I think most Americans would probably just shut up when you have two people calling you an idiot, but I suppose the dickishness of the British immunizes one’s ego to the ridicule and he soldiers on with his outlandish theories and “true” stories of internet bullshit which he buys hook-line-and-sinker.

The animation of the HBO show can be entertaining, and I don’t think it does too much to distract from the meat of the conversation it’s replicating, but that being said I don’t think you miss much by simply checking out the podcasts themselves if you’re interested in listening in on, “the ramblings of a maniac.”

4 stars


Posted February 14, 2012 by fatmoron in Uncategorized

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