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"Deadwood" at 10: Still Ahead of Its Time

Television
by Sam Adams
March 11, 2014 10:29 AM
3 Comments
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Deadwood

Ten years after its premiere, fans still mourn the premature end of "Deadwood," David Milch's profane, sprawling ode to the rise of a South Dakota gold-mining town. Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay, "A Lie Agreed Upon," won't bring the show back, and though hopes perennially surface, the chances of it being revived in any format are virtually nil; even Milch himself is resigned to its end.  But it serves as a thorough, bittersweet overview of the show's greatness, and a reminder that for all the strides that have been made since, TV still remains a frustrating and limited medium. The fact that Milch, whose pilot, "Money," HBO recently declined to send to series, hasn't been able to keep a show on the air for more than 10 episodes since 2006 says much worse things about the industry he works in than it does about him.

Written by Seitz and edited by his frequent collaborator Steven Santos (whose like-minded video essay on Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" is at the end of this post), "A Lie Agreed Upon" is narrated by Jim Beaver, who played the show's veteran prospector, Ellsworth, and has also been a frequent presence in comments threads for articles about the show. The show, he says, was about "a whole heck of a lot of things in no particular oder, and it's that 'in no particular order' part that makes it so rich," but he gets to the heart of it when he identifies the core theme as "the story of civilization, American and otherwise." 

Watching Gerald McRaney's performance as the ruthless, powerful George Hearst -- whose son, newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, would serve as the model for another great story of the corruptions of power, "Citizen Kane" -- it's hard not to see his similar character on "House of Cards" as a pallid reflection, which extends to the relationship between the shows as a whole. It's hard to imagine a more bleak or corrosive portrait of the foundations of American society, but "Deadwood" still finds light in the darkness, and in a manner far less trite and forced than the hug-it-out conclusion of "True Detective." (For all Nic Pizzolatto's rationalizations about the difficulties of creating fleshed-out female characters in a story about a male-dominated world, "Deadwood" managed it a heck of a lot better.") Now that Seitz is nearing the end of the promotional cycle for "The Wes Anderson Collection," maybe a "Deadwood" book is next?

Television
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3 Comments

  • Matt Zoller Seitz | March 11, 2014 12:23 PMReply

    Dudebro fanboys really are the worst.

  • Writer | March 11, 2014 10:58 AMReply

    Oh you poor author, putting in the "True Detective" reference in the end for no reason at all and revealing yourself as just another bla bla chatting wanna be.
    It could be so easy to be smart, but no you have to ruin your article. why do you do that? Why do you make yourself look bad?

    Actually it is not worthy to talk about again, but I guess I will give you the honor of small enlightment by saying:
    True Detective (1 Season) was designed in its way. (Not your way, the creators way)
    Deadwood was designed in its way. (Not your way, the creators way)

    The don't relate to each other and as much as you or any other p** f*** want to have your own ideas be displayed in any Show its just not. Because the Shows are just something else from the start. If you make your own Show you have control over what you want to tell. Otherwise just accept what a Show is. Could you do that? Just for once be a better human being, please...

  • EM | March 12, 2014 11:00 AM

    I believe the term you are looking for, used in web marketing, is "click bait." Referencing trending topics in articles that aren't necessarily related to that trending topic. It's done a lot in media, so why don't you just relax and let the guy write his blog post how he wants to in order to get some traffic.

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