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copyright Š1999-2005

must-see dvd tv: carnivāle, deadwood by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
continued from page 1

Cross David Lynch with The Grapes of Wrath and you might get something that looks a bit like Carnivāle . Creator Daniel Knaupf's Depression-era tale is strange, eerie, powerful stuff, achingly beautiful and make-your-hairs-stand-on-end unsettling all at the same time. Most TV shows seem to concentrate on the little things, the details of human lives, the minutiae of daily existence, the sort of things that are easy to squeeze into the 45 minutes or so of an episode. But Carnivāle is an epic. It's sprawling, it's ambitious; it's full of symbols and grand ideas like heaven and hell, fate and free will, good and evil, God and the Devil vs. Man. These are not ideas that can be fully explored and resolved in the span of an episode, and Carnivāle takes its sweet old time building things up. You have to be patient; like the traveling carnival itself, the story picks up and slows down with a rhythm that's all its own, taking unexpected turns and meandering maddeningly instead of taking us from one straight point to another. Moreover, you learn to read between the lines -- this is the sort of storytelling that's chock full of allusions and imagery, and a good portion of both the frustration and the fun is in trying to figure out what it all means. Sure, the series is slow, and dark, and elliptic. It's a challenge, unlike the vast fluffy majority of what airs on TV. But Carnivāle rewards patient viewers with a deliciously intricate plot, an intriguing cast of characters, and a rich, sensuous ambience that envelopes you in its weird, weird world.

o o o

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcolmson, Robin Weigert
The First Season

It's the late 1800s, and in a barren stretch of the Dakotas that lies just outside the reach of U.S. government, there sits a town by the name of Deadwood. Town might be too generous a term: Deadwood's little more than a whorehouse/saloon surrounded by a camp, inhabited largely by eager gold prospectors, shifty drifters, dangerous outlaws and tough-talking prostitutes, the sort of place where flying fists and a draw of the gun are the only real law. Folks mostly just want to be left alone so they can do what they're going to do -- something that becomes more and more difficult as news of Deadwood's gold prospects spreads, and greedy fortune-seekers from "civilized" America start rolling into camp in droves. When former Montana Territory sheriff Seth Bullock [Timothy Olyphant] comes to Deadwood, he's hoping to leave behind his days as a lawman. Bullock's grown tired of having to decide who's right and who's wrong, and thinks he's ready to concentrate instead on building a life of his own. He and his good friend Sol Star [John Hawkes] intend to start a hardware business; once things are more settled, he'll send for his wife and son. 

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