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

But almost as soon as he arrives in Deadwood, Bullock finds himself back in the justice game, as he teams up with the famous Wild Bill Hickock [Keith Carradine] to find out who's responsible for the brutal murder of a migrant family, and mete out the punishment they deserve. Bullock's inability to turn a blind eye when he sees a wrong in need of righting soon make him a major thorn in the side of Al Swearengen [Ian McShane], owner of the Gem Saloon and unofficial top dog in Deadwood. There's not a thing that goes on in Deadwood that escapes Swearengen's watchful eye, and any happenings that strike Swearengen as potentially harmful to his own personal interests are dealt with swiftly, and generally with bloodshed. Still, Swearengen's nothing if not shrewd, and realizes that all-out anarchy is decidedly not conducive to ensuring that his little kingdom flourishes. Meanwhile, Deadwood becomes home to a whole host of other colorful characters, including Alma Garrett [Molly Parker], the wealthy drug addict wife of a greedy gold seeker, Trixie [Paula Malcolmson], Swearengen's favorite whore, Doc Cochran [Brad Dourif], cantankerous town physician, and Calamity Jane [Robin Weigert], a woman who lives as hard and as rough as any man in the West.

Deadwood might be set in the Wild West, but I can guarantee that creator David Milch's depiction of life on the edges of the American frontier is unlike any other Western you've ever seen before. In fact, Deadwood is so unlike anything else on TV or in the movies that it's actually a little hard to get into at first. The distinctive dialogue is a weird mix of stiffly formal and utterly crass; these are rough characters, the denizens of Deadwood, and their speech is split pretty much 50/50 between cursing and actual substance, with the substance delivered in such a roundabout fashion that it's not always easy to decipher the speaker's real meaning (you learn to pay attention to actions as well as words; the irony of the words is often hilariously, brilliantly, snort-out-loud funny). Whether this is true to how folks in the Wild West actually talked I haven't a clue, but I love how Milch creates a way for his characters to speak that obviously comes out of a different American culture than the one in which we now live. The effect, once you surrender to it, is that you really feel like you're getting a peek into a different time, a different world, a different way of life. The characters are complex, quirky, and continually defy good-guy-bad-guy stereotypes; even Bullock, the only character who might be potentially described as a hero, has a too-quick temper and a chilling ability to kill without flinching when the killing needs to be done. As for the crude, corrupt, and manipulative Swearengen -- played with intensity and charisma out the wazoo by Ian McShane -- he quickly becomes the heart and soul of the show, while staying ever true to his bad self.

So it doesn't matter if you're not a fan of the genre -- heck, I know I wasn't -- Deadwood makes for fascinating watching. This is not your typical Western, and Deadwood is head-and-shoulders above your typical TV show.


recent must-see dvd tv:
dead like me, wonderfalls | arrested development, the office | firefly, freaks & geeks | more

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