That one word may be all I can manage to write in this post because I simply don't have the literary capacity to write about it and come close to doing it justice.
I would rather watch DEADWOOD than any other show on television. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than any movie out there in theaters. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than anything in the history of film I can buy or rent. I would rather watch DEADWOOD than read - anything.
I. Am. Obsessed.
Where do I begin? The cast? Ian McShane (Disraeli... possibly my very first actor crush). Brad Dourif - one of the best character actors of our time. Keith Carradine (CHOOSE ME? Eeek.) A whole host of actors I'd never heard of before starting to watch the show and whom I now love as much as my own - well, my own characters. There has never been such a collection of incredible actors on the same set - I think maybe ever.
Just when you think it couldn't get any better, the phenomenal Brian Cox waltzes in as the Leading Player. (DEADWOOD is the closest thing we've got to Shakespearean in this lifetime. It's like orgasms on ecstasy.)
I was born and grew up in California so that Gold Rush thing is in my DNA. Even though the story is set in the Dakota Territories, it's like watching a past life. Add to that, I know a couple of the actors on the show. Really intimately, not in the way you're thinking. I was very young and so it's all very mixed up in my head. So watching DEADWOOD is not only like watching a past life, it's like watching my own past, this lifetime. Very disorienting.
It's about morality, and civilization, and how this country was built, and how people come together and learn to work together as a society and create laws and justice, and learn how to live with each other as fulfilled and functioning human beings.
It is - I'll say it again because there's no other word for it - Shakespearean in its depth of characterization and complexity of plot and poetry and passion and savagery.
DEADWOOD is also the most feminist show I've ever seen on television, or maybe anywhere else - because it tells it EXACTLY how it was for women, unvarnished. No voting rights. No property rights. Three career choices: prostitute, wife, or teacher (until you marry). A couple of wild card choices: Madam (selling other women) or living life as a man (Calamity Jane.) The show doesn't for a second flinch away from the brutal realities: being sold into sexual slavery by your own father. Being sold into marriage by your own father (oh right - redundant.) Developing laudanum or alcohol addiction just to keep going. Is it hard to watch? Oh, definitely. But also a huge relief - because it's TRUTH, and these women are so heroic and real in their situations. And they BOND with each other, as real women do - I am sick unto death of seeing women depicted as being always at each other's throats. Not in my world - not in my experience.
There is "language" in the show. Boy howdy, is there. What I mean is, motherfucking cocksucker, there is - which words are used not a few times, but dozens, going on hundreds, of times in the course of an episode. It's profanity taken to an absurd level, used of course to convey the roughness of the times and the people, but taking on a cult comic level of its own, once you get past the initial shock.
This, I know, is off-putting to a lot of people I in fact have not given boxed sets of the show to my own parents, who would be so infinitely delighted by the complex, evolving morality of the show and the stellar production, because they would never be able to get past the language. This is a tragedy I have no idea how to resolve.
If DEADWOOD were on every night, forever, I probably wouldn't even need to write. I could just watch and be content. Tragically, or fortunately, I'm not sure which, the brilliant (and by many accounts, difficult) creator, David Milch - is on to another show and HBO will be ending the series in 3 episodes (with two TV movies planned to finish the story).
I'm not at all sure how I'm going to cope.