Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DEADWOOD

DEADWOOD.

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.

16 comments:

JD Rhoades said...

(DEADWOOD is the closest thing we've got to Shakespearean in this lifetime. It's like orgasms on ecstasy.)

Man, I have GOT to watch TV with you sometime.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

That WOULD be the one sentence you'd take out of all this. ;)

Allison Brennan said...

OMG, we're soulmates. I LOVE DEADWOOD. I watched the first season on DVD and have the second season sitting here calling my name, waiting for me to finish my damn book so that I can reward myself with one week of Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant, all night long, every night.

DEADWOOD is the best show for characterization, conflict, flawed heroes and heroic villains. It's one of the best shows on tv in my lifetime.

LOST is a close second, but DEADWOOD is grittier, faster-paced and more real. I think it's going to single-handedly bring back the western in fiction.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for dinner and brews, Alex!

See you at B'Con.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hah, Allison, I might have known we'd have this same addiction!

Oh man, I'd give anything to have a whole season ahead of me, fresh! But we just got Season One and started watching it from the beginning again and it's even better the second time around.

(It's funny - I had so many conversations about this show yesterday - even my dance teacher mentioned it and then we could not stop talking about it. Try talking about DEADWOOD while doing the Hustle. Surreal.)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Mr. Konrath, the pleasure was entirely mine! Take care of yourself out there. XX

Lori G. Armstrong said...

Alex, I feel I know you from the blogsphere, great insight on Deadwood.

Since I live 30 miles from Deadwood, I get asked all sorts of questions about it. At Bouchercon last year I had one woman read me the riot act on the language on the show. I'm like...WTF? But I smiled. Then she said it couldn't possibly be historically accurate. Right. Like fuck and cocksucker were invented in the 1960's. After a few minutes I snapped and told her to contact the Adams House Museum in Deadwood and talk to the curator about accuracy, since that's what the shows producers did...Oddly enough, she and I are not friends :)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Lori! Wow, 30 miles from Deadwood... you're my new best friend. How great to have a whole museum right there at your disposal. Over on WriterAction (the website for Writers Guild members) we have the incredibly wise, talented and historically accurate Bob Sabaroff providing running commentary about the show's characters, complete with rare photos from historical collections. It's just amazing how much the actors actually look like their real-life counterparts.

It feels real because it WAS real.

I'm serious. What are we all going to do when it's over?

I now know what it is to be a Trekkie... or a Xenaphiliac.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

DEADWOOD is, hands down, the best show on television. I am working my way through season two as we speak.

Love that friggin' show.

elainesbrain said...

I reallly need to be retaught how to do The Hustle ;) Please advise. With diagrams. And a lot of swearing.

Diane Chamberlain said...

Alex, I had a feeling we were kindred spirits! I'm sick about DEADWOOD going off the air. Your description of it, especially as it relates to women, is so right on. I'm particularly touched this season by the bond between Joni and Calamity Jane--two hurting souls reaching out for one another. I usually have to watch each show over again to catch all I missed the first time. I know where you'll be tomorrow night!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hah! MORE DEADWOOD-heads! (And one Hustle-phile...)

Now with all this passion for the show, how can it end? Milch better have something stupendous up his sleeve or I'll never forgive him.

Well, actually, it doesn't matter what he comes up with, I'll never forgive him.

Diane, I so agree about Jane and Joanie. I've been waiting for that moment forever.

I am also terrified about what might happen - to everyone - tonight.

Maryelizabeth said...

Did you happen to catch the "Deadwood" skit on "MADTV" last night? It was pretty entertaining, and I immediately thought of you!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Oh, no - I didn't know about it, M'e!!

Darn it.

Only an hour till showtime, now. My nails are a wreck.

elainesbrain said...

Okay, I just ordered the complete first season, so if you don't hear from me for months, you have noone to blame but your beautiful self. xoxo

Rick said...

We love Deadwood! I was floored when tehy decided to more or less end it.

I would say (when describing it to friends) that it was Louis L'Amour meets Shakespear so we obviously saw it the same way.

The richness of the characters brought the whole thing to life.

The first time I heard the immortal line "San Francisco Cocksucker" I just about fell off the couch.