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JimNasium
06-11-2006, 03:39 PM
I thought I would kick off the new (and last full) season of Deadwood with this article from today's New York Times.

Link (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/arts/television/11mcki.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print)

June 11, 2006
Television
'Deadwood' Gets a New Lease on Life
By JESSE McKINLEY

FOR all intents and purposes, the set of HBO's "Deadwood," David Milch's blood- and profanity-drenched western, is a real (your favorite expletive here) town.

Located at Melody Ranch, a film studio about 35 miles north of Los Angeles, "Deadwood" — the town and the show — has real streets, real buildings and real manure. And when one of the residents of the town needs a fancy new house, HBO builds a fancy new house, from the stone foundations to the lacy curtains. If you were willing to do without indoor plumbing, you could probably be very happy there.

But about three weeks ago, something very strange happened: "Deadwood," which begins its third season Sunday night, started to disappear.

In mid-May, even as the promotional push for the new season began, word leaked that HBO was going to forgo a fourth season, after it had promised Mr. Milch only six episodes (the usual is 12) and Mr. Milch passed. Chris Albrecht, the chairman of HBO, said the decision was a complicated one. He and Carolyn Strauss, the president of HBO's entertainment division, had attended a meeting with Mr. Milch about his next show, "John From Cincinnati," about surfers living on the polluted border between California and Mexico. The meeting, in Mr. Albrecht's Los Angeles office — a secluded suite decorated with New York Yankees memorabilia and a "Sopranos" pinball machine — was dominated by Mr. Milch reading aloud from the pilot script for "John," which thrilled Mr. Albrecht and Ms. Strauss.

Eager to get it on the air, the executives wanted Mr. Milch (who has been known to rewrite while filming) to focus on the new project rather than on a fourth season of "Deadwood." "He's not a guy who has a lot of scripts available in advance," Mr. Albrecht said. "So we said, can we figure a way to do a truncated version of the last season, as we'd really like to prioritize your time."

(continued in post 2)

JimNasium
06-11-2006, 03:42 PM
Mr. Milch, the creator and executive producer of "Deadwood," recalled that his reaction to the decision was cordial, but very disappointed. "It seemed to me that some sort of partial order for the show would make it impossible to do anything but superimpose all sort of interpretations that would deprive it of its own emotion," he said, in typical Milch fashion. "The viewer would come to it with all sorts of second agendas, and I didn't want to do that."

So he declined the offer, and just like that "Deadwood" seemed destined to become a ghost town.

When he heard about it, Timothy Olyphant, who plays Seth Bullock, the brooding, occasionally lethal town sheriff, was at home in Los Angeles, at a house he had just purchased. "David called and said, 'I've got sad news, it doesn't look like the show is going to happen,' " he said. "And I said, 'Stop and come over, because I want you to see this place before I sell it.' "

The fans were a bit less wry. Some set up anti-HBO Web sites: hbonomo.com gathered more than 600 signatures of people who said they would cancel their HBO subscriptions if "Deadwood" died; savedeadwood.net placed an open letter to HBO in Variety on May 25, threatening to do the same thing. "HBO seems to be forgetting who it is that pays the bills around here," read a menacing message on that site. "Which leaves us with but one option to make our voices heard."

As angry e-mail messages streamed into HBO offices — and the end date for the actors' contracts approached — Mr. Albrecht and Mr. Milch searched for a compromise. Last weekend, Mr. Milch rushed to New York and proposed a final idea. By the end of the meeting they struck a deal: two two-hour final episodes to run next year. Last Sunday night, just after the deal was settled, Mr. Milch said he was "deeply gratified" that the show would return, at least for a farewell bow. "I've always known that the support for this show was not a mile wide," he said. "But it was a fathom deep."

DEADWOOD" was saved. But how did a show with almost universal critical support, a star creator and a fan base strong enough to force HBO's hand end up on the chopping block in the first place?

Based on the real events that surrounded a gold rush in Deadwood, S.D., in 1876, "Deadwood" combined down-and-dirty realism and the twisted dreamscape of Mr. Milch. A former heroin user, alcoholic and compulsive gambler, he imbued the show with all his past vices: early episodes of Season 3 feature a drunken street fight and an ill-advised interlude between two characters with a taste for narcotics.

More than anything, however, characters in "Deadwood" are addicted to words: big, looping passages of quasi-Elizabethan prose that immediately set the show apart from the usual western repertory of variations on the word "pardner." "He created a language," said Ian McShane, the English actor who won a Golden Globe for his performance as Al Swearengen, the coarse, brutal and often hilarious owner of the Gem, a brothel and bar. "Shakespeare might invert a sentence once or twice. David inverts it three or four times." The first line of the third season — "Fetchin' toward a bloody outcome, boss" — is both typical and, given the recent circumstances, a little prophetic.

Mr. Milch also added copious measures of profanity and sexuality, dropping dirty language and bare skin into almost every encounter. Viewers have devised a "Deadwood" drinking game: every time someone uses a certain expletive on the show, you drink a shot. No one goes home thirsty.

The show also won plaudits for its distinctive look, taking home five Emmys in 2005 for its design and cinematography, a grittily beautiful wash of dirt and despair.

All of which was real purdy, of course, but also real expensive. An episode of "Deadwood" costs about $4.5 million, Mr. Albrecht said, with a very large ensemble cast and expenses such as horses, wagons and livestock coordinators. On occasion Mr. Milch would take up to two weeks to shoot a single episode. "I think HBO understood from the first the way that I work," he said. "I'm not derelict, and I'm not profligate."

Still, there's little doubt that Mr. Milch — a Yale graduate and former fraternity brother of President Bush — had an unusual artistic approach. And an unusual conversational style, for that matter. A casual question about the plot of the third season can prompt a seminar about the symbolism of money, Rome (the empire, not the show) and the myths people create about themselves to justify acquisition of goods, all in one very, very long sentence.

Asked about the curlicue language of his show, his response is a little — but just a little — more succinct than his characters': "The characters are very fastidious about emotion. But there are many of them that have access to Victorian-slash-Elizabethan locutions, in so much as they read the early Victorians or Dickens. And they use it to express distance or alienation with themselves."

Mr. Milch, on the other hand, is almost chronically confessional, and views his work as a way to exorcise demons and exercise personal discipline. "If I'm not writing, I'm reporting to my parole officer," he said kiddingly. "Goethe said he'd never heard of a crime he couldn't commit. I'm certainly down with that idea."

In the writing room at Melody Ranch, Mr. Milch lies on the floor while dictating long passages of dialogue to waiting assistants. "The script never came in before a day or two before you shot," said Mr. McShane, who likened the experience to jumping out of a plane with only the promise of a parachute. "And then he'd add 10 or 12 lines the day of, and sheepishly say, 'Sorry about this.' "

Mr. Albrecht said HBO had no problems with the way Mr. Milch worked. "Quality takes time," he said. "The show was never squeezed into a schedule that would have cut into the quality." But the budget was an issue. "I wouldn't say it was a burden on HBO," Mr. Albrecht explained, "but if you look at a year, say 2007, and there's a set production fund and there's a set amount of scheduling time. And there's only so much you can fit in."

As the discussions began, Mr. Milch worried about his cast — "I tried to be a faithful steward to everyone involved," he said — but once he told them the status of the negotiations, word soon reached to the media.

Even after the trade papers had announced the demise of "Deadwood," Mr. Milch and HBO kept talking. On June 2, Mr. Albrecht, in New York, and Mr. Milch, in Los Angeles, spent an hour on the phone but hung up without a deal. That's when Mr. Milch got on the red-eye. He arrived with an unusual idea about how to end the show with dignity, but without a full season. At a table at the Regency Hotel in New York — fearful of eavesdroppers, he slipped the waiter some cash to keep other diners away — Mr. Milch pitched his idea, and Mr. Albrecht said yes.

MR. MILCH was pleased, but the plan had come at a cost. "All those transcontinental flights cut into your editing time," he said.

For Mr. Albrecht, meanwhile, the negotiations had the unfortunate effect of shifting public attention from the show's creative horizons (it's the new season of "Deadwood"!) to its financial limitations (it's the last season of "Deadwood"!). They also raised questions about HBO's primacy in the field of narrative drama, which it had long dominated. Popular shows like "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under" have ended, and their replacements haven't permeated popular culture in quite the same way. Some have been yanked altogether. (Remember "Carnivΰle"?)

Mr. Albrecht strongly rejected the notion that HBO — which will also begin a new season of "Entourage" on Sunday night — might be seen as faltering. "We've still got 'Deadwood' this year and 'The Wire,' and in January, 'Rome' and the next season of 'Big Love,' and the final season of 'The Sopranos.' We feel very positive about the things we have."

Still, for HBO, the idea that it was making an artistic decision based on economics was obviously an uncomfortable one; Mr. Albrecht also said that he started to fear that the real victim would be "John From Cincinnati," because it would be "The Show They Canceled 'Deadwood' For." (For his part, Mr. Milch said, "It was never my understanding that I was offering to curtail in any fashion my connection with 'Deadwood' in order to work on 'John From Cincinnati.' ")

By striking the compromise, Mr. Albrecht said: "I not only felt like we were trying to do the right thing for 'Deadwood' and the new show, but we were doing what HBO does well, which is come up with creative solutions. It's possible that this turns out to be a plan that doesn't come to fruition, but at least we have one."

Mr. Milch, meanwhile, said he was excited about the creative possibilities of a new structure. Episodes of "Deadwood" tended to run the course of a day in the life of the camp; in the two two-hour finales he plans to touch on events in the history of the real Deadwood, including perhaps a fire and a flood.

"What we've come to, or how it was come to, is a different approach, an approach to the temporal canvas, which will permit, I believe, a separateness, and a different kind of imaginative life for the actors who participate," he said. "And under those circumstances, I was happy to go forward."

The fans, as usual, are more agitated. Visitors to savedeadwood.net, for example, said they were still holding out for a complete season. (They shouldn't hold their breath.)

Reached at home on Monday, Mr. Milch sounded tired of talking about the whole thing. But then, typically, he did, arguing that the entire idea of bringing closure to a series was egotistical, paraphrasing a William James idea: "The world does not begin or end with the expiration of any living thing. It just becomes an exercise in bitterness or self-congratulation." As for his final perspective on the town of Deadwood, he seemed bittersweet. "It all depends on how you crop the picture," he said.

Marco Polo
06-11-2006, 06:13 PM
I'll give this a bump. Can't wait for Deadwood and Entourage to start tonight!

Bwana
06-11-2006, 06:21 PM
I'll give this a bump. Can't wait for Deadwood and Entourage to start tonight!

Damn right, I will be watching. :thumb:

Brock
06-11-2006, 06:31 PM
It's better than nothing. HBO should shitcan the Sopranos and pour money into deadwood and entourage.

Moooo
06-11-2006, 06:32 PM
It's better than nothing. HBO should shitcan the Sopranos and pour money into deadwood and entourage.

I have HBO but don't ever watch it (I'm not a big fan of TV, but I get it for free for getting Internet through them). How good are these shows? Are they different and whatnot, or are they just the same old crap?

Moooo

Brock
06-11-2006, 06:37 PM
I have HBO but don't ever watch it (I'm not a big fan of TV, but I get it for free for getting Internet through them). How good are these shows? Are they different and whatnot, or are they just the same old crap?

Moooo

IMO, they're great. I wouldn't have HBO if they weren't on.

Bwana
06-11-2006, 06:37 PM
I have HBO but don't ever watch it (I'm not a big fan of TV, but I get it for free for getting Internet through them). How good are these shows? Are they different and whatnot, or are they just the same old crap?

Moooo

I don't watch much TV either, but Deadwood is worth your time you C*cks*cker. :hmmm:






















Inside joke for people who watch the show. :D