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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DEADWOOD: Season One (2004)

Much lauded HBO Wild West series from tv vet David Milch begins promisingly with a couple of episodes that play like theme & elaborations on WILD BILL, Walter Hill’s fascinating 1995 flop fantasia on the Life & Times of Wild Bill Hickok. (Hill was personally onboard for the DEADWOOD pilot.) A lawless town, scrubby men & women, quick fortunes in gold, corpse devouring pigs, OTT scatological dialogue: the series is a surreal take on The West, an attempt to locate the truth behind a host of American myths. But Milch, who is famous for spewing out scripts for NYPD BLUE and HILL STREET BLUES in single spasms under the spell of creative fits (there are various fits in every episode), thinks that more plot, more character tics, more violence, more swearing, more . . . everything add up to bigger, better, truer drama. He mistakes baggage for complexity. The series quickly exhausts itself. Better acting might have helped. The nicer characters are blandly cast (at best) and even Ian McShane gets pretty hammy as the town’s leading Machiavelli. But it’s nice to catch up with Brad Dourif who’s splendid as the town doc and fun to see Powers Boothe morphing into Gregory Peck right before our eyes.

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