We have spent the past two weeks deploying 12 days of Dead wood, our collection of recaps for the first season of David Milch’s HBO western – a show that no one ever needs an excuse to revisit or watch for the first time. The series premiered in March 2004 and has grown into one of the greatest dramas of all time, though it was cut short just three years after it began airing, for reasons that even history students from television have not been able to fully analyze. Located almost entirely within the limits of Deadwood, South Dakota during the Gold Rush of the 1880s, Dead wood play like Our city through a bloody revisionist western. The show had an editorial staff, but only to craft the plots. All of the dialogue was eventually reworked and obsessively rewritten by Milch, usually on the fly and often on the same day the scenes were to be shot, with big changes being made depending on what the actors and filmmakers were doing at the time. .
The result is a unique drama that takes place in another time but feels like it is happening right in front of you. This quality is reinforced by the show’s near-documentary pocket photography, which at times makes the show feel like a 1950s live-action TV drama, but with horses, six shooters, f-bombs, du sex and violence graphics, torches and oil lamps providing illumination. Milch’s ornate and often beautifully dirty language is not accurate at the time, although it is true to the more poetic / literary way people expressed themselves in the pre-electronic media era, when the books were mainly television. The gigantic ensemble bolstered the stardom of veteran actors like Ian McShane, Keith Carradine, William Sanderson and Brad Dourif, and gave decisive impetus to the careers of young talents such as Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Kim Dickens, Jim Beaver. , Robin Weigert. , Dayton Callie, Ray McKinnon and Paula Malcomson. All of them have given performances that rank among the strongest of their careers, and the vast majority have publicly stated that Dead wood was some of the best, if not the best, work experiences they’ve ever had, despite the chaos inherent in Milch’s totally unconventional ways of working.
A former professor of literature and Yale scholar, Milch came to Dead wood after a career spanning more than twenty years in network television, the highlights of which were two revolutionary police shows, The blues of the hill street and NYPD Blue (respectively created and co-created by Steven Bochco). These two series focused on the functioning of institutions and the place of the individual within them, and they focused most of their action on the police station. Dead wood adopts the same strategy but widens the scope to an entire city (called âcampâ in the first years). He brought the concept of community to the fore, examining it in philosophical, political and theological terms, showing how law and order arose out of chaos and how chaos continued to exist within the institutions that people created to handle the clutter of life. These are themes which, like Dead wood in general, still worth discussing, and that’s what we’ve done, over the course of a dozen posts. You can watch the show on HBO Max then find the summaries here or below.