We watch... so you don't have to.

In Praise Of Deadwood

I had resisted jumping aboard Deadwood's covered bandwagon mostly I dislike the hooyah that swirls around first-season shows. It's not hard for a show to be good in its first season: sustaining the quality through the second or third season is the real trick. Plus, I've liked two HBO shows that started off with a promise and degenerated into excuses. As far as I'm concerned, the goodwill Six Feet Under built up during its first season was squandered by the time Brenda became a sex fiend in later seasons, and whatever dark allure Clancy Brown held for me on Carnivale was outweighed by my lava-hot irritation with the season finale in the recently-finished second season.

Finally, there was my irritation with Quality Television Fans. Although they are not quite as annoying as the tiresome I-Don't-Have-A-Television crowd, they share some of the same traits. For example, both crowds confuse being fussy with having a working brain. But I'll say this for the I-Don't-Have-A-Television crowd: at least they're willing to write off an entire medium in the name of snobbery, while for Quality Television Fans, the very notion of "quality" is based on some abstruse collection of vague arguments, nearly all of which devolve to one faulty premise: their taste is better than yours.

So you can see why I mistrust the recommendations of people who are inordinately enamored of their own prowess in selecting television shows. And you can see why I'm just petty enough to want to avoid doing anything which can be construed as bolstering the cases Quality Television Fans make for whatever their current darling is. Which is why it's killing me to admit that prior to the second season of Deadwood, I did sit down, watch the first season in a weekend-long marathon and like it enough to bother TiVoing the second season. And then I did watch the first four episodes of season two back-to-back before confirming that verily, Deadwood is shaping up to be more like The Wire than Six Feet Under. In other words, it's looking like a show where the creators have an idea of where they want the show to go and how it's going to get there. And they want you to have fun on the ride.

However, like The Wire, this really is the kind of show that does benefit from the feast-and-famine cycle of viewing. Save up the episodes and watch a few at a time. this way, you can more easily detect the plot elements set into motion in one episode and track them through subsequent hours. You'll get more gratification as a viewer because clusters of episodes provide complete narrative arcs in more robustly satisfying ways than individual episodes do. You're more able to see the gears and levers propelling the story, and such elegant structure goes a long way toward alleviating the worry that trusting the show's creator is a sucker's bet. As with balance sheets, transparency in fundamentals goes a long way toward bolstering the public trust without erasing the miracle and wonder of a hefty bottom line.

And then there's the cussing. Although Deadwood poobah David Milch likes to point out that the Wild West was precisely so because it was populated by people who figured out how to use the word "cocksucker" as a preposition, I have to admit that the giddy thrill I get when I listen to the flowery yet profanity-laden monologues does not have its roots in any appreciation for historical versimilitude. I like listening to the cussing because it's cussing, plain and simple. And also because I hope to someday cow others with my total mastery of F-bomb dropping.

I don't worry that admitting I like Deadwood makes me one of the Quality Television Fans. For one, I am on the record as loving stupid television. For another, my favorite the-masses-are-asses argument in re: television currently centers on Jason Priestley's underappreciated turn on Tru Calling, so I'm clearly in no danger of aweing anyone with my exquisite discrimination. All I'm here to tell you is, sometimes Quality Television Fans are actually backing an entertaining show. And sometimes, those shows teach you to cuss. So give Deadwood a look-see.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *