Deadwood (David Milch)
Of the many portrayals of life in the old Wild West, the TV Series Deadwood remains my favorite. This three-season show, the brainchild of David Milch, is based around the newspapers, diaries, and real characters who inhabited the pioneer gold town in South Dakota during the 1870s.
The series charts the tenuous progress of order emerging from chaos as the original gold camp struggles to become a lively town. It remains so today. Legendary characters such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (who are both buried there) move through life toward their historic destinies, with other fictional representative characters weaving in and out of the drama.
Most impressive is the historical accuracy. But Deadwood is also extremely well-written and compelling, if at times rather base and violent. Only the profanity has been modernized – to capture the shocking language of frontier society – but the muddy clothes remain filthy as the characters move from one deplorable act to another in their struggle for wealth and survival.
The series is headed up by excellent Ian McShane (the crass owner of the Gem Saloon), and Timothy Olyphant (Sheriff Seth Bullock), alongside a stellar cast of actors who authentically recreate this by-gone period. I particularly love Robin Weigert’s portrayal of the good-hearted (but foul-mouthed) Calamity Jane, who emerges as a far cry from the traditional romantic Hollywood heroine!
Not recommended for a squeamish audience, but the best Western series to date.