Deadwood was special.
Hatched during a golden age of original programming at HBO that included The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, Deadwood marched to its own stubborn drum. Though lauded by critics of the televised arts, the serialized, fact-based drama never garnered the same following as those other shows, and was cancelled after three seasons (reportedly one season short of creator David Milch’s vision). Some viewers were turned off by the language - the show’s dialogue turned profanity into poetic verse, with Ian McShane delivering foul-mouthed soliloquies worthy of Olivier himself. Some were shocked by the sexual content - when your show’s main location is a 19th century brothel in competition with another brothel, the couplings are apt to be bountiful, and conducted with a reduced priority on etiquette and hygiene. And the frontier brand of violence was enough to rattle the grit of even the most fortitudinous patron of the Home Box Office. Much like the Old West itself, the violence on Deadwood erupted suddenly and brutally, and when the program depicted a street fight between two greased-up brawlers, culminating in one man relieving another of his eyeball - and crying about it afterward - it was clear that we’d never seen anything like Deadwood before. And in this writer’s opinion, gentle reader, we’ve never seen anything like it since.
That’s about to change. Allow me to temporarily extract my wistful bloviations and permit the news item from TV Line to do its work.
HBO programming president Michael Lombardo confirmed to TVLine that he personally gave series creator David Milch the green light to resurrect the acclaimed yet painfully short-lived Western.
“David has our commitment that we are going to do it,” says Lombardo. “He pitched what he thought generally the storyline would be — and knowing David, that could change. But it’s going to happen.”
The exec says that the revival — which would take the form of a movie versus a limited series — was born out of a “palpable” sense he had that Milch “has something left unsaid” with regard to Deadwood, adding “I’ve known him for a while and it feels like it’s something he’s not done talking about.”
The perplexing sonofabitch in this equation is when and how the story will pick up. By 1887 (the approximate time-frame with which this theoretical motion picture would concern itself, assuming said passage of time would be acknowledged), much had changed in Deadwood. But there are a number of milestones to which the film could hitch its story, depending on the "when" of it. The catastrophic fire which wiped out most of the town in 1879 might provide a central element of the narrative, and was possibly the event around which the show's abandoned fourth season plans revolved. The flood of 1882, which again decimated the town, could provide another, more expensive story element. If the passage of time is to be embraced, one might look forward to seeing the 1884 arrival of Theodore Roosevelt, who becomes lifelong friends with Seth Bullock (a returning Timothy Olyphant, one alternately assumes and prays). Al Swearengen lived in Deadwood as late as 1899.
While Mr. Milch did not overly concern himself with historical accuracy, during the series it did appear that care was taken to allow that the events depicted between any given actual historical characters could have happened (the brief appearance of Wyatt Earp in season three caused some consternation on the internet of 2006, though many historians agree Mr. Earp did pass through Deadwood at some point). It will be an exciting discovery indeed to see just how Mr. Milch intends to capitalize on this artistic reprieve.
If you were too young for this show ten years ago, or just never happened to partake in its many pleasures, this is as good a reason as one could conjure to rectify that omission.