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Westerns - Deadwood - The Complete First Season

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Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, William Sanderson
Directors: Michael Almereyda, Davis Guggenheim
Number of discs: 6
Rated: R - definitely not for children. Coarse language, nudity, sexual situations, violence.
Studio: Hbo Home Video
DVD Release Date: February 8, 2005
Run Time: 720 minutes

Deadwood The Complete First Season is the kind of DVD set that can blow you away if you are not expecting it. Aside from the small tendency to swear even while you are thinking after watching a few episodes the collection is the first season of the best small screen western ever produced. That may sound like hyperbole but it is close to being an understatement. Unlike the great westerns of the past like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, Rawhide etcetera Deadwood makes no pretense when it comes to costume and lifestyle of Deadwood before it became part of South Dakota. The story is as raw as an the open wound the town itself was on the face of the black hills.

The story takes place around 1875 in the midst of the gold rush and before the Lakota were made an offer they couldn't refuse for the lands that had already been settled in violation of treaties. All of these historical elements are integral to the storyline of the television series. Also integrated into the story are streams of invective and language that is as florid as it is foul. Deadwood is a series that has no clear central character. We first follow Seth Bullock from his job as a marshal in Montana to Deadwood with his partner Sol Star where they opened their hardware store. Enter Al Swearengen proprietor of The Gem a brothel/bar/gaming house who is used to running Deadwood the way he feels it should be run. Enter Trixie a prostitute in Al's employ who Al is enamored with. Enter Wild Bill Hickok, enter Calamity Jane, enter Charlie Utter, enter enter enter. One character after another fills each episode with brilliant performances and compelling stories.

There is no weak link in Deadwood. While a drama it also holds close to historical truth (though it is at variance with the facts on many details for dramatic effect) and manages to engage the viewer to such an extent that a weekend Deadwood marathon is probably the best way to approach Deadwood The Complete First Season. Timothy Olyphant plays Seth Bullock to a historical T just as ridged and wound tight as the real Bullock was reputed to be. Ian McShane as Al Swearengen is delightfully evil though not beyond redemption. William Sanderson as E.B. Farnum is so perfect that all his previous character rolls including being Larry in the Newhart Show pale in comparison to E.B. Farnum. Deadwood needs to find a place in the DVD library of any fan of great drama and great westerns.

Denis Bernicky

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