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Deadwood- The Complete Series Blu-ray Review

Distracting writing hampers “Deadwood”.

“Deadwood” takes place circa 1876 in the gold mining camp of Deadwood, South Dakota. The show doesn’t particularly have a set story; it’s more about the people living there. Via 3 seasons and 36 episodes, we see stories about gold mining and prospectors, a smallpox outbreak, subplots with the Chinese people in the camp (mainly Mr. Wu), elections, a powerful businessman named George Hearst, the town’s progress, justice for murder, a brothel named The Chez Amis, annexation, drugs, Pinkertons, Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp. As far as central characters go, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen are essentially the leads. Seth is the co-owner of a hardware store who later becomes sheriff of Deadwood. Al is a saloon owner who competes with a rival saloon (owned by Cy).

As a fan of westerns and dark, gritty stories, I was naturally looking forward to “Deadwood.” It didn’t hurt that the show boasted incredible production values/sets and a fantastic cast containing the likes of Ian McShane, John Hawkes (who just got nominated for an Oscar for “Winter’s Bone”), Timothy Olyphant (now currently seen on “Justified”), Brad Dourif, Paula Malcomson (who was on the great “Caprica”), Keith Carradine, Brian Cox, William Sanderson and Stephen Tobolowsky. Even with all of these things going for the show, I unfortunately could not get into it. The primary problem I have with the show is the artsy dialogue and the swearing. Now, personally, I have nothing against swear words as I, in fact, swear myself. But, in “Deadwood,” the swearing is so over the top that it, quite frankly, becomes distracting. Even worse, the dialogue doesn’t feel the least bit natural or authentic. To me, it just seems like David Milch likes hearing his words said aloud. However, with lines like “Messages from invisible sources or what some people think of as progress” and “Given what’s in store, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn what price I have paid for ever complying,” the dialogue sounds awkward (and the actors clearly struggle in delivering the lines as well). Evidently, Milch never considered the fact that you can write this dialogue, but you can’t say it.

Another issue I had was that there are far too many character subplots, but not enough forward movement from the story. This is a very slow paced series and it’s certainly not for everyone. Perhaps that is why it never went past three seasons?

On the plus side, the cast is in fine form here. Everyone from Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant to Paula Malcomson and Brad Dourif deliver stand-out performances. This is very much an ensemble cast show and everyone gives it their all here. It’s just a shame they didn’t have stronger material to work with.

Summary: I wish I could recommend “Deadwood,” but sadly I just couldn’t get into it. With that said, if you are already a fan of the show, then this complete series Blu-ray set is a must buy if you can find it a reasonable price.

Note: This 13 disc set comes in a book like case much like the “Alien Anthology” Blu-ray set. Glossy pictures are also included inside the book like set.


The 1.78:1 1080p Blu-ray picture quality is certainly worth the upgrade from DVD if you are a fan of the series. Yes, there are grain and shimmering issues, but I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail with these hi-def transfers. From the sets and costumes to the opening credits, the picture quality deserves praise.

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track delivers the goods. The music, cursing, gunfire all sounded clear.

* Commentary on episode 1 by David Milch. His monotone voice doesn’t carry a track well. Plus, there’s a lot of dead air too.

* Commentary on episode 4 by Molly Parker and Keith Carradine. More dead air.
* A dull commentary on episode 5 by Brad Dourif and Robin Weigert.
* Commentary on episode 12 by Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane. Definitely the best duo when it comes to commentary tracks on this set.

* Two commentaries on episode 13. One by Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane and one by Molly Parker and Anna Gunn.
* Commentary on episode 15 by David Milch.
* Commentary on episode 17 by a talkative producer/director Gregg Fienberg. 
* Two commentaries on episode 19. One by Kim Dickens, William Sanderson and Dayton Callie. The other by Powers Boothe and Garret Dillahunt. Both of these tracks are worth a listen as the commentators are quite chatty. I like how everyone seems to have a theory about the horse in the opening credits.
* Commentary on episode 22 by John Hawkes and Paula Malcomson. This is an enjoyable track. These two have great chemistry together.
* Two commentaries on episode 23. One by Timothy Olyphant and Anna Gunn and the other by Ian McShane and Paula Malcomson. As I mentioned above, you can’t go wrong with tracks with McShane, Olyphant, and Malcomson.
* Commentary on episode 25 by Gregg Fienberg and Mark Tinker.

* Commentary on episode 29 by Jim Beaver, Sean Bridgers, and W. Earl Brown. The group cast commentaries continue to be entertaining.
* Commentary on episode 33 by Robert Weigert.

* Commentary on episode 36 by David Milch.
* “The Real Deadwood: 1877”- A featurette on the real city.

* 2 “Deadwood Daguerrotypes” (AKA photo galleries).
* A 3 part making of for episode 24 that covers Milch’s vision, the Mr. Wu character, the wedding celebration set piece.
* “Making Deadwood: The Show Behind The Show”- A featurette about the characters. The history of Deadwood is also touched upon.
* “An Imaginative Reality”- David Milch and Keith Carradine chat about writing and the mixture of factual and fictional characters in the series.
* “The New Language Of The Old West”- David Milch and Keith Carradine chat about the dialogue in the series.
* “The Real Deadwood”- This is the kind of extra I like. This featurette about the dark history of the real Deadwood city is fascinating.
* “Deadwood 360 Tour”- David Milch takes viewers on a tour of the sets.
* “Al Swearengen Audition Reel”- An amusing comedic outtake of sorts by Titus Welliver.

* “Deadwood” Q&A with producers, cast members, and David Milch from the 2005 Paley TV festival.
* ‘The Real Deadwood: Out Of The Ashes”- Another featurette on the real city of Deadwood.
* “The Meaning Of Endings: David Milch On The Conclusion Of Deadwood”- David Milch talks about what would have happened had the show continued.  

* “Deadwood Matures”- Another featurette on the real city. This one talks about politics, theater, and the forming of a proper town.
* “The Education Of Swearengen And Bullock”- A featurette about the character dynamics between these Swearengen and Bullock.

January 28, 2011 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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