With the Deadwood movie coming out as I write this, I was inclined to see what the fuss was about and watch the series for the first time.
Deadwood is demanding of its viewers. The program is set in an 1870s mining "camp" in the Dakotas, where life is filthy, violent and profane. The plot is extremely complex and the characters are multi-layered. Their motivations are often obscure, and take many episodes to fathom. The show's creator extensively researched the language of the period and the protagonists speak with a great deal of vile language and use a turn of phrase that is very different from the way we express ourselves today.
For the first 4 to 6 episodes, I almost gave up on watching the show. I couldn't understand who the principal actors where and at times I could barely understand what any of them were saying. I turned on closed captions - which helped immensely - and got used to the dialogue. I finally got a lay of the land. And then I was hooked.
Deadwood is one of the most beautifully written TV shows I have ever watched. Perhaps the most beautiful.
I constantly want to pause to write down lines I have just listened to. Viewers often quote from the speeches of Deadwood principal character Al Swearingen to illustrate this beauty. But I prefer this exchange between theater troop leader Jack Langrishe and his friend and perhaps lover, the aged and dying actor Chesterton. The two speak in the hotel room where Chesterton is bed ridden:
JL: I am your Jack, Chesterton, but your producer too.If you love Shakespeare, this is the show he would have written, if he had lived in the 21st century.
C: A rigor we've always sustained.
JL: To carry a performer through illness where recovery is in prospect is an indulgence one can sometimes justify, but support of idleness destined for the grave that, Chesterton, the narrow economy of our art does not permit.
C: You would have me die destitute?
JL: You will purchase your keep with that voice - intrusive and incessantly opinionated - no vagary of our past has yet stilled.