Deadwood (TV series)

Deadwood (TV series)
Deadwood titleimage.jpg
Genre Western
Historical drama
Created by David Milch
Starring Timothy Olyphant
Ian McShane
Molly Parker
John Hawkes
Jim Beaver
Brad Dourif
Paula Malcomson
William Sanderson
Kim Dickens
Robin Weigert
Dayton Callie
W. Earl Brown
Powers Boothe
Keith Carradine
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 36 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) David Milch
Gregg Fienberg
Mark Tinker
Running time 55 minutes
Original channel HBO
Original run March 21, 2004 (2004-03-21) – August 27, 2006 (2006-08-27)
External links

Deadwood is an American Western drama television series created, produced and largely written by David Milch.[1][2] The series aired on the premium cable network HBO from March 21, 2004, to August 27, 2006, spanning three 12-episode seasons. The show is set in the 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota, before and after the area's annexation by the Dakota Territory. The series charts Deadwood's growth from camp to town, incorporating themes ranging from the formation of communities to western capitalism. The show features a large ensemble cast, and many historical figures appear as characters on the show—such as Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Wild Bill Hickok, Sol Star, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, George Crook, E. B. Farnum, Charlie Utter and George Hearst. The plot lines involving these characters include historical truths as well as substantial fictional elements. Milch used actual diaries and newspapers from 1870s Deadwood residents as reference points for characters, events, and the look and feel of the show. Some of the characters are fully fictional, although they may have been based on actual persons.

Deadwood received wide critical acclaim, particularly for Milch's writing and Ian McShane's co-lead performance.[3] It also won eight Emmy Awards (in 28 nominations) and one Golden Globe.

There were initial plans to conclude the series with two special TV movies, but the plans have not come to fruition. Several of the stars have since commented that the series is now unlikely to return. HBO had repeatedly asserted that the two movies could still be made,[4] but it noted in July 2008 that the possibility of the two TV movies being made was very slim.[5]

The show was produced by Red Board Productions and Roscoe Productions in association with HBO and Paramount Television (CBS Paramount Television in season 3).


Cast and characters

Actor Character Based on Profession
Timothy Olyphant Seth Bullock Seth Bullock Sheriff/Co-owner of Star & Bullock Hardware.
(Etobicoke, Ontario)
Ian McShane Al Swearengen Al Swearengen Businessman/Owner of The Gem Saloon.
(Manchester, England)
Molly Parker Alma Garret Unknown/No Basis Widow of claim seeker, later married to prospector Whitney Ellsworth.
(New York City)
Jim Beaver Whitney Ellsworth No Basis Prospector/husband to Alma Garret.
Powers Boothe Cy Tolliver Tom Miller Owner of rival saloon, The Bella Union.
John Hawkes Sol Star Sol Star Co-owner of Star & Bullock Hardware.
(Vienna, Austria)
Paula Malcomson Trixie Based on any number of "Tricksies" who were former prostitutes at The Gem Saloon.[6] Prostitute
William Sanderson E. B. Farnum E. B. Farnum Innkeeper of The Grand Central Hotel; Mayor.
Kim Dickens Joanie Stubbs Unknown/No Basis Former hostess of The Bella Union/Co-proprietress of brothel, The Chez Amis. There were several madams in the camp, including Dora Dufran and Mollie Johnson, however the character of Joanie Stubbs does not closely follow what is known about these madams.
Ricky Jay Eddie Sawyer Unknown Card sharp employed at The Bella Union. Part of its inner circle.
Garret Dillahunt Francis Wolcott L.D. Kellogg Geologist and killer who worked for George Hearst.
Robin Weigert Calamity Jane Calamity Jane Follower of Wild Bill Hickok/frontierswoman/scout.
Dayton Callie Charlie Utter Charlie Utter Owner of freight business/traveling companion of Wild Bill Hickok/deputy to Sheriff Bullock.
Brad Dourif Doc Cochran Lyman F. Babcock The physician of the camp.
Anna Gunn Martha Bullock Martha Bullock Wife of Seth, mother of the late William. School teacher in Deadwood.
Jeffrey Jones A. W. Merrick A. W. Merrick Editor of camp's press, The Deadwood Pioneer.
Pavel Lychnikoff Blazanov Unknown/No Basis Operator of Deadwood's telegraph service.
W. Earl Brown Dan Dority Dan Doherty Henchman to Al Swearengen at the Gem. Part of Al's inner circle.
Titus Welliver Silas Adams Unknown/No Basis Negotiator for Swearengen. Part of Al's inner circle.
Sean Bridgers Johnny Burns Johnny Burns Gem Saloon worker/henchman. Part of Al's inner circle.
Larry Cedar Leon Unknown/No Basis Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union.
Peter Jason Con Stapleton Con Stapleton Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union.
Keith Carradine Wild Bill Hickok Wild Bill Hickok Famed gunslinger of the Old West.
Geri Jewell Jewel Caulfield Unknown/No Basis Disabled cleaning woman at the Gem.
Keone Young Mr. Wu Tong leaders Representative for the Chinese population of the camp; owns a pig pen and laundry.
Bree Seanna Wall Sofia Metz No Basis Adopted daughter of Alma Garret; sole survivor of an attack on her family.
Garret Dillahunt Jack McCall Jack McCall Unemployed, classless camp member, murderer of Wild Bill Hickok.
Richard Gant Hostetler Unknown/No Basis Literate black livery owner.
Josh Eriksson William Bullock Loosely based on Douglas Kislingbury Stepson of Seth Bullock; biological son of Robert (Seth's brother) and Martha Bullock.
Sarah Paulson Miss Isringhausen Unknown/No Basis Tutor to Sofia Metz/ Pinkerton agent.
Franklyn Ajaye Samuel Fields Samuel Fields Self-proclaimed Union Army General (the Nigger General); keeper of horses.
Ray McKinnon Reverend Smith Henry Weston Smith Minister of Deadwood.
Alice Krige Maddie Unknown/No Basis Madam of the Chez Amis.
Zach Grenier Andy Cramed Andy Cramed Gambler who brought smallpox to Deadwood, later minister of the camp.
Leon Rippy Tom Nuttall Billy Nuttall Owner of Nuttall's #10 Saloon.
Stephen Tobolowsky Commissioner Jarry Hugh McCaffrey Commissioner for Lawrence County, Dakota Territory.
Ralph Richeson Pete Richardson Unknown/No Basis Cook at the Grand Central.
Michael Harney Steve Fields Unknown/No Basis One of numerous camp drunks. Takes over livery stable when Hostetler leaves camp.
Gerald McRaney George Hearst George Hearst Successful California businessman and prospector.
Gill Gayle The Huckster Soapy Smith Con man, known for his prize soap sell swindle.
Gale Harold Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp Legendary lawman from Dodge City, Kansas, works a timber lease.
Brian Cox Jack Langrishe Jack Langrishe Flamboyant stage promoter.
Alan Graf Captain Joe Turner Unknown/No Basis Enforcer and bodyguard of George Hearst.
Cleo King Aunt Lou Lucretia Marchbanks George Hearst's personal cook.
Omar Gooding Odell Unknown/No Basis Son of Aunt Lou.
Brent Sexton Harry Manning John J. Manning Bartender at the Number 10 Saloon; running for sheriff.
Austin Nichols Morgan Earp Morgan Earp Brother of Wyatt Earp, works a timber lease.
Jennifer Lutheran Jen Unknown/No Basis Gem Saloon prostitute and friend of Johnny Burns.
Monty "Hawkeye" Henson Hawkeye Unknown/No Basis Assistant to Silas Adams


The series was created by David Milch, who was executive producer, head writer and show runner throughout its 36 episodes. Gregg Fienberg and Mark Tinker were the series' other executive producers. Tinker had previously worked with Milch on NYPD Blue. Fienberg was a co-executive producer and unit production manager for the first season before becoming an executive producer for the second and third seasons. First season producer Scott Stephens was promoted to supervising producer and unit production manager to take over Fienberg's role.

Story editor Regina Corrado, producers Ted Mann and Elizabeth Sarnoff and supervising producer Jody Worth were the other main writers. Tinker, Fienberg, producers Ed Bianchi and Davis Guggenheim and Steve Shill were the main directors.


Milch has pointed out repeatedly in interviews that the intent of the show was to study the way that civilization comes together from chaos by organizing itself around symbols (in Deadwood the main symbol is gold). Initially, he intended to study this within Roman civilization (the central symbol was to be the religious cross), but HBO's Rome series was already in production and Milch was asked by the network if he could stage the story in another place.[7] The need to make the narrative tie to Milch's vision of society may account for why historical divergence occurs at times.

Although the series touches on a variety of issues including race, prostitution, misogyny, violence, politics and immigration, most of the major story lines are grounded in this issue of bringing order from chaos. The series can be conceptually framed by the major plot points that govern the changing status of the city:

  • Law in Deadwood: In the first season, the major focus of the story is on the rivalry between Swearengen and Bullock. Swearengen governs the camp like a warlord and Bullock is the only significant opposing voice. By the end of the season, a compromise is brought in where law stands in the town, albeit with concessions.
  • Politics in Deadwood: Toward the end of the first season and governing the second and third seasons, the status of Deadwood within the United States becomes the most critical issue. A variety of business and political forces repeatedly push for either sovereignty or absorption into other territories or towns. The show takes great pains to show the corruption of the political interests and their ability to employ a level of violence matching Swearengen's.
  • Business in Deadwood: Initially foreshadowed by Cy Tolliver's arrival in Deadwood in the first season, business interests from beyond are studied at length. As with politics, the show juxtaposes Swearengen's violence with that of Tolliver and George Hearst. Whereas Swearengen is overtly brutal, Hearst masks his involvement in apparently random attacks and violence.
  • Architecture in Deadwood: The buildings progress from crude walled tents at the outset of the first season to more elaborate buildings by the second season with key structures getting fitted with window glass.
  • Power in the United States: In short, the series accurately depicts the role of entrepreneurial vice lords in generating political communities. Swearengen is shown dispensing patronage like a typical "political machine boss" which is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Saloons were sometimes used for political debates, criminal trials and assorted other gatherings. Infamous councilmen in Chicago's Levee District, for example, were concurrently saloon owners, gang bosses and pimps. Gangs could be counted on to "get out the vote" of whichever immigrant community with which their boss had sympathies or connections.
  • The changing nature of the American West: The series follows the dying days of the 'Wild' West, as the rugged individualism that drove people like Seth Bullock to set up in the camp is undone and replaced by corporate capitalism, bigger government and the corruption inherent in either structure. Eventually, the camp is changed entirely, with individual prospectors moved out and all the local gold mining consolidated into George Hearst's holdings.

Notable plot points

Season 1 (2004)

Deadwood Season 1 DVD

In 1876, Seth Bullock leaves his job as a Marshal in Montana to establish a hardware business in the gold-mining camp of Deadwood, along with his friend and business partner, Sol Star. Wild Bill Hickok, the infamous gunslinger of the west, is on a separate journey to Deadwood, accompanied by Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane.

Al Swearengen is the owner of The Gem, a local saloon and brothel. Other notable residents include Dr. Amos Cochran; A. W. Merrick, owner and editor of the local newspaper "The Pioneer"; and E.B. Farnum, proprietor of The Grand Central Hotel. Brom Garret, a wealthy businessman from New York City, lives at The Grand Central Hotel with his wife, Alma, who nurses a secret laudanum habit. Aware that Garret is interested in prospecting, Swearengen and Farnum deceive him into purchasing a gold claim in a confidence game. Newly-arrived Cy Tolliver and his entourage purchase an abandoned hotel across from The Gem and begin renovations, then open the Bella Union Saloon, a luxurious gambling house and brothel.

Brom Garret soon learns that his gold claim is worthless and demands Swearengen reimburse his money. Swearengen orders Dan Dority to kill Garret and "make it look like an accident." Dority throws Garret off a cliff, only to discover that the claim is actually a rich one after all. Newly widowed Alma Garret asks Wild Bill Hickok for guidance regarding the gold claim and Swearengen's renewed interest. Hickok asks Bullock to advise Garret; Bullock agrees. Hickok suggests that Garret hire Whitney Ellsworth, a trustworthy and experienced prospector. Alma Garret takes custody of young Sofia Metz, whose family was murdered on the way back to Minnesota.

During a poker game, Wild Bill Hickok is murdered in Tom Nuttall's #10 Saloon by Jack McCall. When McCall is put on trial, Swearengen leans on the acting magistrate, suggesting that McCall must be acquitted to avoid scrutiny from Washington, D.C.. The judge cuts the trial short and the jury acquits McCall, who leaves town immediately after the verdict. Bullock pursues McCall, determined to bring him to justice. Bullock and Charlie Utter later find McCall hiding at a boarding house and take him to Yankton for trial.

Smallpox spreads in Deadwood, creating an urgent need for vaccines. The afflicted are segregated from the main camp in plague tents. Calamity Jane aids Doctor Cochran in caring for the sick.

The senior members of the community form a municipal government to prepare for future annexation, as well as to bribe the territorial legislature, thereby ensuring the security of existing titles, claims and properties. Swearengen bribes local Magistrate Clagett to quash a murder warrant.

Alma's father Otis Russell arrives with plans to secure Alma's new-found wealth in order to pay off his endless debts and fulfill his own greed. The U.S. army arrives in Deadwood and a parade is quickly organized. Bullock confronts a self-confident Otis Russell in The Bella Union. When Russell threatens the safety of his own daughter should Bullock stand in the way of his acquiring the gold claim, Seth unceremoniously beats him and orders Russell to leave the camp.

The increasingly addled Reverend Smith, dying from an apparent brain tumor, is smothered to death by Al Swearengen in a mercy killing. Tolliver attempts to bribe General Crook to leave a garrison in Deadwood but is indignantly refused. When Magistrate Clagett attempts to extort Swearengen further over the murder warrant, Swearengen responds by enlisting Clagett's toll collector, Silas Adams, to murder Clagett. Silas performs the deed and allies himself with Swearengen, becoming his agent. As Sheriff Con Stapleton has been compromised by Cy Tolliver, Bullock volunteers to become the new sheriff as the cavalry rides out of town.

Season 2 (2005)

Deadwood Season 2 DVD cover

When Swearengen publicly disparages Bullock's abilities as sheriff, intimating that Bullock's focus is not on his job due to his affair with Alma Garret, Bullock removes his gun and badge and Swearengen and Bullock fight, accidentally falling over the Gem balcony. Al is about to slit Bullock's throat in the muddy street, but stops after looking up to see Bullock's wife Martha and her son William arriving in camp. Bullock tells Alma they must either leave camp or stop seeing one another. Garret agrees that it is better to end the relationship and remain in town. Calamity Jane resurfaces and manages to support Bullock and Utter in persuading Swearengen to return Bullock's gun and badge. A truce is made. Garret discovers she is pregnant by Bullock and confides in Trixie, who persuades Ellsworth to make a marriage proposal to Garret and influences Garret to accept the proposal in order to save her the humiliation of unwed motherhood.

Swearengen collapses in his office with the door locked. His concerned associates assume that he wants to be left alone, but as the day passes their alarm grows and they finally break into the office. Dr. Cochran diagnoses Al with kidney stones and performs a draining procedure. Swearengen eventually passes the stones, but has a small stroke in the process.

Joanie Stubbs opens her own brothel, The Chez Amis, with her newly arrived partner Maddie. Francis Wolcott, a geologist working for George Hearst, arrives in Deadwood and soon makes his presence felt at the Chez Amis. Wolcott has paid for transportation of most of the prostitutes, in order to cater to his selective tastes. Cy Tolliver learns of Wolcott's sexual proclivities and baits him, resulting in Wolcott murdering two of Joanie Stubb's prostitutes. When Maddie attempts to extort money from Wolcott, he kills her too. Cy Tolliver has the bodies removed and pardons Wolcott. Joanie sends the remaining girls away so that they will be safe from the murderous Wolcott. Joanie confides in Charlie Utter regarding the murders, extracting a promise that he never repeat the information.

Alma fires Miss Isringhausen, Sophia's tutor. Isringhausen turns to Silas Adams under the pretext of fear for her life at the hands of the Widow Garret, and they embark upon a relationship. Isringhausen convinces Adams to allow her to meet with Swearengen. At the meeting, she admits to being an agent of the Pinkertons under the employ of Brom Garret's family, who instructed Isringhausen to frame Alma for soliciting Swearengen to murder her husband. Swearengen agrees to play along, but later reveals to Garret that he intends to blackmail Isringhausen due to his hatred for the Pinkerton agency.

Samuel Fields, "The Nigger General", returns to camp. He tries to enlist Hostetler in his schemes. Bullock is forced to rescue him from an angry mob headed by the oft-drunk, virulently racist Steve. Later, Hostetler catches a drunken Steve in the livery stable masturbating on Bullock's horse in revenge. Fields' and Hostetler manage to coerce Steve into signing a written confession of bestiality. The admission will be publicized should Steve make any trouble for either of the livery workers in the future.

Hugo Jarry, a Yankton commissioner, tries to persuade Swearengen and Tolliver that Deadwood should become part of Dakota territory rather than Montana. He ends up siding with Swearengen.

Alma Garret enlists the help of Sol Star to establish a bank in the camp.

Wolcott's agent, Lee, burns the bodies of Chinese prostitutes who have died from malnourishment whilst in his remit. Mr. Wu is enraged and requests Swearengen's help to stop Lee. Because Lee is employed by Wolcott, who is in turn employed by George Hearst, Swearengen refuses any help until after negotiations over the town's future have been resolved. Mr. Wu escapes house arrest at The Gem, but is stopped by Johnny Burns just in time from exacting his revenge or being killed.

William Bullock is trampled by a horse that escapes during a failed gelding. The boy dies several hours after. His funeral is attended by many of Deadwood's citizens and the service is conducted by former card sharp Andy Cramed, who has returned to Deadwood an ordained minister.

George Hearst arrives in Deadwood and when he learns of the murders committed by Wolcott, confronts and fires him. Hearst purchases the Grand Central hotel from E. B. Farnum. The shamed Wolcott hangs himself. Tolliver claims to be in possession of a letter of confession in which Wolcott states that Hearst was aware of his murderous ways, yet continued his employment. Tolliver blackmails Hearst for 5% of every Gold Claim he has acquired in Deadwood.

Al Swearengen negotiates with George Hearst on behalf of Mr. Wu, and they agree that Wu can regain his status if his people prove to be better workers than those of the "San Francisco cocksucker" Lee. Mr. Wu and Swearengen's henchmen plan vengeance in Deadwood's Chinatown. The operation is successful and Wu slits the throat of his rival.

Alma Garret and Ellsworth marry at a ceremony conducted by Andy Cramed at the Grand Central hotel. After much dealing and double-dealing on the part of Swearengen and Silas Adams, the official papers confirming Deadwood's annexation into Yankton territory are signed by Bullock and Swearengen with Hugo Jarry present. Andy Cramed stabs Tolliver outside the Bella Union.

Season 3 (2006)

Deadwood Season 3 DVD cover

Hearst murders several of his own Cornish miners when they attempt to unionize. Elections are announced: Star and Farnum run for Mayor, while Bullock and barman Harry Manning compete for Sheriff. Angered that Hearst had someone killed in the Gem, Al cancels the election debates in an attempt to reassert his position in the camp. To teach Al a lesson and force him to help Hearst buy Alma's claim, Hearst has his lead henchman Captain Turner restrain Al, then chops off one of his fingers.

Over Ellsworth's strong objections, Alma meets with Hearst to discuss buying her claim. Hearst becomes furious when she offers him a merely non-controlling interest and behaves menacingly towards Alma, but then allows her to leave without following through on his implied threat of rape.

Tolliver slowly recovers after being stabbed and gets back on his feet. Hearst knows Cy is lying about having a letter from Wolcott but decides to employ Cy to help deal with the members of the camp. Traveling actor Jack Langrishe arrives in Deadwood with his theatre troupe. He is an old friend of Swearengen's and eventually buys the former Chez Amis from Joannie Stubbs on condition that he build a new school house for the camp's children. Alma has Doc Cochran perform an abortion after her health takes a serious downturn and she and others decide it's best for all concerned.

Hostetler and Samuel "The Nigger General" Fields return to the camp to find that Steve has taken over the livery. Bullock mediates between them, eventually getting Hostetler to agree to sell the Livery to Steve. Steve's ranting, racial slurs and impugning of Hostetler's honor finally drive the latter over the edge and he shoots himself.

Another miner is killed. Already angry from the Hostetler/Steve ordeal, Bullock arrests Hearst, drags him by the ear through the public thoroughfare and puts him in jail overnight.

Alma is once again using dope. Leon confesses to Cy that he is Alma's supplier. Cy relays this news to Hearst but Hearst is still angry from his encounter with Bullock and believes that if Tolliver had told him this useful news beforehand he might not have provoked the sheriff. A furious Tolliver tells Leon to do nothing, but Leon, afraid of being implicated in Alma's murder, has already cut her off. Suspecting that Alma's return to drugs is due to her unhappiness at being married to a man she doesn't love, Ellsworth moves out of their house. They later agree to separate and Alma is able to stop taking the laudanum.

Hearst brings a large force of Pinkertons to the camp and encourages them to stir up trouble. Swearengen holds a meeting to decide what to do about Hearst. The town leaders are unable to decide on any direct action, other than to publish a letter from Bullock to the wife of one of the murdered miners that subtly highlights Hearst's callousness. Hearst has Merrick beaten for publishing it.

Alma is shot at in the street. Swearengen takes her into the Gem and orders Dan to kidnap and restrain Ellsworth. He guesses correctly that Hearst ordered the shooting in an attempt to provoke Ellsworth, then kill him when he comes to Alma's aid. Hearst sends his second to negotiate with Swearengen; Al kills him after extracting information. The town unites to protect Alma as she returns to work at the bank. Hearst has Ellsworth assassinated in his tent at Alma's mine. Trixie shoots Hearst in revenge for Ellsworth's death but fails to kill him. Fearing for her and Sophia's lives and unwilling to make the camp responsible for her protection, Alma sells her claim to Hearst to avoid further bloodshed.

Bullock receives discouraging news about the county election returns in his race for sheriff against Harry Manning, all the while knowing Hearst may have manipulated the results using Federal soldiers brought in to vote for his handpicked candidate elsewhere in the county.

Hearst demands that the whore who shot him be murdered. Swearengen and Wu gather a militia in case a war breaks out. Al murders the prostitute Jen despite Johnny's objections, in the hope of passing her corpse off as Trixie's in order to placate Hearst. Hearst believes the ruse and leaves Deadwood, giving over control of "all his other-than-mining interests" to Tolliver. Tolliver, enraged that Hearst is cutting him off, takes his frustrations out on Leon by stabbing him in the femoral artery. He points a gun at Hearst from his balcony and wants to shoot him but instead watches as Bullock sees a smirking Hearst out of the camp.

Season time frame

  • Season 1: Mid 1876
    • The first season of Deadwood takes place six months after the founding of the camp, soon after Custer's Last Stand. Many come to Deadwood with dreams of easy riches; however, new citizens soon find that Deadwood is a lawless place where greed and corruption rule and only the strong, canny, and lucky survive.
  • Season 2: Early 1877
    • One year after the events of Season 1, the camp has become somewhat more orderly and civilized. Deadwood is progressing swimmingly, enjoying many contemporary conveniences such as the telegraph and a bank.
  • Season 3: Mid 1877
    • Six weeks after the events of Season 2, government and law, as well as the interests of powerful commercial entities, begin to enter the town as Deadwood prepares itself for entry into Dakota Territory.

Use of profanity

From its debut, Deadwood has drawn attention for its extensive profanity. It is a deliberate anachronism on the part of the creator with a twofold intent. Milch has explained in several interviews that the characters were originally intended to use period slang and swear words. Such words, however, were based heavily on the era's deep religious roots and tended to be more blasphemous than scatological. Instead of being shockingly crude (in keeping with the tone of a frontier mining camp), the results sounded downright comical. As one commentator put it "… if you put words like 'goldarn' into the mouths of the characters on 'Deadwood', they'd all wind up sounding like Yosemite Sam."[8]

Instead, it was decided that the show would use current profanity in order for the words to have the same impact on modern audiences as the blasphemous ones did back in the 1870s. In fact, in early episodes, the character of Mr. Wu seems to know only three words of English — the mangled name of one character ("Swedgin"), "San Francisco", and his favorite derogatory term for those whom he dislikes, "cocksucka". Wu is fond of the Cantonese derogatory term "gweilo" which he applies to the camp's white males.

The other intent in regards to the frequency of the swearing was to signal to the audience the lawlessness of the camp in much the same way that the original inhabitants used it to show that they were living outside the bounds of "civil society".

The issue of the authenticity of Deadwood's dialogue has even been alluded to in the show itself. Early in the second season, E.B. Farnum has fleeced Mr. Wolcott of $9,900, and Farnum tries to console the geologist:

EB: Some ancient Italian maxim fits our situation, whose particulars escape me.
Wolcott: Is the gist that I'm shit outta luck?
EB: Did they speak that way then?

The word "fuck" was said 43 times in the first hour of the show.[9] It has been reported that the series had a total count of 2,980 "fucks" and an average of 1.56 utterances of "fuck" per minute of footage.[10]

Historical divergence

In addition to the use of fictional characters that interact with historical Deadwood inhabitants, some liberties were taken in regard to known events of the time as well as with places and personalities.

The Grand Central Hotel—a three story, 64-room luxury hotel with steam heat and indoor bathrooms—was built in 1879 by Seth Bullock and his partner after the hardware store he co-owned with Sol Star burned down. The Bullock Hotel continues to operate to this day as a casino.

E.B. Farnum was one of the first residents who was neither a miner nor prospector; he was the owner of a general store, not a hotel. He was married with three children when he arrived in Deadwood. He was very active in convincing the Dakota Territories to officially recognize the town and establish a nearby Army post, contrary to the series which had him oppose it under the sway of Al Swearengen.

Wild Bill Hickok's funeral was not, as the series suggests, a sparsely attended affair. Charlie Utter was away when Hickok was killed, but he returned and claimed the body. He placed an advertisement in the local paper and attended the funeral.

Gem Theater, referred to in the series as the Gem Saloon, was not built until April 7, 1877, the second of Al Swearengen's establishments. In 1876 when Bullock and Star arrived, Swearengen ran a small establishment called the Cricket Saloon, which featured bare-knuckle boxing among miners, as well as dog fights and cock fights.

Charlie Utter was unlike the show's somewhat unkempt man, uncomfortable in urban settings. He was known for the pride that he took in his appearance. He dressed in hand-tailored suits and kept his long blond hair and mustache well-groomed at all times, keeping combs and mirrors with him constantly.

Seth Bullock was not married to his brother's widow, but to the woman who was reportedly his childhood sweetheart, Martha, whom he married in Utah in 1874. Robert Bullock was not Seth's brother, but a cousin. He did not have a son at the time when his wife came to join him, but a daughter, Margaret, who was still just a toddler. They subsequently had another daughter, Florence, and a son, Stanley. He deputized several people while sheriff, but not Charlie Utter. He was from Amherstburg (in Canada West at the time of his birth, but Ontario at the time of the storyline), and not Etobicoke as depicted in the series.

Al Swearengen was not originally from England, but Iowa. At the time the story opens in 1876, he was still operating the smaller Cricket Saloon. He was still married to Nettie Swearengen, his first wife (but in keeping with his fictional counterpart, she divorced him on the grounds of mistreatment some time later).

Jane Cannary is never referred to by her nickname "Calamity Jane", though by 1876 she herself had not used anything but her nickname for several years. The show does not make clear that she did not become friends with Hickok and Utter until after they had been in Deadwood for some time. After arriving in Deadwood, she stopped wearing men's clothing and worked for Swearengen at the Gem Theatre.

Critical reception

Deadwood received almost universal praise from critics over the course of its three year run. According to, the third season had near universal acclaim with only one mixed review coming from Newsday's Verne Gay. The praise generally centered on the strength of the writing and Milch's unique style of dialogue. The strength and depth of the casting was cited repeatedly by critics and further substantiated by numerous nominations for best casting in a dramatic series.

Although it did not receive the same level of attention at awards shows as other HBO programs (notably The Sopranos and Six Feet Under), the writers, costume, casting and art direction were repeatedly nominated for major awards. Ian McShane was another major exception to the show's relative anonymity, winning a Golden Globe award in the second season.


On May 13, 2006, HBO confirmed it had opted not to pick up the options of the actors, which were set to expire on June 11, 2006. This meant that a fourth season with the current cast as it stood was unlikely, though HBO had stressed that the show was not cancelled and talks regarding its future were continuing. The chances of the show returning with its current lineup of cast and crew, however, were limited.

On June 5, 2006, HBO and creator David Milch agreed to make two two-hour television films in place of a fourth season, after Milch declined a short-order of 6 episodes. This was because in the show's original form, each season was only a few weeks in length, with each episode being one day, in the town of Deadwood. The final two-hour format would release these time restraints and allow for a broader narrative to finish off the series.[11]

In a January 13, 2007 interview, David Milch stated that he still intended to finish the two films, if possible.[12] On July 12, 2007, HBO executives admitted that producing the telefilms would be difficult and put the chances of their ever being made at "50–50".[13]

Actor Ian McShane claimed in an interview on October 1, 2007 that the show's sets were due to be dismantled and that the movies would not be made;[14] however he was referring to the show-related set pieces, i.e. front added to the buildings, props, etc., the set as itself, "Melody Ranch", being unchanged at least as of 2010.[15] Actors Jim Beaver and W. Earl Brown commented a day later that they considered the series to be over.[16]

In the March 17, 2009 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, McShane repeated that 'Deadwood is dead.'[17]

In a January 14, 2011 interview in Esquire, Milch said "I don't know that the last word has been said on the subject ... I still nourish the hope that we're going to get to do a little more work in that area."[18]

HBO broadcast history

  • Season 1: Sunday March 21, 2004 – Sunday June 13, 2004 10:00 pm
  • Season 2: Sunday March 6, 2005 – Sunday May 22, 2005 9:00 pm
  • Season 3: Sunday June 11, 2006 – Sunday August 27, 2006 9:00 pm

Home video releases

All three seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray. HBO was responsible for the North American releases, while Paramount Home Entertainment handled international distribution—the latter being a byproduct of CBS Studios International (the successor-in-interest to the television unit of Paramount Pictures) handling worldwide TV distribution for the series (as Paramount Television co-produced the series with HBO). Season 3 was released on June 12, 2007. Deadwood: The Complete Series was released on December 9, 2008. This DVD set includes a special bonus disc with new features, most prominently a focus on what would have occurred in the fourth season. The Blu-ray contains the same extras as found on the DVD set.


Opening credits

The Deadwood title song is a piece by David Schwartz.

Closing credits

The closing credits music is listed below:

Season 1

  1. "Hog of the Forsaken" – Michael Hurley
  2. "Creek Lullaby" – Margaret
  3. "Twisted Little Man" – Michael J. Sheehey
  4. "Fallen From Grace" – Mark Lee Scott
  5. "God and Man" – Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry
  6. "High Fever Blues" – Bukka White
  7. "Old Friend" – Lyle Lovett
  8. "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" – June Carter Cash
  9. "Stars and Stripes Forever" – Jelly Roll Morton
  10. "Hog of the Forsaken" – Michael Hurley
  11. "Snake Baked a Ho'cake" – Mike, Peggy, Barbara, and Penny Seeger and their children
  12. "Farther Along" – Mississippi John Hurt

Season 2

  1. "Not Dark Yet" – Bob Dylan
  2. "Business You're Doin'" – Lightnin' Hopkins
  3. "Skin and Bones" – Ann Rabson
  4. "The Fox" – Bill Staines
  5. "Life Is Like That" – Big Bill Broonzy
  6. "Pretty Polly" – Hilarie Burhans
  7. "A Prayer" – Madeleine Peyroux
  8. "Rattlesnake" – "Spider" John Koerner
  9. "Mama's Gonna Buy" – Vera Ward Hall
  10. "Calling All Angels" – Jane Siberry & k.d. lang
  11. "Hey Willy Boy" – Townes Van Zandt
  12. "Stay a Little Longer" – Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

Season 3

  1. "I Got a Razor" – Willie Dixon
  2. "Hole in the Wall" – Brownie McGhee
  3. "Walking the Dog" – Hans Theessink
  4. "Mean Mama Blues" – Ramblin' Jack Elliott
  5. "I'm Going Home" – Bama Stuart
  6. "Daniel in the Lion's Den" – Bessie Jones
  7. "Soul of a Man" – Irma Thomas
  8. "O Death" – Alan Lomax, Bessie Jones
  9. "Did You Ever Meet Gary Owen, Uncle Joe?" (see Garryowen) – Béla Fleck and Tony Trischka
  10. "Dangerous Mood" – Keb' Mo'
  11. "Mad Mama Blues" – Josie Miles
  12. "O Mary Don't You Weep" – Bruce Springsteen

See also


  1. ^ "How do they make them shows on the teevee?". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  2. ^ Singer, Mark (2005-02-14). "The Misfit". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  3. ^ "Deadwood (HBO) – Reviews from Metacritic". MetaCritic. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  4. ^ Chicago Tribune: The saga of 'Deadwood' takes another turn
  5. ^ 'Deadwood' Is Well and Truly Dead – HBO says chances are 'slim to none' for wrap-up movies – Zap2it
  6. ^ Deadwood HBO Series – Facts & Fiction
  7. ^ Sancton, Julian (January 14, 2011). David Milch Does Not Believe in Genres. Esquire. Retrieved on: 2011=06-28
  8. ^ "Obscenity Rap". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  9. ^ Carl Swanson (April 12, 2004). "Cussing and Fighting". New York Magazine. 
  10. ^ Kay, Jeff. "The Number of Fucks In Deadwood". West Virginia Surf Report. Retrieved May 25, 2007. 
  11. ^ "'Deadwood' to return". Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  12. ^ "Milch: 'Deadwood' Movies Still Alive".;title;0. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  13. ^ "Deadwood: Are the Two Wrap-up Movies Dead?". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  14. ^ "Ian McShane Tells Cinematical HBO Has Scrapped Those 'Deadwood' Movies". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  15. ^ "The Town - Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio". Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  16. ^ "'Deadwood' regulars react to series' reported demise; Brown: 'I guess the horse is dead'". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  17. ^ "Ian McShane – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 03/17/2009 – Video Clip | Comedy Central". 2009-03-17. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  18. ^ Julian Sancton (2011-01-14). "David Milch Does Not Believe in Genres". Retrieved 2011-01-30. 

External links

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