100 Pilots in 100 Days: Deadwood

When it was originally on: 2004-2006

Original network: HBO

Where you can stream it now: HBO or Amazon Prime (no HBO extension required for Amazon Prime members).

Had I seen it before: No. Well, actually I attempted to watch this pilot on an earlier day in this project and fell asleep in the middle. It was late though, I don’t blame the pilot.

What IMDb says: A show set in the late 1800s, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime.

Why I picked it: Deadwood seems to a fine line between mainstream success and cult favorite. It doesn’t have the legacy of The Sopranos or The Wire, but yet it seems that anyone who’s seen absolutely loves it, including a 92% Rotten Tomato score and 96% audience score (Season 1 is a bit lower at 85%). It’s also a favorite of Kathryn VanAredonk and as I’ve mentioned before, the Appointment Television Podcast is 99% of how I learn about What’s Going On in TV.

I also just like the idea of a western tv show.

What I liked: Umm. Ian McShane is really good in it.

What I didn’t like: I thought this one was a little too ensemble-oriented for its own good. I meet like 8ish characters but I don’t feel any kind of connection to any of them. I’m not invested in what’s going to happen to them in future episodes. I also found it difficult to tell who are going to be major players moving forward and who was just the supporting cast for this one episode. If I had to name anyone as the “leads” I’d say it’s the saloon owner, the sheriff from Montana, and Wild Bill Hickok. But I’m not even sure that’s accurate because apparently Hickok is only in 5 episodes according to IMDb. I suppose it’s possible he’s a lead who gets killed off early on.

I touched on this in my Boardwalk Empire review, but it just seems as though the Deadwood pilot is so focused on its setting that it compromises things like character development and storytelling. It feels more like a series of short stories that are loosely tied together. It’s as though the writers had a list of things Westerns are supposed to have, and they were more concerned with checking those boxes than telling a focused story or developing any characters. Saloon? CHECK. Wagon train? CHECK. Gold rush references? CHECK. Intimidating sharp shooter? CHECK. Fear of Native Americans? CHECK.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: This is is one of those weird cases where I want to watch more precisely BECAUSE I didn’t like the pilot very much. It just doesn’t make sense for a show to be this popular if feels this disjointed for all three seasons. I’d be curious to see what this show does to grow into itself and how quickly it takes.

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