Friday, September 01, 2006

Bad F*&%in Move, I Reckon

I switched on the VMAs last night and found it a generally boring and characterless affair; Ludacris and Pharrell (who I'm sure was lip-syncing) performed a lifeless rendition of "Money Maker," which is a really shit song to begin with. I subsequently tuned out.

Deadwood may be the best television program I've ever seen. Earlier this week or last, I'm sure I called Homicide the greatest TV show of all time, and I stand by that. However, having seen -- no, felt -- the Deadwood Season Three finale the other night, it's definitely unparalleled. Except maybe by Homicide, that is...I guess I'd say that Homicide and Deadwood are the best TV show (singular) of all time.

It's with great sadness, then, that I report that Deadwood probably won't be back for a fourth go-round. David Milch, the genius behind the show, originally drew up the story in four parts, one for each of four seasons, but it now appears that his vision won't be coming to fruition -- at least, that is, not as he intended. Apparently he and HBO have come to an agreement to put out two two-hour movies on the network to wrap up the story; that would amount to one-third of the run-time that a 12-episode season affords. Some people have set up a website to petition HBO, but the odds of that working out seem slim. Ever since I fell in love with Deadwood, I've always wondered how many people it's been able to attract; my buddies who watch Entourage say it's boring and confusing. I say it's masterfully written and beautifully shot, its narrative finely crafted and its scenes packed with tension and energy.

An article I read describing this debacle descibes HBO as "behaving more like a normal network these days." That seems a bit off to me; shouldn't the normal networks be acting more like HBO, and not the other way around? In the past several years, shows like The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Entourage have made a TV with HBO a necessary accessory for college dorm rooms and frat houses. That's significant, because it's the original series, then, that have done most to give HBO the spectacular success that it now enjoys. Rome, Deadwood, and The Wire, HBO's recent dramatic lineup, are all ambitious and utimately risky projects that have helped round out the network's televisual fare, and they're all great in their own right.

When the HBO Original Series brand name became a force to be reckoned with, creatively and commercially, several years ago, I felt part of a new era in television, one where the consumer was empowered to pay a premium to view uncensored and commercial-free programming of a higher quality than practically anything else on network or cable TV. Slowly but surely, thought I, new networks and shows would crop up to compete with HBO, and the fracas would produce a steady stream of wholly original material that would make me pleased with my tube. Instead, Deadwood, the most creative of all, has been assassinated, and I wait to see what will take its place. As The Sopranos crawls agonizingly slowly towards its own resolution, it may be up to The Wire (are they making new seasons of Rome?) to carry HBO drama on its back. Maybe I'll just move on to watching Showtime's The Brotherhood; I've heard good things. Deadwood is gone, and I can't get over it; I haven't been this broken up since Ellsworth got capped.

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