Friday, March 25, 2005


As there's no real actual good shows on "real" television - and I hate commercials, the messiness of taping stuff, and etc - and since I do so adore HBO's Carnivale, I went ahead and rented the first couple of episodes of HBO's Deadwood.

Watched the first episode last night, and thus far, I'm not terribly impressed.

We're in South Dakota in 1876 with a cast of characters trying to make their fortune in the mining "town" of Deadwood, where there's no law but who's a better draw. There's lots of literal backstabbing, lots of liquor, lots of whoring, as yet very little of the actual prospecting, but lots of dirty people trying to make a living, which I always appreciate in a show.

As yet, nobody's too classically pretty, and they're mostly dirty and occasionally threadbare, which is cool. Episode one also wins for the most times I've heard the word "cocksucker" used in an hour - I think, 26 times. I don't know how historically accurate the frequency of that particular word use is, but hey, I'll go with that one. These are gritty Western boys, they better be talking pretty dirty.

This being a Western set in a mining town, I was also cool with the fact that there wouldn't be many female characters, and those there would be wives or whores, and maybe you'd have the occasional really kick-ass prospector woman who walked into camp with 120lbs on her back and a couple Indian scalps.

That's pretty much what they did: they've got an actress named Robin Weigert playing Calamity Jane, who's our butch heroine... well, er, that is, she's played by a fresh-faced slip of a thing who'll clean up really well when they decide to fem her out and do the "look, she's really pretty!" thing instead of a character actress who has got a little spit and wisdom in her face and some bulk in her body, but she's got a good swagger and her blustering almost convinced me that some of the guys might respect her... that is, when she's not making eyes at Wild Bill Hickok or getting passed off some kid that the guys rescued... (Why the hell would you pass the kid off to Calamity Jane? Cause she's a woman? Looked like they were doing just fine carrying the kid on their own, and town wasn't very far off, but this possee of guys rescued this kid, ran into Jane, and then had her *carry the kid the rest of the way into town with them.* Weird. I think it was one of those instances where the writers reverted to stereotype. Who's to say that Jane had any more idea what to do with a kid than the guys did? )

And so, yea, there's The Gem tavern where more of the liquor and prostitutes are (in that order), and we've got an immediate subplot going on with a gun-toting woman named Tricksy who has a habit of killing her clients. Sounds promising, interesting power dynamics; might go somewhere, might just go cliche (as the episode ended, she was apparently reconciling with her master, but we'll see).

There's also a promising wife to a rich-boy wanna-be prospector guy who's getting himself swindled by all of the locals: right now, she's mostly living on sleep and laudenum, but I can already see how they could play it so her strutting dandy gets axed, and she has to step up and become her own sort of prospector: fragile flower turns to tough heroine in the face of adversity.

Hey, it could happen.

So, there's hope, but I'm not in love with the series, thus far. I'll watch another episode tonight, and see what I think.

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Having only watched the first three (with Karin pregnant and mood-swingy, we both agreed that we were not in a place where we needed a dark, depressing show involving lots of violence and death), I thought that Jane was actually pretty well done. The feel I got from that scene was that none of the guys knew what to do, and they were being men of that time -- "Uh, the woman should do it, and technically, Jane is a woman," and so the kid ends up with Jane in a kind of humorous twist, since the audience looks at her and goes, "Uh, guys, this was the plan?"

Also, she was written as having a softer spot for kids than the others. Could be because she's a woman, but not necessarily.

That said, if you're looking for Jane as the strong female character who makes you feel like television is empowering women, I think you're in for disappointment -- if I recall correctly, when things get bad later in the season, the writers reportedly had a conversation that went, "Should we make Jane be a baddass? No, that would be pretty stupid, given her character so far. She might end up as a badass, but for now, she needs to fall apart."

I don't think they decided to have her fall apart because she was a woman. I think they decided to have her fall apart because of the stuff that happened (which is as spoiler-free as I can make it). 

Posted by Patrick

Anonymous said...

Ah the dangers of living in a post literate age. Sounds like SD in 1840 even 1850's perhaps. But SD of 1876 was getting rapidly very tame. Lot's of fine imported goods, china, cut glass goblets etc. Parties, Plays, Shakespeare done by traveling shows, local Normal schools, lots of immigrants, plenty of ployglots. Banking, finance, some industry (besides mining, and other extractive endeavors). Think more 'Little House' than OK Corral. Our imagined past, ever changing, ever growing more distant. More imagined than real, unless of course you read the tales of the tape. Me, I've never seen it, I've just read about it. Start with 'Little House' that's more like what SD & MN looked like and felt like at the end of the 19th century. 

Posted by VJ