In Brett Martin’s wonderful book “Difficult Men: Behind The Scenes of a Creative Revolution,” the creation of David Milch’s HBO series “Deadwood” seems a potent mix of chance, ingenuity, and years of passionate, hard work. There are the tales: of Milch rewriting entire scenes on-set as the actors wait, stormy dynamics between the writing staff, and of three brilliant seasons of TV before it abruptly ended. But what’s on-screen is just as vivid and fascinating as what occurred behind the scenes, and now a new visual essay takes an involved look at the entire series, and as Milch and co. as “dramatic anthropologists” throughout.
In time for the 10th anniversary of the neo-Western show—and this weekend’s HBO marathon of all three seasons—RogerEbert.com critic and editor-in-chief Matt Zoller Seitz teamed with Hitfix to produce “A Lie Agreed Upon,” a near half-hour investigation into the themes, characters, and influences of “Deadwood.” It charts the show’s beginnings as an ill-timed Roman drama (just as HBO was prepping “Rome” itself), and then a western narrative with gangster film notes following a rather fluid transformation. Seitz and editor Steven Santos also illustrate the historical accuracy, motivations, and vices of characters such as Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), and Alma Garret (Molly Parker).
In Milch’s eyes and in reality, post-Civil War South Dakota was a savage and unrelenting place, but such is the quality and worth of the show that we’re still wrapping our heads around it now. “The show is…a political drama, about how civilization is constructed and maintained,” Seitz writes. “It’s about how things usually happen for reasons of profit, not for the greater good. Sometimes the two impulses intertwine, but not often.
Watch the full video below. The “Deadwood” marathon starts on HBO on Saturday, March 15th at 10:00 a.m. (ET/PT), and wraps up Sunday, March 16 at 10:00 p.m. [via Open Culture]