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Deadwood's R.I.P. has fans up in arms
May 24, 2006.
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
HOLLYWOOD—David Milch, the creator of HBO's Deadwood, says the show couldn't have been done on any other network, and that's probably true. Few other outlets have tried Westerns recently, and none has featured a villain like Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), a profane, surreally menacing saloon keeper.
In one scene, Swearengen sweetens a prayer for a butchered pioneer family by blithely informing his patrons of a half-price special on the services of his prostitutes. McShane's portrayal makes Al Pacino's gangster in Scarface seem charming.
Of course, HBO has always taken pride in running apart from the network pack, hence its marketing slogan, "It's not TV. It's HBO.'' But as the abrupt death of Deadwood makes clear, HBO is behaving more like a regular network these days.
HBO revealed this month that, because of money considerations, Deadwood, one of the network's top four original series after The Sopranos, will most likely end its run with the third season, which starts June 11. (It's seen on TMN in Canada.) Although HBO did not cancel the show, it allowed the ensemble cast to pursue other work, effectively spelling the end of the series.
Outraged fans, who were expecting the fourth season, promptly organized a show-saving campaign, with some demanding a "cancel HBO" boycott (for details, see savedeadwood.net).
"I am deeply disappointed by the way things turned out," Milch said last week.
"Not having a fourth season is not the result anyone wanted," HBO boss Chris Albrecht said by phone last week.
But the network was excited about another Milch project, a surfing drama titled John From Cincinnati, and did not believe he would be able to return to Deadwood for some time, Albrecht added. By all accounts, the network did not wish to pay the Deadwood actors' contracts during the months spent waiting.
Milch, who seems genuinely excited about Cincinnati, said that Deadwood is a costly show and does not produce the high ratings Sopranos does.
He confirmed that Albrecht offered to approve six episodes rather than 12 for a Deadwood fourth season — in the TV industry, a "short order."
But the writer-producer rejected that because of bad experiences with short orders on series such as Hill Street Blues. And with that, Deadwood was dead.
The series' puzzling end has left militant fans seeking comfort in the words of — who else? — Swearengen:
"The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man — and give some back."
los angeles times