deadwood. . . genius


A Shakespearean monologue delivered mid-blow job. A robber baron channeling spirits. Period detail as studied as dissertation endnotes. A tangled thicket of baroque and blue dialogue. How does HBO’s Deadwood—TV’s finest ensemble drama, which concluded its third and final regular season on Sunday—get away with this stuff? Concealed well behind the camera, Deadwood’s signal performance has been the single-minded creative control of series creator, writer, and executive producer David Milch. Deadwood’s two DVD box sets, packed with Milch sit-downs, asides, and voice-overs, shine a new light on the scope of his ringmaster talents. The DVDs reveal the Milch persona, a throwback figure familiar to English-degree-holders everywhere: the male literary intellectual as hipster shaman. A former Yale and Iowa English lecturer, Milch dresses up his auteurlike compulsiveness with a professorial bearing and impressive erudition, a pose that allows him to effectively advance his idiosyncratic vision for the series. He gets what he wants by keeping the line between perfectionism and egghead narcissism deliciously vague.

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