It took some time, but David Milch finally wrapped up his magnum opus. Thirteen years after it was untimely cancelled by HBO, “Deadwood: The Movie” provides a fitting conclusion to the foul-mouthed, ultra-violent western series. Given the acclaim from critics and audiences, there would be no more fitting tribute than to send the show off with a writing award for the man who cooked up the whole thing.
Milch is no stranger to the Emmys: his work as a writer and producer on the revolutionary cop drama “Hill Street Blues” brought him seven nominations and one win (Best Drama Writing in 1983), while his own crime series “NYPD Blue” earned him 10 bids and three victories (Best Drama Series in 1994, Best Drama Writing in 1997 and 1998). For “Deadwood,” he contended for scripting the pilot in 2004 and for Best Drama Series in 2005. He competed an additional time for penning an episode of “Murder One” in 1996.
So while he’s certainly been taken care of by the TV academy, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t finally be recognized for the finest work of his career. In telling the semi-true story of an 1800s South Dakota mining town, Milch crafted a bloody, profane and wildly entertaining potboiler. Through his eyes, the wild west becomes a Shakespearean meditation on greed, corruption and mortality. The large ensemble, led by Timothy Olyphant as Marshal Seth Bullock and Ian McShane as saloon-keep Al Swearengen, chew on the writer’s dense dialogue as if it were poetry, creating some of the most complex characters ever seen on television.
Though it takes place 10 years after the events of the third season, the movie ties up the many character and narrative threads that were established in the very first episode. It’s as though Milch, who famously finished every script up to the deadline, handing pages hot off the printers to the actors before cameras were set to roll, were crafting an epic novel, what Charles Dickens might’ve conceived of had he been born in Montana instead of England.
On a personal level, voters may view a writing award as a fitting career achievement prize for Milch, who recently revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis aside, it would be a major acknowledgement for one of the men who helped kick off the new golden age of television and returned over a decade later to create a fitting finale for his most beloved series. So as “Deadwood” rides into the sunset, its creator should get a little gold partner to go along with him.
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