'Deadwood' quick draws HBO renewal

HOLLYWOOD — After just two episodes have aired, HBO has renewed its rookie Western series, “Deadwood,” for a second season.

Spurred by critical raves and a strong “Sopranos” lead-in, “Deadwood” wrangled up HBO’s best-ever numbers for a new series premiere.

Renewal is among the fastest in HBO history — pay cabler ordered a second season of “Six Feet Under” before even a single episode of the mortuary drama had aired.

“This is TV you lean forward for, and we have been pleased with it on all fronts,” HBO entertainment prexy Carolyn Strauss said.

Premiere episode of “Deadwood” took in 5.8 million total viewers on March 21, lassoing half a million more than the cabler’s other recent debut, “Carnivale.”

Sunday’s second seg held up well, delivering 4.9 million overall and a 2.5 national rating/7 share among viewers 18-49.

New batch of 12 episodes is scheduled to bow in 2005. Production starts in July.

David Milch (“NYPD Blue”) created and exec produces the show.

“I’m grateful for this vote of confidence,” Milch said. “That it comes early, and without qualification, is typical of the way HBO operates.”

“Deadwood,” set in the lawless Dakota Territory during the 1870s, stars Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Keith Carradine, John Hawkes, Brad Dourif, William Sanderson, Paula Malcomson and Powers Boothe.

Skein is produced by HBO in association with Red Board Prods. and Paramount Network TV.

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