Riding high on critical acclaim and a Golden Globe win for lead actor Ian McShane, HBO oater “Deadwood” gallops on to DVD with an impressive six-disc set. This is HBO’s fastest trip yet to homevid for the first season of an original skein. Set arrives a month before the second season debut. That’s plenty of time for fans and newcomers to feast on the dense plotting and complex characters in the first 12 episodes before delving into the next installments.
Series creator David Milch is understandably front and center for most of the set’s bonus features, which are heavy on historical detail. He flies solo on a commentary track for the pilot episode and is interviewed by thesp Keith Carradine during two in-depth featurettes, which explore the series’ language (profane and otherwise) and characters (historical and otherwise).
Creatively, “Deadwood” might be most notable for bucking conventions of the traditional TV Western. Unlike the hits of the ’50s and ’60s there are no obvious heroes or villains here. And unlike TV’s last successful western, the femme friendly “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” no attempt is made to be politically correct.
“Deadwood” femmes are surprisingly multilayered, but the show doesn’t ignore their second class status within the society. Native Americans are viewed solely with hatred and fear, when viewed at all.
Series has also attracted considerable attention for its abundant profanity (no minor feat considering it followed “The Sopranos” on HBO’s Sunday sked) and that topic is addressed on the DVD. Milch defends the language as both historically accurate and a useful dramatic tool to make contemporary auds comprehend the lawlessness of Deadwood.
In his commentary Milch, a TV cop show veteran, discloses the idea for “Deadwood” came out of a desire to explore a place and time where there was a sense of order but no law. He also demonstrates a dry wit and a great wealth of historical knowledge, neither of which should surprise “Deadwood” fans. Commentary also yields the choice tidbit that Calamity Jane, once played on film by Doris Day, has been described by historians as “the most obscene person God had ever made.”
Six cast members are paired up for commentary tracks on three other episodes with the liveliest track coming from McShane and fellow lead Timothy Olyphant on the season finale.