Inside Move: Make a ‘Deadwood’ decision already

Milch ready to bury HBO's oater

So is “Deadwood” officially dead?

That depends, apparently, on whom you ask. After a string of comments indicating that the HBO drama might be riding into the sunset, “Deadwood” creator-exec producer David Milch made his most definitive statement yet this week, telling TVGuide.com that he was pulling the plug on the grisly Western.

“I felt the right decision creatively was to stop now and move forward with the new project,” Milch said, referring to a second potential series he’s working on for HBO, “John From Cincinnati,” a surf drama he’s penning in collaboration with author Kem Nunn (Daily Variety, May 10).

Not so fast, says HBO, which continues to insist that negotiations about future episodes are ongoing and that no final decisions have been made.

Last month, the cabler announced it had released its options on the entire cast, and Milch has told reporters that the show’s economics (a reported $5 million an hour) were making it difficult for HBO to keep it going. He also told several outlets that a shorter order for the fourth season — six as opposed to a full 12 episodes — would be unacceptable.

Milch disclosed to attendees at an event sponsored by the Writers Guild of America on May 25 that each episode required a costly 15-16 days of shooting, about twice as long as the average network drama.

An HBO rep says all is still up for discussion, but Milch’s statement paints a grim picture. Ending “Deadwood” would leave HBO without one of its few remaining buzzworthy dramas with “The Sopranos” slated to sign off next year. Still on the sked are one-hours “Rome” — though it’s not clear when that will be back — and “Big Love,” both of which were renewed for second seasons. Also in reserve is a new season of another critical fave, “The Wire,” and upcoming frosh drama “sexLIFE” from Gavin Polone.

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