Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Deadwood (HBO)

The pay-cable king's stab at the Western got attention, in the post-Janet era, mainly for its relentless profanity. (People were shocked that a townful of crooks and drunks in a lawless territory talked naughtier than in all those historically scrupulous Hays Code-era movies.) The language did deserve attention, but for the mesmerizing dialogue — half Biblical, half barroom — that David Milch (NYPD Blue) used to render his characters' greed, brutality and nobility. Deadwood's poetry was best expressed in Ian McShane, who gave TV's performance of the year as saloon keeper Al Swearengen, a thoughtful villain of Shakespearean complexity. There was plenty of bad and ugly in Deadwood, but this expansive retelling of America's origin myth was good indeed.