Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the archives: Behind the scenes, it's giddyap and go

Another day, another trip back into the pre-blog archives, this time for a profile of David Milch circa the premiere of "Deadwood."

15 comments:

M.A.Peel said...

What is David Milch doing now?

EssPee said...

It's unfortunate, but stepping into this particular wayback machine just makes me angry at Milch all over again for abandoning Deadwood (and even those never-materialized "wrap-up" movies) in order to throw himself into the unworthy John From Cincinnati. "It's a liberation and a privilege" -- feh.

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I yesterday finished Milch's interesting book on Deadwood -- in effect a long rambling discourse on the themes he hoped to address. Plus, page-long essays from the actors on their characters and the series. I recommend the book to all fans of the show.
-- Paul

dez said...

"He was a bare knuckle fighter, and for 10 years he was drunk and would fight the other guys and gouge their eyes out and stab 'em, so nobody will be around him."

Hmm, I wonder if this was the genesis of Dan's fight with Hearst's man?

Also, I thought Deadwood was canceled by HBO, not by Milch?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's unfortunate, but stepping into this particular wayback machine just makes me angry at Milch all over again for abandoning Deadwood (and even those never-materialized "wrap-up" movies) in order to throw himself into the unworthy John From Cincinnati. "It's a liberation and a privilege" -- feh.

Blame HBO, not Milch. Milch was being a good soldier here. All those decisions were made way above his pay grade, and he took the fall for them.

ithor6 said...

I blame HBO for the cancellation, but I also blame Milch for not following up with the movies HBO promised him and instead giving us the incomprehensible John From Cincinnati.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I blame HBO for the cancellation, but I also blame Milch for not following up with the movies HBO promised him and instead giving us the incomprehensible John From Cincinnati.

The movies were just as much a lie as the notion that Milch was in such hurry to do John From Cincy that he asked HBO to cancel Deadwood. The minute HBO released the Deadwood actors from their contracts, the chances of a movie being made plummeted to less than 5%. They just announced them to try to quiet the louder-than-expected complaints over the show's cancellation.

Anonymous said...

This is dumb, but I can't remember why HBO cancelled Deadwood.

We've been recording it and rewatching from episode 1, and just feeling sick that this wonderful show ended when -- and the way -- that it did. (The episode we just watched was superb -- beginning with Farnum's "Auspicious commencement to my administration..." )

Sob.

ithor6 said...

Knowing the movies were just a sham to begin with makes me feel a lot worse now. I was really excited when that news was announced, and got increasingly mad when it looked more and more like they were never going to get made. It would have been better just to let it die instead of giving us fans a never to be fulfilled, lingering hope.

Undercover Black Man said...

I believe it was a beef over money -- perhaps foreign revenues -- between HBO and Paramount (where Milch was under contract). When studios get to beefing about money, there's nothing a lowly artist can do.

Maura said...

Thanks for running this, Alan. I know the word is thrown around lightly, but I swear Milch is a genius with dialogue. I didn't watch NYPD Blue regularly, but when I did tune in, it was to listen to the dialogue.

Pandyora said...

@m.a.peel: What is David Milch doing now?

My understanding is that he is developing a cop show for HBO that is based upon the corruption cases that plagued the NYPD in the mid-1970s.

Here's hoping Frank Serpico doesn't levitate or dump out...

EssPee said...

Alan Sepinwall: Blame HBO, not Milch. Milch was being a good soldier here. All those decisions were made way above his pay grade, and he took the fall for them.

Oh, I totally understand there were money issues involved at the network level. At the same time, supposedly Milch declined the chance to make a shortened six-episode final season. This via Tim Goodman's June 2, 2006 column:

Though it might be hard to fault Milch for taking HBO's unparalleled creative freedom and largesse as a ripe opportunity, it's hard to buy into the notion that he had no inkling this one-for-the-other scenario might happen. Also, HBO did offer him a short order of six, instead of 12 episodes. He turned it down. Even if he doesn't like short orders, Milch has been around long enough to know that HBO is nothing if not pliant. Give them six, they'll eventually want 12.

From the outside, it's hard to know whether this is true or not -- but if it is, it's why I'm pissed at Milch. If he really did want to wrap up Deadwood's themes in a fourth season, it's not at all clear how hard he tried to fight for the opportunity, particularly once HBO tempted him with the chance to make his incomprehensible surfer-as-Christ-metaphor vanity project.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Everything I know suggests that there was no way HBO was ever going to make future installments of Deadwood in any form, be it a full season, a half-season, movies, etc. It was too expensive and they were sick of dealing with Paramount on it. Everything else is a smokescreen.

EssPee said...

Alan Sepinwall: Everything I know suggests that there was no way HBO was ever going to make future installments of Deadwood in any form, be it a full season, a half-season, movies, etc.

You're the reporter in the trenches, so I have no way to argue with this. I'll just say that my opinion was based on what you and your fellow critics were reporting at the time. I could be wrong, but I don't recall anyone -- yourself included -- stating this bluntly that it was all HBO's fault and that talk of the movies and the short season was all a "smokescreen."

So I guess I was fooled like many other folks and can now consider myself edumacated on the subject. On the other hand, it still looks like HBO bought Milch's acquiescence, if not outright silence, on Deadwood's untimely death with the JFC deal. I still think that justifies discontent with Milch, who would obviously rather be seen as an artist buffeted by network machinations beyond his control than as a fellow who knuckled under to his corporate overlords.

None of which is to say I won't tune in to Milch's 70s cop show -- I was aggressively lukewarm about JFC, but everyone misfires from time to time. I'd just have rather seen some David Simon-style fight in Milch than the roll-over-and-beg act he seems to have put on.