23rd Apr2020

Is ‘Deadwood’ the Most Underrated TV Show of all Time?

by James Smith

Deadwood only ran for three seasons on the HBO network between 2004 and 2006 but soon became a cult classic. The fact that it was axed so early probably added to the mythical status of the show but there was no doubt that it was one of the most entertaining and well-made shows of the era.

Gritty and dark

The show is set in the American Western town of Deadwood during the 1870s. The show follows the growth of the town over the years and is based on real-life events and characters including Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen played by Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane, respectively. Other historical figures who appear include Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

The show was gritty, atmospheric and violent but received critical acclaim thanks to the strength of the writing and the performances of the cast who helped the movie earn 28 Emmy nominations and eight awards. However, it was not a massive rating’s hit and was not renewed for a fourth season, much to the disappointment of loyal fans. However, it later transpired that the decision had as much to do with corporate wrangling as it did poor ratings.

Deadwood Legacy

Such was the influence of the series, HBO was still selling Deadwood merchandise 14 years after it was cancelled. And there is even a video slot game named after the show. The Deadwood slot is made by No Limit City who also developed the Wild West-inspired Tombstone game. According to CasinoWings, there are several casinos where Deadwood fans can play the game.

The ultimate legacy of the show came in 2019 when the long-awaited Deadwood film project was finally made and released and gave the show a much-demanded conclusion. The film was well-received and finally gave fans of the show an ending worthy of some the best season finales. But it also sparked rumours that the show might be rebooted in the future. Before the movie, it seemed that too much time had passed to revive the show but now, it does not seem like such a bad idea.

Still underrated

It is easy to forget about Deadwood. The lofty status of shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones means it is often overlooked. In truth, it does not have the same wide appeal that those shows enjoyed, but any TV drama that can create and develop so many important and believable characters throughout three seasons while telling such as detailed story deserves a place among the greats.

The show is certainly underrated and there is even an argument to be made that the writing and acting are better than anything produced by the usual suspects in the “Greatest TV Show of All Time” lists. But with only three seasons to refer to, it will always suffer from not proving its longevity. The thing that elevates the likes of the Sopranos is the journey the viewers take with the characters over many years and that sense of loss when its all over.

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