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“Swedgin Doesn’t Give a F***”: Why I Would Rather Re-Watch Deadwood for the Three Hundredth Time than Watch Succession

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 “If you liked Deadwood so much, you’ll LOVE Succession. The language is, like, the same, but they’re way meaner to each other. It’s hilarious.”

That is not a direct quote. It’s an amalgamation of every argument I’ve heard in favor of watching a show that, clearly, has had a pretty impressive run. 

Bunch of Emmys. Great cast. Apparently very well written. I say ‘apparently’ because I’ve never watched past the first three minutes of the pilot. 

Don’t plan to, either. 

Go ahead and take the moment you need to to pull a few tufts of hair out and scream at me a little bit. I’ll wait.

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Alright. We’re back. How could I, you ask? Why am I like this? 

Let’s start here: enough of my daily attention is taken up by rich assholes like the…what’s the name of the family? I’ll just refer to them as the Coxes, I guess. 

Anyway, enough of my attention is taken up by news pertaining to the machinations of the real-life Murdochs, the Kochs, the DeVoses, and the rest of the cretins who make up the Council for National Policy that I don’t have room in my brain for fictional versions of them. 

Second, I don’t care how good the show is if it’s just another look into the super-secret world of the wealthy. 

Oh, there are private jets? Huge, opulent apartments? Fancy offices at the top of tall-ass buildings? I’ve never seen anything like that before! Oh, and what’s that you say? They’re all mean to each other and they’re all broken and unhappy? And we just sit here and watch them be terrible to each other for an hour at a time to decide who wins ‘the prize’ of running the business next? 

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Seriously, give me fifty more shows like Somebody, Somewhere before you give me another minute of content, scripted or reality, about rich people being dicks to each other on camera. 

Third, in no fucking universe does a scenario exist where I’d be okay with being made to feel sorry for a character or cast of characters that has made that much money manipulating their fellow man. Absolutely not. In the words of the matriarch of another dysfunctional family of criminals I’ve come to absolutely loathe after a recent re-watch, “Poor you.” 

So…in honor of the final season of Succession coming out this spring, and with the amused blessing of our intrepid Editor in Chief, I will be recapping and analyzing Deadwood, one episode at a time, for as long as it takes me to get it done.


Because it’s better, that’s why. 

Because Ian McShane is fucking mesmerizing. And so is Tim Olyphant. And Dayton Callie. And Robin Wiegert and W. Earl Brown and Paula Malcolmson. All absolutely unstoppable, playing what they know to be roles of a lifetime. (And Brian Cox, too, so if you’ve only seen him in Succession and maybe Westworld, get your shit together.)

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Because David Milch, at his best, was a screenwriting god. And this is him at his absolute best.

And because this is a story that desperately needs telling, even more today than it did in 2003. 

Because at its core, Deadwood is a show about a few forward-thinking people struggling to overcome their prejudices, their greed, and the rest of their basest impulses in order to try to build a society in the middle of the wilderness—and eventually, struggling against big money interests to keep what they made. 

Because it tries its very best to take a hard, honest look at the ugly, racist, sexist parts of America. It portrays where we came from, and what weird, uncomfortable measures we all had to take to work together under those circumstances.

Because underneath the Olympian feats of foul language that I guarantee you Succession only wishes it could match, the mortifying and unending barrage of racial epithets, the sty full of corpse-eating pigs, the terrifying specter of pre-anaesthetic medicine, and all the drinking and whoring and stabbing you can crack a bullwhip at—underneath all that brutality, it has genuine heart. 

Because, gun to my head, it’s the best television show ever made, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to watch it again. 

Image courtesy of HBO

Heng Dai. 

All three seasons of Deadwood and Deadwood: The Movie are now streaming on HBO Max.