Sunday, April 17, 2005

Staying Up Too Late Watching TV on a School Night

Fucking cocksucking cunt-lapping great show

Let us now declare ourselves knocked-out drooling fanboys of that cocksucking Deadwood show.

The Conversion Moment came during tonight's epsode. Actually there were two Conversion Moments, the second confirming a momentary impression raised during the first.

I began to believe that I was watching something on a higher plane during the scene where the hotel proprietor and ineffectual Deadwood mayor E.B. (played by Larry-with-the-two-brothers-named-Darrell-on-the-second-Bob- Newhart-Show), spitting mad at his exclusion from a meeting of Deadwood's movers and shakers, raged like a demented Lear on his front porch at the closed doors across the street. His exaggerated gestures are nothing less than theatrical, as if directed by Akira Kurosawa. That is, his speech, manners and gesticulations literally belong on the stage, not on the Small Screen. Hmmm, thinks I, what giveth?

The second moment came minutes later, when the long-suffering Al Swearengen, embodied memorably by Ian McShane, is seen speaking in close-up. His speech reveals, in elegant Victorian periods punctuated by his usual guttural obscenities, his inner monologue -- hitherto hidden truths of the plot are revealed through his ratiocination. As the camera pans back away from his ravaged face, it reveals an empty room -- empty, that is, until it becomes apparent that Swearengen is addressing his entire speech to a package wrapped in brown paper, sitting on a chair, with which (his declamation reveals) he intends to further the plot. That is to say, we are receiving Swearingen's mental processes through a speech delivered to no one but himself, which is something modern dramatic writers long ago learned to avoid doing, as counter to the dictates of Naturalism.

It was, in the most scholarly sense, a soliloquy.

Now, two points to be made here.

First, When was the last time you saw an actual soliloquy being delivered by a character in a major television program?

Second, and I think a more subtle point: The show is written with a commandingly perceptive and sympathetic ear for Victorian diction. By this, I don't mean that I'm blown away by the complex sentences uttered by the characters; plenty of contemporary drawing-room dramas exhibit equally subtle and attention-demanding dialogue; no, what I mean is that the characters in Deadwood are so fully realized that their speech reflects their individual intelligence and subtlety. That is to say, some characters speak beautiful Victorian English, commensurate with their clarity of thought and the acuity of their understanding of their circumstances; other characters -- chiefly more minor ones like the pimps' seconds who surround Swearengen and Tolliver -- speak an unnatural, muddled and clumsy version of it.

The show's producers have a deep understanding of something I've only intuited for some time: The people of the 19th Century had only the stage and the printed page to provide them with cues and blueprints on how to act in the world. The more acculturated they were, the more sophisticated they were able to make themselves appear to their contemporaries. Subtlety of speech was sexy -- only look at the Widow Garrett's cool and measured kiss-off to Swearengen in tonight's episode -- smokin' hot! Those who only acquired their acculturation at secondhand, -- who imitate rather than invent -- appear less elegant; and the farther the characters dwell from the stage and literature, the more mannered they are.

As you watch the show, watch for the characters who appear to be stiffly reciting lines, bad actors in a play they don't understand. That's directed at us. How many among us get by every day by repeating punch-lines we heard and noted on yesterday's Jon Stewart Show?

You go, girl!


Roberta T. said...

Oh, hooray! Someone else who hears the elegance and not just the fucking cocksuckering. I am validated! And I really like your point about the graduation of elegance.

Anonymous said...

Swearingen was talking to a dead Indian's head that was in the box.
Deadwood is such a good show, Congress should pass a law that your wife can't talk to you during the show or your miss the richness of all the dialogue.

johnhill said...

I once saw a political cartoon from a small, provincial newspaper of the 1890's.

It played upon the plot of Timon of Athens. I can't see paper today assuming that its readers would know the plot of Timon of Athens.

Jeremy said...

Golly. What is this show? And will we ever get it in Yurp?