RARA-AVIS: TV stuff: DEADWOOD agonistes

From: foxbrick ( foxbrick@yahoo.com)
Date: 24 May 2006

HBO is really feeling the pinch, I guess.

'Deadwood' creator scrambling to save HBO drama

By Gail Shister

Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

Buddy, can you spare $60 million?

With HBO's Deadwood hanging on by a bootstrap, creator David Milch hopes to raise enough outside cash to save his brilliant - and expensive - western.

"I'm doing what I can," Milch says. "Any financial participation could take the pressure off. HBO hasn't said no... . If I were a gambling guy, which I am, I'd say odds are less than even money."

Milch says he's looking into possible tie-ins with casinos and theme parks as well as with the actual community of Deadwood, S.D. Imaginative marketing, he calls it.

Here's an imaginative marketing thought: If he really gets desperate, Milch could hit up his old Yale fraternity brother, George W. Bush.

Or not.

Deadwood launches its third season June 11. With a huge ensemble cast and lavish period sets, production costs are north of $5 million an episode. A full season's order is 12 episodes.

Milch had always planned on four "chapters" for Deadwood. He says everything was a go for season four when production wrapped about six weeks ago.

Then HBO told Milch it was cutting its offer to six episodes. And it let expire the contract options of the cast, including stars Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Jim Beaver and Molly Parker.

"The actors were as shocked as I was," Milch says. "I don't think there was any calculation or deception on HBO's part, and I'm not saying I was betrayed. I think HBO tried as hard as they could to find a way to make it work. Things changed for them financially."

Milch gets it. Despite critical acclaim, the obscenity-laden Deadwood, set in a lawless mining camp in the Dakotas in the late 1870s, "was not the next big thing in terms of being a Sopranos-sized hit. They needed a number of eyes we weren't providing them.

"That's their business. They have to look at things that way." But producing only half as many episodes for next season? To Milch, that had no six appeal.

"For my part, I did not want to accept a short order. We couldn't have done the work the way we wanted. I didn't want to limp home. My old man used to say, 'Never go anyplace where you're only tolerated.' "

HBO does more than tolerate the mad genius who helped create NYPD Blue, and he knows it. For starters, Milch himself maintains that no other network would have done Deadwood in the first place.

Moreover, Milch is deep into another HBO project - a spring drama called John From Cincinnati, described as "surf noir." Says Milch: "It's pretty strange, I'll say that for it." (And Milch knows from strange.)

Meanwhile, Deadwood has a sliver of a chance for a fourth season, he says, but it would require an extraordinary suspension of disbelief.

"I suppose if there's tremendous disaffection with the [Cincinnati] pilot, the actors would be willing to come back, even if they had taken other jobs.... It's not impossible, but I'm absolutely assuming there won't be a season four."

Bottom line for Milch is the work. He expects the same from his audience. As for HBO, well, that's a Deadwood horse of a different color.

"For me, trying to stay sane is a full-time job without trying to figure out what's going on in someone else's mind."

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