Deadwood: The Complete Series

In this Very Deadwood Christmas, stop only to drink eggnog every time a character says "cocksucker" or gets stabbed in the chest

Slipped Discs

Deadwood: The Complete Series

HBO, $179.97

Not being a member of the tribe that celebrates the birth of Jesus, I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly what makes for the perfect Christmas. I know trees are involved and Charlie Brown and Jimmy Stewart, plus bells, snow, sweaters, Santa, and Irving Berlin (one of ours, of course, but who's keeping score?). And then, of course, there are all those lords a-leaping and maids a-milking and swans a-swimming and partridges in pear trees.

But since we're in America and since we Americans like to create our traditions out of the air, I'd like this year to propose a few additions to the perfect-Christmas wish list: gamblers a-gambling, knives a-dicing, whores a-whoring, and corpse-eating pigs in a pen. Call it A Very Deadwood Christmas, to be celebrated with a nonstop viewing of the HBO show's 36 episodes, stopping only to drink eggnog every time a character says "cocksucker" or gets stabbed in the chest.

This week, all three seasons of one of the finest shows to ever grace the small screen are being released in one set, complete with innumerable extras, including making-of documentaries and historical featurettes on the "real" Tombstone and its influence on the show.

But the real treasures of this collection (beyond the show itself) are the interviews with show creator and head writer David Milch, a brilliant but self-destructive workaholic and former drug addict who earned his stripes writing for Steven Bochco's Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue (which he also co-created) before approaching HBO with an idea about a late 19th century mining camp where there was, as he says, "order but no law." Milch is a type you don't expect to find in television: a thinker who draws on as much human intellectual and artistic experience as possible to create a three-dimensional and contradictory universe, who isn't afraid to reference Sigmund Freud or W.H. Auden or Henry James or the theory of pseudospeciation or the search for God while discussing the psychological ins and outs of the ultraviolent pimps, brutal psychopaths, degenerate prostitutes, and oleaginous toadies scrounging for dominance in his dark little ecosystem. Milch's show is a masterpiece of vulgarity, violence, and Victorian eloquence; his interviews are proof of the boundless possibilities of human curiosity.

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Deadwood: The Complete Series, Deadwood, David Milch

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