The readers write:
If you have any opportunity to inquire about the Deadwood mini-movies promised for this
summer, we would appreciate it. I'm sure you have heard how everyone is anticipating more of Deadwood -- in any form.
Jacksonville Beach, FL
When HBO canceled Deadwood last year, it promised the story would continue in two movies. Since then, however, HBO has undergone some management changes, Deadwood producer David Milch has gotten wrapped up in the network's surf noir series John From Cincinnati and the movies have pretty much vanished from public discussion -- until Thursday, when TV critics pressed HBO executives on the subject during a Q&A session in Los Angeles. And I'm afraid it doesn't sound good, Toni.
"It is complicated," said Michael Lombardo, HBO's chief programmer. "We don't have have holds on the actors anymore. David is busy doing John...It's doable. It will just be daunting." HBO Co-President Richard Plepler didn't even sound convinced that Milch wants to do the movies. He said even if all the Deadwood actors can be rounded up (many of them have contracts for other films or TV series) there's a question of "whether or not David is fully committed and motivated to getting the script written."
"I spoke to him the other day," added Plepler. "He's obviously exhausted in concluding this project with John. And I think he wants a little time to think about it."
The chances for the movies may hinge in large part on whether HBO decides to pick up John From Cincinnati for a second season. A month ago, that would have been unadulterated good news for Deadwood fans; the mystical and mysterious John was tanking in the ratings despite its heavy promotion during the final weeks of The Sopranos. But Plepler said the show has rallied, with 4.3 million viewers watching the latest episode. "The show is really finding an audience," Plepler said.
It's hard to know how much of that is spin -- Plepler also claimed HBO is happy with the ratings for its phlegmatic sitcom Flight Of The Conchords, which had less than a million viewers last week -- but a renewal for John From Cincinnati seems at least possible, if not exactly likely. If the show is picked up, the HBO bosses said, Milch will have to go right back to work writing new episodes, and the chances for the Deadwood movies shrink considerably.
That, by the way, led to one of the most interesting asides during the HBO presentation. A critic, noting that The Sopranos sometimes went a year and a half between seasons, wondered why a renewed John From Cincinnati couldn't be put on hold until at least one of the Deadwood movies is done. Lombardo said, quite firmly, that the long gaps between seasons of HBO series are a thing of the past.
"Waiting a year and a half between shows, I think we've discovered, is probably not ideal for the viewer," he said. "I think viewers have expressed that to us." That's exactly 190 degrees the opposite of what HBO executives used to tell us when we asked why it was taking so damn long to produce another season of The Sopranos. Back then, they claimed, all the complaints about long hiatuses were from TV critics, not viewers, who didn't care. On Thursday, HBO finally admitted the truth: They were willing to put up with just about anything in order to get another season of The Sopranos from perennially reluctant producer David Chase, but those days are done.
Anyway, bottom line on the Deadwood: not so good. When we asked for odds on whether the movies will ever be made, Lombardo dodged: "I'm not a betting guy." Plepler guessed about 50-50, but his voice seemed pained. You want to see Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen again, my suggestion is to buy the DVD.