Why ‘Deadwood’ Is the New ‘The Wire’

No, I haven’t yet seen “Deadwood,” and yes, I know I should.

Most of our favorite shows are in hibernation for the summer. Sure, “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” are around for a bit longer, and “Breaking Bad” and “Louie” are just around the corner, but there are big holes in our life schedule now that used to be filled with “Community,” “SNL,” and “Justified.” In other words: it’s nice outside, but rather than spend time in the fresh air (NOPE), it’s time to catch up with a show you haven’t seen yet on DVD.

For many people over the past three years, that show was “The Wire.” Not a single conversation about “good” TV at a party could go 10 minutes without someone asking, “You haven’t seen The Wire?!” Why haven’t you seen The Wire?!? You’ve gotta see The Wire.” Said person would then offer to loan you their DVDs – and then two other people would repeat the first person’s questions later on. And then, after you watched it, you became the first person. Circle of life.

I was one of those people who “walk[ed] sideways into the thing,” in the words of creator David Simon, who hates people like me (I’m a guy like me!), though somewhat begrudgingly. In retrospect, I can say it was worth it because “The Wire” IS one of the greatest shows of all-time and I loved and admired most everything about it, except Ziggy. But at the time (two years ago), I was exhausted from the constant stream of “WATCH THE WIRE” comments; when you’re incessantly told to do something, you instinctively want to do the opposite.

I’m in the third generation of “Wire” viewers: there are those who watched it “live,” who will tell you about the fact that they watched it WHEN IT WAS ON all the time; there are those who began watching as soon as the DVDs came out, beginning in the mid-2000s; and then there are those who watched because a second generation viewer told them to. At a certain point, and we’re getting closer and closer to this happening, everyone who wants to watch “The Wire” will have watched “The Wire.” (There are those who are never going to, but those people are lost causes; we call them “According to Jim” fans.) The torch, in fact, has already been passed to another underappreciated, brilliant HBO show with an amazing ensemble: “Deadwood,” by that other David, Milch.

“Supposedly” brilliant. Again, I haven’t seen “Deadwood” (I know, I know), but more people have recommended it to me just in the last three months than in the three years prior. (“The Sopranos,” the other AMAZING show that debuted before Internet downloading made watching HBO series all too easy, doesn’t get mentioned as much because I guess people assume everyone’s already seen it? It’s on A&E all the time.) They use the same conversion tactics as “Wire” fans – use of the word “genius,” hype up a singular character (Al Swearengen and Omar Little), say that it’s better than the other show of theirs (For Milch, “Luck”; for Simon, “Treme”) etc. – and admit that although it starts slow, “just plow through the first few episodes and you’ll love it.” But it hasn’t become incessant, to the point of annoyance, yet.

So, this summer, if you’re looking for an old show to watch on DVD, make it “Deadwood.” Let’s all watch “Deadwood,” in fact, before we’re tired of hearing about “Deadwood,” if only because of The Olyphant Factor. Then we can move onto another series to breathlessly talk about next summer. And if you’ve already seen “Deadwood,” might I recommend “Friday Night Lights”?