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We talk a lot about great shows that were prematurely cancelled – Sense8 anyone? – but one of the most tragic cancellations in my lifetime was slow-burn hit Deadwood.
This is how the real Wild West was – a violent bacchanal of sex, gunfights, fistfights and heavy drinking, its bloody, muddy streets populated by uncouth, desperate men and women seeking their fortune during the Dakota gold rush of 1876.
David Milch’s epic Western is regularly namechecked as one of the best TV shows ever, ranking 23 in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Shows Of All Time.
It is also regularly namechecked along with Firefly, Carnivale, Party Down, Arrested Development and Freaks And Geeks as a series cruelly cut short before its time, cancelled after its third season yet with rumours of a Deadwood revival movie refusing to die.
Like its superlative stablemate Rome, its prohibitive production cost contributed to its cancellation. However, the critics were and continue to be enthralled.
“After watching the pilot episode of Deadwood, I got up, lowered the blinds, dimmed the lights and burned through the rest of the DVD in a fugue of wonder and excitement,” wrote New York Times critic Allesandra Stanley.
“I didn’t leave the series until the next day, staggering limply into the harsh sunlight like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend.”
Now here’s why YOU should love it, too.

What it’s about

When gold is discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota, thousands flock to the region to find their fortune. An illegal gold town springs up almost overnight … attracting gamblers, gunslingers, gold hunters, outlaws and businessmen. One man seeks to control it all – saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane).

Five reasons why you should watch Deadwood

  1. Ian McShane.
    We recently saw him as “Mr Wednesday” in American Gods and as a pacifist priest in Game Of Thrones, but the Lovejoy star’s true tour de force was as saloon owner, whoremaster and unofficial frontier town kingpin Al in Deadwood.
    He is the magnificent hub around which the marvel of Deadwood revolves.
  2. Al is based on a real-life person.
    So is Sheriff Bullock, Will Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and more. Even Al’s place of business the Gem really existed.
    The Bullock Hotel, built by Seth Bullock, stands to this day.
    There’s authenticity dripping out of every conversation, every scene, every card game, every set in Deadwood.
  3. Deadwood itself.
    Like Al, Bullock and Hickok, the town of Deadwood was real, shining brightly albeit briefly in Wild West history. The producers do a magnificent job of bringing Deadwood to life. It’s the unofficial star of the show.
  4. The language.
    Deadwood could just be – scratch that, IS – the sweariest show on TV. If you had a dollar for every mention of a certain C-word you’d be a rich man. (Actually, you wouldn’t. But you would have about 273 dollars.)
    The f-bomb is also dropped close to 3000 times.
    Besides that, the dialogue is a magnificent combination of high Shakespeare and low saloon talk. Al’s profanity-laden conversations with Wu (“hang dai!”) are worth the price of admission alone.
    Al’s monologues are also eminently quotable. Such as: “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair, or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you’ve got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man … and give some back.”
  5. It was ahead of its time.
    Boxset bingewatching? Shows like Deadwood and The Wire virtually invented it. The 2004 series helped herald the new Golden Age Of Television, started by 1999’s The Sopranos and including The Shield, Buffy The Vampire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and much more.

    My new thriller Game Of Thrones: The Spartan is now available here and as Print On Demand here.

Are your friends “raven” about your fan knowledge of Game of Thrones? Or, like Jon Snow, do you know nothing about George R.R. Martin’s fascinating world? Take our GOT challenge and find out just how well you know Westeros and its stars.

What song did they play at the “Red Wedding”?

a) The Eternal Duty of The Knights Watch
b) Wrecking Ball
c) The Rains Of Castamere
d) The Bear And The Maiden Fair

What is Tyrion Lannister the unofficial god of?

a) Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things
b) Tits and Wine
c) Dwarves, Drunkards and Unwanted Sons
d) Disco

What are the names of the Stark dire wolves?

a) Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, Prancer, Rudolph
b) Rebel, Standfast, Lady, Proudmane, Osha
c) Toto, Astro, Cujo, Benji, Lassie
d) Lady, Ghost, Summer, Nymeria, Shaggydog, Grey Wind

Why does Jon Snow “know nothing”?

a) He never knew his real mother
b) He didn’t finish high school
c) He doesn’t understand women
d) Internet connections in Westeros are spotty at best

What does the “R.R.” in Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin stand for?

a) Ronald Reagan
b) Raymond Richard
c) Ronald Reuel
d) Richard Ryan

What does “Valar Morghulis” mean?

a) Valour is its own reward
b) Do you want fries with that?
c) All men must die
d) We are the watchers on the Wall

What is Ned Stark’s sword made out of?

a) Mithril
b) Adamantium
c) Damascus iron
d) Valyrian steel

Complete this sentence: “the night is dark and full of …”

a) Candy
b) Terrors
c) Turnips
d) White walkers

What are the names of the Khaleesi’s three dragons?

a) Balerion, Vhagar, Meraxes
b) Sunfyre, Vermithrax, Ghiscar
c) Smaug, Toothless, Puff the Magic Dragon
d) Drogon, Rhaegal, Viserion

Who built The Wall?

a) Bran the Builder
b) The First Men
c) The Nights Watch
d) Pink Floyd

Answers: 1. C; 2. B; 3. D; 4. C; 5. B; 6. C; 7. D; 8. B. 9. D; 10. A.

10 right – Jon Snow
9 right – Tyrion Lannister
8 right – The Khaleesi
7 right – Cersei Lannister
6 right – Arya Stark
5 right – The Kingslayer
3-4 – Hodor
1-2 right – “Stupid” Ned
0 right – Reek

My military thriller The Spartan II is out now.

It was like cool jazz.
The grip of an FBI agent paid to surf.
The secret handshake of slacker Ted.
The touch of saviour Neo.
And the gesture of one of Hollywood’s most interesting actors ever.
It was the day I shook Keanu Reeves’s hand at the Sydney Opera House at The Matrix Revolutions launch in 2003. Then a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald, I had found myself in the VIP section along with co-star Jada Pinkett Smith, producer Joel Silver and Reeves. I spoke to Smith about her Matrix video game (I enjoyed it), saw Paris Hilton at the bar … and then it was on to Keanu.
The meeting was remarkable for several reasons.
Firstly, Keanu looked almost EXACTLY like he does on screen. Having met a who’s who of Hollywood in the flesh, I can tell you just how rare that is. He looked handsome and healthy, his eyes penetrating and full of secret depths.
I congratulated him on the movie and thrust my hand towards his as he lay on a couch. His grip was soft yet strong. Looking into his eyes, I sensed he was a man of deep humanity – an impression only furthered later by learning more about his incredible life and times.
For a second I felt like his bro. I felt like Bill from Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Bodhi from Point Break; Morpheus from The Matrix.
Every meeting one has with an interview subject – particularly a Hollywood star – involves a type of energy exchange. After a killer interview one is left with a type of high, not only if the star has delivered great quotes, but also from the contact with the extraordinary individual themselves. It is almost a type of osmosis: as if we temporarily absorb some of their luminescence, their star power, their charisma.
With Keanu I felt all this and more.
I was recently reminded of our meeting – and his hands – after seeing John Wick 2, seeing those hands in action, striking down bad guys in close-quarters combat or shooting his foes in an excitingly fighting style not seen in recent cinematic memory.
John Wick is the action franchise the world needs right now: the spiritual successor to the Bourne films, a celluloid kinetic explosion of action and intrigue.
“Have you ever walked out of a film so struck by awe and wonder your skin is abuzz?” wrote critic Angelica Jade Bastien.
“Has a film ever left you so joyful and drunk on adrenaline that it made you more hopeful about the world?”
Wise words and true.
Particularly if you’ve shaken the star’s hand.

My new military thriller Game Of Killers is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

  1. Does your oven have at least one umlat in its name? If not, you’re some kind of prole.
  2. Chefs refer to table salt as “shit salt”. Behind your back, they probably refer to you as “shit customers”.
  3. Three glasses of white wine – also known to chefs as “bitch diesel” – will aid your fine motor skills as you chop onions.
  4. Cous cous was invented by the Nazis as a cheap, barely edible alternative to rice.
  5. Chef: “You’ve touched worse things than that.”
    You: “My God … how does he know? He is some kind of SORCERER.”
  6. No, it is not just like a TV cooking show, apart from the comparable levels of shame, fear and ostracism.
  7. Your “hilarious” gluten jokes will die a horrible death when someone says they’re coeliac.
  8. When someone says your spring rolls are “fatty boom-bahs”, remember to scream “Don’t you fat-shame me!”
  9. Have you added pine nuts to everything? Go back and add pine nuts to everything.
  10. No matter how many movies you’ve seen featuring buxom Tuscan peasant women blissfully serving elaborate, time-consuming meals to grateful hordes, no meal tastes better if you’ve cooked it yourself.
    In fact, they taste worse.

    Laugh at any of these jokes? Go on and buy my ebook military thriller The Spartan.
    I know you probably won’t but I always ask anyway.