Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deadwood Knows Commentary


The HBO show, "Deadwood" is not a new thing. It started in 2004, and has finished it's third season. What is new, or relatively rare amongst DVD extras is the quality of the director/creator/actor commentaries that are available on various shows within the DVD. They do something in "Deadwood" commentaries that most other DVD productions have been unable to do- commentate. My idea of good commentary is giving the viewer insight into a world that they have only known within the confines of the show itself. Effective commentary allows the viewer to feel as though they are a part of something more than just appreciating the final product- they are actually involved in the process of creating the art. Ian McShane, William Sanderson, and Paula Malcomson are my favorite participants in "Deadwood" commentary. Most actor commentaries are another opportunity to do some good 'ol fashioned Hollywood ass-kissing. I've listened to some commentaries that were more like an actor's appeal to the director or producer to include them in their next project, than actually giving the viewer any insight into the show. The most dreadful example of a director commentary is William Friedkin's dull narration of, "The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen". The commentary for this recut should be titled, "The Exorcist: The Commentary That Leaves You Comatose". He simply tells you exactly what you are seeing, scene by scene, moment by mundane moment.

The "Deadwood" commentaries don't follow the same strictures that most other commentaries include. Sure, there is the occasional appreciative nod toward David Milch (creator, lead writer), but they don't supply endless praise offerings to the filmdom monarchs that most commentaries provide. "Deadwood" commentary typically made me feel like I was sitting down with the actors, havin' a brew, and enjoying their take on the process of making each scene, or working with the other actors. Paula Malcomson (Trixie) is a delight to listen to. Malcomson and Ian McShane translate their onscreen chemistry into the commentary soundtrack. If you're like me and are drawn to behind-the-scenes footage and commentaries, then I implore you to treat yourself to the, "Deadwood" DVD extras. If you've never watched a director/actor commentary, then "Deadwood" is the perfect introduction. Prepare to be disappointed when you move from a "Deadwood" commentary to the likes of most film/tv commentaries available- the "others" just don't compare.

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