Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Deadwood or, Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Cowboy

I love Deadwood. And as a TV junkie, and would be critic, that is saying something. I don't like mediocre television, and "Deadwood" stands head and shoulders above even my favorites.

The characters are vividly life-like, making real choices, not just playing out parts. The storylines are complex and yet, simultaneously mundane. In short it's awesome. There are however quite a few things about the show that, well, let's say, tarnish the appeal of the wild-west life. Here's my top five.

1. Life expectancy in a wild-west town is pretty freakin' short. -- While in most television shows a place in the main credits generally means you're safe from being offed by this week's baddie, "Deadwood" keeps its viewers (and main characters) on their toes. No one is safe, and death will eventually (and pretty soon) come for us all.

2. My vocabulary isn't nearly big enough (or dirty enough) to be a cowboy. -- David Milch has created his own language with "Deadwood." Having never seen a picture of the man, I can only assume he is the genetically engineered offspring of Richard Pryor and Shakespeare, 'cause that's what his characters talk like. What other show on television brings you five minute soliloquies on the nature of life and feces while the character is scrubbing a blood stain? Genius.

3. Prostitutes come in three flavors: Hooker with a heart of gold, Hooker with a heroin problem, or Hooker with a heart of gold and a heroin problem. -- The most popular option is the second one. While some of the main characters (yep, hookers are front and center in "Deadwood") do have drug problems, most have kicked it (or are trying to). In case I ever meet a hooker, I now know, if she's not a sweetheart, she's probably got some drug problems that are bound to come out eventually. Those silly hookers.

4. Even in the Old West, amongst outcasts, outlaws, and minorities, nobody likes Jews. -- Poor Saul Starr. It's not as if he could hide his ethnic and religious heritage with a name like that. You'd think with so many people running from something, and plenty of other minorities (like Chinese, and Irish) to pick on, that here the Hebrews could find peace. But "Deadwood" shows us that's just not true. Although some Hookers (the heart-of-gold variety) do take a shine to them.

5. Saloon Owner is the be-all-end-all coolest job in the World. -- In reality, this job sort of sucks. You don't make tons of money(especially if you have a dirty bar as presented in "Deadwood"), the clientele are a pain in the butt (and unlike in the show, you can't just kill them and feed them to the pigs. Oh the simple nature of the West), and the Feds are always watching you trying to catch you selling to minors, or not reporting all your income, or (if you own a bar in this area) selling drugs from behind the bar. Al Swearingen makes it look like a position to kill for. He also makes it look like a position you have to kill for. That slicked back hair, handle bar mustache and ever-present bottle of whiskey are all he needs to rule the Gem Saloon (and the town of Deadwood) with an iron fist (although occasionally he employs a knife, too). Incidentally, Ian McShane should win the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series for the rest of his life, even if he's not in a Drama series.

"Deadwood" if you're not watching it, catch up on DVD and then check it out Sundays at 9 central on HBO.