Deadwood TV Poster Image




Vivid Old West drama is way too gritty for kids.
Parents recommend
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2004

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In a lawless era, some characters are struggling to impose order while others take advantage of everyone and every situation. Swearengen is the king of manipulators, and even the "good" guys struggle between right and wrong. Plenty of racism and sexism.

Positive role models

Deadwood's characters are notably realistic and vicious, with characters that drink, smoke, discriminate, swear, and fornicate to a shocking degree. Even the main characters are tragically flawed and commit acts that are hard to watch. Public officials and law enforcement officers are on the take and unreliable, sometimes just as dangerous as Deadwood's criminals. Calamity Jane is a strong woman, but her behavior makes her a questionable role model.


The body count (from accidents, disease, and disputes) is impressive. Murder (often bloody) and gunfire are common. Various depictions of rape and violent sex.


Nudity, vulgar talk, some brutal and blatant scenes (including group and fetishistic sex). Breasts, butts, and male genitalia sometimes visible. Sex is dirty and rough, and prostitution is part of the everyday landscape -- sex was a commodity in lawless Deadwood.


Never has "f--k" (and every other swear word under the sun) been heard so often or used in so many ways. Sailors would blush.


No products, but lots of gambling.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of carousing, smoking, drugs, and drinking. Some characters are addicts.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this harsh, brilliant drama isn't a romanticized Western. It pulls no punches about the brutality of life in the Old West and isn't for kids. Murder, drinking, drugs, and viciousness toward the vulnerable (especially women) are common. People have ugly experiences, use each other horribly, speak with unrepentant racism, and die violently. In its grittiness, however, the show delves deeply into complex, sophisticated themes that might intrigue mature audiences.

What's the story?

DEADWOOD takes place in the late 1870s, just after gold was discovered in the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. Desperate adventurers flocked to Deadwood -- most were trying to reinvent themselves, and many were gamblers, gunfighters, prostitutes, or those who might profit from providing or using those services. As the rough-and-tumble town of Deadwood lurches toward becoming a civilized society, its people (many of whom are based on actual 1870s residents) grapple with change in themselves, as well as how they fit in. The roles of women are especially volatile; both prostitutes such as Trixie (Paula Malcomson) and wealthy widow Alma Garrett (Molly Parker) try to carve out more independence but are affected deeply by the conventions of the times.

Is it any good?


The complexity and stark humanity of the characters in Deadwood -- along with the outstanding writing and outstanding performances -- make it an unforgettable series about how people live in a society utterly without law. It sets new standards for the Western drama and brings to life an era of American history that, seen for what it actually was, is all the more extraordinary.

Both to underscore the roughness of life in the lawless mining camp and to simulate how coarse language really was at the time, the dialogue includes rampant profanity and ethnic slurs. Similarly, the show depicts the racism of the times as a fact of everyday life. In the hands of less-adept writers, directors, and performers, this material might be offensive, but instead it's rich with realism.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the nature of good and evil as evident in each of the characters. And what motivates each character to be in a place as difficult as Deadwood? Is the opportunity they seek worth the price? Why? Do they all have opportunity? How were women and minorities (including Native Americans) treated? How have their roles changed since then? Does any of that treatment occur now? What does it take for a whole society to change?

TV details

Premiere date:March 21, 2004
Cast:Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Timothy Olyphant
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bycarmital April 9, 2008

Cannot get enough!

Deadwood is the greatest show to come along since The Sopranos. A show that is for 17 and older. It realistically shows how things were back in the 1870's, during the gold rush. It's violence, language, sex, and racism which existed makes it so believable. As well as the drug use. The acting is incredible and the way creator David Milch captures every scene with realism especially the drug use speaking from experience is exceptional. Each episode can be watched over and over without growing tired of.
Adult Written byCloonetroop April 9, 2008


This show is not worth watching.
Adult Written bywhateverfloats September 14, 2009
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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