Deadwood dead?

Al Swearengen better start bribing executives at HBO, or at least threatening them with Mr. Wu's piggies. Hollywood Reporter says it looks like the third season of the acclaimed Western, which returns to the cable network June 11, could be its last.

Although no official announcement has been made, the cable giant has reportedly declined to renew the contracts for the actors on the show. At the same time, Deadwood creator David Milch has begun work on a new series for the network, titled John From Cincinnati, which is being described as "surfing noir."

Deadwood tells the true, yet fictionalized, story of the frontier town of Deadwood, which existed in the Dakota Territory before the US annexed it and created the state of South Dakota. The town is filled with cursing, colorful characters, such as saloon owner Al Swearengen (played by Ian McShane), who serves as the unofficial mayor of Deadwood. Swearengen is the kind of businessman who feeds his opponents to pigs owned by an associate, Mr. Wu.

Deadwood premiered in 2004 in the time slot after The Sopranos, and the duo formed a powerful Sunday punch. When Sopranos creator David Chase took extra time writing and filming that show's sixth season, leaving Deadwood without a strong lead-in, ratings fell.

Milch said from the outset that the show could never last beyond four seasons, as the real town of Deadwood burned down after four years, in 1879.

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