When HBO announced last month that the third season of "Deadwood" --which starts Sunday -- would be its last, fans of the profanity-laced Western were disappointed. And though there still won't be a fourth season, the series' story will go on.
The cable network has reached an agreement with "Deadwood" creator and executive producer David Milch to conclude the drama next year with a pair of two-hour TV movies.
"I am thrilled that we were able to figure out a way to continue," Milch told the Hollywood Reporter. "No one was ready to let go of the show. And I am really glad we have found a way to proceed that works creatively."
Originally, HBO and Milch had discussed a shortened six-episode final season, as opposed to the normal 12-episode schedule. However, Milch felt that a six-episode conclusion wouldn't work.
With the TV movies, however, he'll be able to conclude the series.
Despite the lack of a full season, some "Deadwood" fans were happy with the proposed movies.
"Thank goodness," Mary Kapco, director of the Adams House and Museum in Deadwood, said.
She said that an assistant producer of the show had told her that the series would again feature the 1870s mining camp in two TV movies.
One of the reasons for the return beyond Milch's deal was the dedication of the show's fans, she said. "The fan base was rabid," Kopco said of reactions to cancellation news.
Chip Collins, a "Deadwood" fan from Massachusetts, began an Internet letter-writing campaign and fundraiser to place open letters in the influential entertainment industry publication Variety, she said.
"He raised more than $6,000 to place full-page ads in Variety," Kapco said. "We all wrote lots and lots of letters to Time Warner and HBO."
Last Thursday, Kopco had received news in e-mails from cast and crew members that HBO had stopped the art department from tearing down the "Deadwood" set at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Kopco said while she was happy with this measure of success, it would have been nice to see the "Deadwood" storylines play out as originally plotted.
"I wish it were a full-blown season with a season five," she said.
She said the show is a top performer for HBO, second only to "The Sopranos," which concludes its run this season. Kopco, who talks regularly to members of the "Deadwood" production crew and cast, said that all indications led her to believe there would be another season.
"It just didn't make sense to cancel it," she said. "But I don't presume to know the intrigue of corporate America."
The show is a critical favorite, having won five Emmys from 11 nominations last year, taking home a Peabody Award, as well as nabbing series star Ian McShane the best actor in a drama nomination at the 2005 Golden Globes.
It continued to be one of HBO's best performers last season. But it is also reportedly one of HBO's priciest. According to Variety, each episode costs about $5 million to produce and up to 16 days to shoot.
Quoting "Deadwood's" fictional character Alma Garrett, Kopco said that was the root of the cancellation of the series.
"It's always about money," she said.
The third and final full season of "Deadwood" kicks off Sunday, June 11.