David Milch
David Milch at the 64th Annual Peabody Awards in 2005
David Sanford Milch

(1945-03-23) March 23, 1945 (age 79)
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, television producer
Rita Stern
(m. 1982)

David Sanford Milch (born March 23, 1945) is an American writer and producer of television series. He has created several television shows, including ABC's NYPD Blue (1993–2005), co-created with Steven Bochco, and HBO's Deadwood (2004–2006, 2019).[1]

Early life and education

Milch graduated with a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University, where he won the Tinker Prize in English, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter,[2][3] along with future US President George W. Bush. Milch earned a Master of Fine Arts with distinction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.[4]

To avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, Milch enrolled in Yale Law School, but he was expelled for allegedly shooting out a police car siren with a shotgun.[5]


Milch worked as a writing teacher and lecturer in English literature at Yale. During his teaching career, he assisted Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks in the writing of several college textbooks on literature. Milch's poetry and fiction have been published in The Atlantic Monthly and the Southern Review.[6]

In 1982, Milch wrote a script for Hill Street Blues, which became the episode "Trial by Fury". This began his career in television. He worked five seasons on Hill Street Blues as executive story editor and then as executive producer. Milch earned two Writers Guild Awards, a Humanitas prize, and a Primetime Emmy Award while working on that show.[7]

Milch created NYPD Blue with Steven Bochco and served as executive producer of that series for seven seasons. He received three Primetime Emmy Awards during his time with the series.[8] In a 1994 seminar on "Human Values in Entertainment Writing: The Challenges and the Pitfalls," Milch described his affinity for the show's character Detective Andy Sipowicz by noting, "I'm racist."[9] He also recalled a writing workshop he led some years earlier, noting that "None of the black writing was any good," adding:

Jews tend to do very well in this business . . . because Jews experience a typical emotional doubleness in relation to the dominant culture, which is that they are both inside and outside it . . . A black has to experience more anger and self-division in order to achieve the kind of emotional neutrality that you need to write about the culture.[9]

Milch explained in a later statement that "The seminar I gave was an attempt to describe the process of writing and not a statement of political or social values."[9] In response to Milch's comments, David Mills wrote a letter in which he challenged Milch's assumptions concerning black writers. As a result, Milch hired Mills as a writer for NYPD Blue.[10]

Milch co-created the patrol police drama Brooklyn South with Bochco, Bill Clark, and William M. Finkelstein in 1997 while still working on NYPD Blue. After NYPD Blue, Milch created a CBS series called Big Apple.[11]

From 2004 to 2006, Milch produced Deadwood, a dramatic series for HBO. Milch served as creator, writer, and executive producer. The series received critical acclaim and garnered Milch two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for writing and producing. The series ended in 2006 after three seasons. There were plans for two feature-length movies to conclude the series, ultimately resulting in a single film released by HBO in 2019. Actor Ian McShane presented David Milch with the 2006 Outstanding Television Writer Award at the Austin Film Festival.[12]

Milch began production in 2006 on John from Cincinnati, another dramatic series for HBO. The series was canceled after its first season. Initial ratings had been lower than expected but increased steadily. Ratings for the final episode were more than 3 million.[13] In October 2007, HBO renewed its contract with Milch. A pilot was commissioned for Last of the Ninth, "a drama set in the New York Police Department during the 1970s, when the Knapp Commission was formed to ferret out corruption in the force." Collaborating with Milch on Last of the Ninth was former NYPD Blue writer and friend Bill Clark.[14] In December 2008, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Last of the Ninth would not be picked up by the network.[15]

In January 2010, Milch announced that he was developing a new drama for HBO entitled Luck, based around the culture of horse racing. Michael Mann directed the pilot[16] and Dustin Hoffman was cast in the lead role.[17] HBO picked up the series on July 14, 2010.[18] The series ceased production after three horse deaths on set, having aired one season. Other unrealized projects of Milch's during the early 2010s included a film adaptation of Quantic Dream's 2010 video game Heavy Rain,[19] a reunion with NYPD Blue collaborator Steven Bochco on an NBC legal drama,[20] and a series of films and television series for HBO based on the literary works of William Faulkner.[21][22]

In July 2013 HBO announced[23] at the Television Critics Association Press Tour that Milch was developing a new series for the cable network tentatively titled The Money. The show would depict a dynastic New York media family. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson was cast in the lead role as a family patriarch and media mogul.[24] It was announced on March 4, 2014, that HBO had passed on the project.[25]

On April 20, 2017, Ian McShane announced that Milch had submitted a script for a two-hour Deadwood movie to HBO. "[A] two-hour movie script has been delivered to HBO. If they don't deliver [a finished product], blame them." McShane said he had spoken to Milch about the script and hoped to soon discuss beginning the film. He also said of the original cast returning that "we'd all love to do it ... It would be nice to see all of the old gang again."[26] Deadwood: The Movie began production in October 2018[27] and premiered in May 2019. The film received critical acclaim and a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.

Personal life

Milch is Jewish.[28] He has been married to Rita Stern since 1982. They have three children.

Milch has stated he has bipolar disorder.[29][30] He developed a heart condition in the 1990s.[29] During the filming of NYPD Blue, he suffered a heart attack while arguing with actor David Caruso over the script.[30]

In the 2000s, he became addicted to gambling and lost his fortune.[31]

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2015 shortly before beginning work on the script for the Deadwood film.[32] As of 2019, Milch lives in an assisted-living facility.[33] On September 13, 2022, Milch published a memoir titled Life's Work.[34][35]

Thoroughbred horse racing

Milch has been an owner of thoroughbred racehorses. As a co-owner with Mark and Jack Silverman, he won the 1992 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with the colt Gilded Time.[36] Milch owned outright Val Royal who captured the 2001 Breeders' Cup Mile.[citation needed]

Television credits


Awards and recognition


  1. ^ Barra, Allen. "The Man Who Made Deadwood". American History Lives at American Heritage. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  2. ^ "Prominent Deke Alumni: Phi's David Milch". GoDeke.org. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  3. ^ "Prizes and Deadlines". Yale.edu. English Department, Yale University. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  4. ^ "David Milch". iowalum.com. University of Iowa Alumni Association. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  5. ^ "David Milch & the strategies of indirection in fiction by William Logan". February 22, 2023.
  6. ^ "David Milch". writing.UPenn.edu. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  7. ^ Champlin, Charles (February 25, 1988). "Passing Along His 'Street' Luck". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (June 18, 2000). "Television/Radio; The Demons That Have Driven 'N.Y.P.D. Blue'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Braxton, Greg (November 10, 1994). "'NYPD' Figure Tries to Clarify Race Remarks'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 16, 2024.
  10. ^ Millman, Joyce (September 22, 1997). "Racist -- or realistic?". Archived from the original on July 3, 2007.
  11. ^ Littlejohn, Janice Rhoshalle (March 14, 2001). "Detective Work at 'Big Apple's' Core". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  12. ^ "2006 Winners - Austin Film Festival". Austin Film Festival. April 29, 2016. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Nielsen Media News, August 14, 2007.
  14. ^ "The saga of 'Deadwood' takes another turn". Chicago Tribune. October 10, 2007. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  15. ^ "HBO picks up 'Hung'". The Hollywood Reporter (via web archive). Archived from the original on December 19, 2008.
  16. ^ Fleming, Michael (January 5, 2010). "Mann, Milch in 'Luck' with HBO". Variety.
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 2, 2010). "Dustin Hoffman to star in HBO pilot Luck". Reuters. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  18. ^ Hibberd, James (July 14, 2010). "Dustin Hoffman to star in horse racing series". Reuters. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  19. ^ McNary, Dave (January 27, 2011). "David Milch adapting 'Heavy Rain' game". Variety. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  20. ^ "Drama Titans Steven Bochco and David Milch Are Reuniting to Save NBC". New York. October 14, 2011.
  21. ^ "HBO Signs David Milch and His New Partner, William Faulkner". Time. November 30, 2011.
  22. ^ Cohen, Stefanie (July 25, 2013). "William Faulkner's Heirs Aim to Preserve His Legacy and Profit From It". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "'Deadwood' creator near deal for HBO drama pilot". Entertainment Weekly. July 25, 2013.
  24. ^ "HBO Orders New David Milch Pilot, The Money". New York. August 13, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  25. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 5, 2014). "David Milch's HBO Pilot 'The Money' Not Going Forward". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  26. ^ Gunderman, Dan (April 20, 2017). "Actor Ian McShane says 'Deadwood' creator submitted revival movie script to HBO". Daily News. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  27. ^ "'Deadwood' Movie Starts Filming With Majority of Cast Returning". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  28. ^ "David Milch Headlines Most Uncomfortable Panel Discussion Ever at 'New Yorker' Fest". Vulture. October 9, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  29. ^ a b Singer, Mark (February 14, 2005). "The Misfit". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  30. ^ a b Dinner for Five. Season 4. Episode 4. April 1, 2005. Independent Film Channel.
  31. ^ Galloway, Stephen; Johnson, Scott (February 17, 2016). "How the $100 Million 'NYPD Blue' Creator Gambled Away His Fortune". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 3, 2024.
  32. ^ Pergament, Alan (April 24, 2019). "TV writer, Buffalo native David Milch reveals he has Alzheimer's disease". The Buffalo News.
  33. ^ Dave Itzkoff (September 3, 2022). "David Milch Still Has Stories to Tell". The New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2022.
  34. ^ Garner, Dwight (September 12, 2022). "David Milch Made Remarkable TV. His Own Life Was a Drama, Too". The New York Times.
  35. ^ Milch, David (September 7, 2022). "What Happened When I Started Going Back to the Track How the HBO series Luck coincided with the biggest disaster in David Milch's life". vulture.com.
  36. ^ Mitchell, Eric (December 10, 2021). "Infirmities of Old Age Claim Gilded Time at Age 31". bloodhorse.com.
  37. ^ Abramovitch, Seth (February 1, 2022). "David Milch to Address Gambling Addiction, Alzheimer's Diagnosis in New Memoir (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2022.

Further reading, audio interviews, and videos


  1. ^ Online version is titled "David Milch's Third Act".