This is the first full-length study of the career and achievements of David
Milch, the US writer who created NYPD Blue, Deadwood and other ground-breaking
television dramas. It locates Milch’s work in the traditions of American
literature while tracking his career from academic research assistant to leading
Hollywood screenwriter of his generation. It draws on behind-the-scenes material
in order to evaluate the nature and significance of authorship, intention,
collaboration and performance in his shows, and in doing so provides a major
contribution to the study of television art.
This chapter introduces the main themes pertinent to the analysis of David
Milch’s writing. It locates his television work within debates about film
and television authorship and signals the necessity of thinking about
American literature as a way to properly understand that work.
This chapter offers a detailed biographical account of David Milch’s family
background and his early life at university and elsewhere before he began
work as a television writer in the 1980s. In particular it examines the
profound influence of the poet Robert Penn Warren on Milch during the
latter’s time at Yale University in the 1960s and 1970s. It also calibrates
the significance of Milch’s time studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and
offers an analysis of his MFA dissertation, ‘The Groundlings’, and one of
his early poems.
This chapter offers an account of David Milch’s early work in television,
particularly his success as a writer for Hill Street Blues and his creation
of NYPD Blue. It offers a detailed analysis of the creation and development
of his first major character, Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) in that show.
This chapter explores Milch’s work after the cancellation of Deadwood, with
particular attention to John From Cincinnati and Luck. It seeks to
understand how Milch’s authorial voice developed and evolved alongside
changes in US drama production.