David Milch

By: Annie Nocenti
March 23, 2014


DAVID MILCH (born 1945) has gamble. His TV shows won Emmys and his colts (Gilded Time in 1992 and Val Royal in 2001) won Breeders’ Cups. He’s led an adventurous life, but for Milch, it’s deeper than that horse or this wager or that TV show. He’s eloquent on the topic of “fanciful binding” — the realization that something you are passionate about has another, more profound origin. “I kinda did it all and it just made me more and more miserable,” he recounts. “I couldn’t figure out what my idea of success was. Finally, through the art, I was able to let those associations reveal themselves.”

He was a writer on the hit police dramas Hill Street Blues (1981-87) and NYPD Blue (1993-2005), and created Luck (2011-12) about horseracing. His HBO series Deadwood (2004-06) was one of TV’s high watermarks. The show reinvents the characters of cowboy myth, and is rich in language combining soliloquy and street — even the lowest rat has the ability to create dark filigrees in the language. Milch likes to get close to his subjects, soaking up the rhythms of their argot and jargon; he worked with NYPD detective Bill Clark on NYPD Blue, and brought bull riders into the Deadwood writers’ room.

Milch’s life is a testament to the notion that going down the wrong roads might help you find the right ones. “I did a lot of research in pharmaceuticals, a lot of drinking, a lot of robbery, a lot of pyromania, a lot of sex obsession,” he has recalled. Milch continues to create, but he may have found out that “winning” is not the answer.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Juan Gris, Emmy Noether, Erich Fromm.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).