The Man Who Made Deadwood

The creator of the immensely popular new Western discusses what makes it truly new.

David Milch has taken one of the most convoluted imaginable paths to success in television. Having earned an M.F.A. in fiction at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, he went on to teach literature at Yale for nine years and became close friends with a man he now regards as one of his mentors, the great novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren. From 1982 to 1987 he wrote for “Hill Street Blues,” proving that if television scripts were not actually literature, they could, at the least, be first-rate drama. With “NYPD Blue” (1993–2005) he took the urban crime drama to new levels of complexity and intensity.

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The Town That Took A Chance

From its first boom during America’s biggest gold rush to its current gamble on gambling, Deadwood, South Dakota, has managed to keep itself very much alive

Maybe I was fated to take a trip to Deadwood. Back in 1952 I was living under the high white Hollywood sign while my father played small parts in big movies, such as Popilius Lena in Julius Caesar , the version that starred Marion Brando. That year Paramount was making two Westerns on adjoining sound stages. One was Shane ; the other was Son of Paleface , starring Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers.

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