If David Milch had become a novelist as he'd planned while studying at Yale, he may never have created some of the most complex, memorable characters in television — chief among them, “NYPD Blue's” Andy Sipowicz and “Deadwood's” Al Swearengen.
His career in TV started with a script assignment for the groundbreaking drama “Hill Street Blues” that lured him away from teaching creative writing at his alma mater. He landed in Hollywood, under the wing of prolific TV producer Steven Bochco, and started a decades-long career that would reshape the way TV viewers saw cop shows and small-screen westerns.
After five seasons on “Hill Street Blues,” he and Bochco created what would become another envelope-pushing hit series, “NYPD Blue.” Milch admitted over the years that he and Sipowicz, the hotheaded but forthright detective battling alcohol addiction and inner demons, had a lot in common.
“David's complicated — he's a high-performance engine,” Bochco told The Times in 1998. “You've got to change his plugs and oil and baby him a little through the turns.”
Milch, a two-time Emmy winner known for his sometimes rambling diatribes on life and writing, created several short-lived shows for broadcast and cable, including HBO's “John From Cincinnati,” CBS' “Brooklyn South” and ABC's “Capital News.” He had more success with “Deadwood,” which reimagined the old West for premium cable channel HBO. On the set of that series in 2005, a New Yorker reporter described Milch's extemporaneous riffs as “intellectually daunting, digressive, arcane and wittily profane.”