Distinguished Alumni Award


David Milch, 70MFA

Achievement Award 2006

David Milch, 70MFA, is known across America for his involvement in creating some of the most groundbreaking television programs of the past two decades, including Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Milch received a B.A. degree in English from Yale University in 1966 before pursuing an M.FA. degree at the Iowa Writers Workshop. In 1982, while a lecturer in English literature at Yale University, Milch began to dabble in screenwriting. The premiere episode he wrote for Hill Street Blues third season won an Emmy, a Writers Guild Award, and a Humanitas Prize.

The success of his first script marked the end of Milchs time in academia and the beginning of a career in dramatic television. He spent five seasons with Hill Street Blues, first as executive story editor and subsequently as executive producer. During that time, he earned two more Writers Guild Awards, a second Humanitas prize, and another Emmy.

In the 1980s, Milch worked on two other series, Beverly Hills Buntz and Capital News, but it was in 1992 that he helped make television history. He co-created the police drama NYPD Blue, which set a record by garnering 26 Emmy nominations in its premier season. The show went on to win the award for Best Drama Series in 1994-1995, while Milch took home Emmys for Best Writing in a Drama for the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons. The first season of this hard-hitting police drama also earned him a Humanitas Prize and an Edgar Allan Poe Award for screenwriting.

While still involved in NYPD Blue, the prolific writer created another police drama, Brooklyn South, co-authored True Blue: The Real Stories Behind NYPD Blue, and served as creative consultant for Steven Bochcos Murder One and Total Security television shows.

Since forming his own production company, Redboard Productions, the Workshop graduate has co-created two new series: 2001s Big Apple, a drama surrounding the FBI in New York City, and the highly popular and somewhat controversial Deadwood series launched on HBO in 2003. In a departure from dramatic, contemporary police dramas, Deadwood is set in the violence- and profanity-filled American Wild West of the late 19th century. The program received 11 Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards nominations in its debut season—and continues to garner a large, faithful following among viewers and critics alike.

Well-known writer and director and fellow UI alumnus Nicholas Meyer, 68BA, says, There can be no doubt that the teleplays of David Milch have significantly altered the contemporary American cultural landscape—for the better. Not content to replicate and recapitulate the reassuring pap designed to keep the nation infantalized, Milch. . .has found favor with audiences by providing and unsettling them with stories and characters for whom there are no easy solutions.

One of the universitys most creative and accomplished alumni, Milch dares audiences to rise above the facile and the superficial. His unflinching artistic vision may eschew the comforting glow of rose-tinted glasses, but David Milch offers compelling insights into the human condition.


About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.


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Read stories of Hawkeyes making a difference in Iowa and around the world.

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