Today’s Must Read: How ‘Deadwood’ And ‘NYPD Blue’ Creator David Milch Gambled Away $100 Million

There are still five or six good content-releasin’ hours left in the day, but chances are that the best thing you’re going to read today is the Hollywood Reporter‘s heartbreaking feature about TV titan David Milch’s gambling addiction. Stephen Galloway and Scott Johnson relate the painful, deeply saddening account of a horse-racing vice that would ultimately cost the celebrated creator of HBO’s landmark western Deadwood and co-creator of the cop drama NYPD Blue his $100 million fortune. The shocking article cites a lawsuit indicating that Milch, once a king of highwire televisual storytelling on par with The Sopranos‘ David Chase and The Wire‘s David Simon (note to self: commission study investigating link between success in scripted TV and men named “David”) now lives on a $40-dollar-per-week allowance, has lost his homes, and owes the IRS $17 million.

Milch hasn’t had a successful show since Deadwood concluded in 2006, and even during that show’s run, success took the form of critical raves, instead of widespread viewership. He struggled to find a tone and identity for his densely philosophical surfing head-scratcher John From Cincinnati, and failed to connect once more while taking a more personal step with Luck, a sprawling drama set in and around — where else? — a horse track. His professional decline developed in tandem with a worsening of his gambling addiction, leading him to staggering losses catalogued in the article:

Judging from the accounts of several men and women who know him well, he is a person of extreme talent but also extreme behavior. Now a lawsuit, which was filed last year and is proceeding in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica, indicates that he lost $25 million from gambling between 2000 and 2011 alone. Colleagues estimate he has earned more than $100 million across his three-decade Hollywood career, but the lawsuit reveals he is left with $17 million in debts.

A reformed heroin addict and former professor of English at Yale, Milch lives a boldly atypical life. This has brought him down some dark side avenues, and that passage above is only the beginning. The article’s a fascinating read, both as a character study of a difficult man and an examination gambling addiction, which can sometimes fall by the wayside in the face of the flashier, more visibly ruinous addictions of drugs and alcohol. Give it a look.

(Via the Hollywood Reporter)