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David Mills, "NYPD Blue," "Treme" writer dies

  David Mills, a veteran TV writer associated with some of the great dramas of medium, has died of an aneurysm. He was 48.
 News broke about an hour ago, and without question will stun the TV world - most notably HBO which will launch Mills' "Treme" in just about a week and a half time. "Treme" - pronounced "TREM-ay" - is about a New Orleans neighborhood after the flood.

 Mills worked on, wrote for, or creatively guided "The Corner," "The Wire" - progeny of that short-run HBO program; "ER," and a show he created for NBC, "Kingpin." He also wrote for "NYPD Blue," and was a protege of David Milch and Steven Bochco, though "protege" seems like kind of a calm term given the circumstances of his hire. Milch - during a writers' class - was asked why there were so few African American writers on TV shows and noted that they struggled to write for a "mass audience" in the area of drama. The words were inflamatory, and Milch - probably the most generous, open-hearted, and non-racist writer who ever penned a drama - was shocked by the blowback. But it also yeiled pure gold - Mills, who wrote Milch challenging the statement, and was in turn hired to write for "NYPD Blue." Mills became one of Milch's core scribes on the show, developed over a dozen scripts, and became a key part of its overall creative direction.

 David Simon had Mills adapt his book "The Corner" for HBO, and the association led to "The Wire" though Mills was involved with a only few episodes. When Simon got the green light for "Treme," he reached out again to Mills, credited as a co-executive producer, but absolutely considered a major part of the new production.

  "Treme" is a major, major deal for HBO - looking to get back into the high-end quality drama genre that seemed to pretty much disappear with the end of "The Wire" or "Sopranos." (Yes, yes, "True Blood" is just fine, but you know what I mean...)

 Dave Walker, the TV critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune interviewed Mills a while ago...

  Here's what he told Walker...

 "Mills said in a recent interview that he was first contacted about joining the “Treme” writing staff by co-creators David Simon ("The Wire," "Generation Kill") and Eric Overmyer ("St. Elsewhere," "The Wire") long before the show’s pilot was picked up by HBO. The pilot was filmed in New Orleans last year.

“I remember seeing their script before the pilot got picked up, which is going back about three years,” he said. “Simon and I go back 30 years together. We’re college newspaper buddies.

“By the time this new series came around, I don’t know if it was spoken or assumed or if it was casually mentioned that if ‘Treme’ were to go, (Simon) would love me to be a part of it, (and that) I would love to be a part of it. The timing worked out right.”

Mills said he saw his contribution to the writing of “Treme” was as an outsider attempting to help Simon and Overmyer interpret the show’s themes – Hurricane Katrina recovery as expressed through the city’s musical and culinary subcultures – for audiences beyond New Orleans.

“I will never know as much about New Orleans music as Dave Simon,” he said. “I will never know as much about the social world and the social history and the characters of the town as Eric. So I can’t bring any of that.

“What I can bring is the sort of simple story stuff, the stuff I would feel like I can contribute to any show I happen to be on at any given time, which is just, ‘How do we get the most out of these characters.’”

A music fan who wrote passionately about his love for 1970s funk music on his blog Undercover Black Man – read it here: -- Mills had come to love New Orleans and its music during his time here writing for “Treme.”

“I knew next to nothing about 50s and 60s New Orleans R&B, let alone the earlier jazz that grew in the city, so this has been a very, very cool musical education for me, the particular joy of knowing stuff newly,” he said.

Mills said he approached his New Orleans musical education with a new fan’s fervor, and spoke enthusiastically about “walking into Louisiana Music Factory and coming out with $100 of music CDs, almost like letting the spirits guide you as to which ones to pick,” he said. “There will be no end to it, it’s so deep.”.

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