David Milch, one of the most celebrated writers in TV history, -- and lately one of the more elusive -- has joined a third season of “True Detective,” per reports. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto will remain as showrunner.
HBO has yet to announce, but EW -- which first reported it -- and both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety have confirmed. Details are somewhat vague: Pizzolatto has begun writing, and Milch as either consultant or active creative partner is now in the mix. This would represent Milch’s return to HBO since the abrupt cancellation of “Luck,” in the wake of reports that horses were mistreated on the set. Only nine episodes aired in 2012.
Meanwhile, Pizzolatto’s “True Detective” has long since slipped into that first circle of Hollywood hell, otherwise known as limbo. Maybe it would come back, maybe not. Either way, until now it hadn’t exactly assumed a central position in either the minds of fans or HBO. The first season (2014) was a sensation and helped launch the now prevalent true crime anthology. The second season (2015) was a disappointment, and just as quickly raised questions about the durability of this particular franchise, and even its continuation.
When asked, HBO executives also said they wanted another edition, but dodged questions on timing and content. In the interim, the network embraced other short-run series, including “Big Little Lies,” which wraps this weekend, and last summer’s “The Night Of.”
Perhaps a lesson had been learned. “True Detective” and Pizzolatto -- who wrote both editions -- seemed to be on track for an annual cycle, but the relatively quick arrival of “TD 2” may have indicated that such a goal was simply too ambitious. Pizzolatto, also a novelist, had appeared to have moved on as well (he cowrote the screenplay for Antoine Fuqua’s reboot of “The Magnificent 7”).
But Milch’s arrival may have made the difference. By most accounts, the end of the horse racing series “Luck” was a crushing personal blow. PETA attacked the show over alleged mistreatment of horses -- three horses were injured during shooting while one of them was being led to its stall when it backed up, then flipped over, and had to be euthanized. Afterward, his future at HBO seemed in doubt. He had earlier signed an unprecedented agreement with HBO to bring Eugene O’Neill’s plays to TV. So far that’s yielded nothing.
Then there’s “Deadwood.” Milch’s classic for HBO (2004-06) has long been the subject of reboot rumors -- or wishful thinking. Fans have clamored for one, while HBO never exactly ruled one out. A movie is reportedly in the works, but even that is cloaked in a “True Detective”-like mystique. For example, TV Line reported that during the recent press tour, network chief Casey Bloys confirmed Milch was writing a script, but also told the website that “I couldn’t even put odds on (the movie happening). I don’t want to get your hopes up or disappoint you in any way, so I’ll just say I don’t have any news.”
Milch, 72, has mythic stature in the Hollywood writing community. He’s considered the rare genius who has crafted some of the most memorable series in history (“NYPD Blue”) while even his rare flops (“John from Cincinnati”) are utterly distinct. He’s also wrestled with personal demons (including drug addiction and gambling) and health problems.
For fans -- and there are many -- the “True Detective” reports may indicate those are now behind him.