Every week, notable figures in politics, entertainment and academia come to speak at Yale Master’s Teas. David Milch ’66, who spoke at a Calhoun College Master’s Tea Monday afternoon, has experience in all three areas.
A former writer for the popular syndicated television show “NYPD Blue,” Milch spoke about a variety of topics, from New York City policemen to the logistics of writing for cop shows. In addition to working in the entertainment industry, Milch has taught at Yale and has written speeches for the Republican Party. Unlike traditional Master’s Teas, Milch’s talk attracted more than just students — about half of the approximately 35-person audience was composed of Milch’s friends, Yale alumni and hopeful writers from the area.
Milch displayed his affable nature at the onset of the tea, interrupting his formal introduction with a remark about a student’s facial expression. Milch also initiated a personal conversation with Eli Muller ’03, discussing Muller’s senior essay plans. The conversation segued into a more general exchange with the audience about the production and history of “NYPD Blue.”
Muller is a former Yale Daily News features editor.
Milch spent a significant portion of the tea discussing the connection between “NYPD Blue” and the actual crime scene in New York City. With the help of real New York City cops, he said the show’s writers try hard to accurately portray the lives and work of the policemen. In some cases, “NYPD Blue” writers even have direct access to cases.
“Writers were called after a capital crime was committed in the city before the trial or procedure was actually carried out,” he said.
Milch said this sometimes became problematic. In one case, a murder trial had to be terminated early because the television show’s version of the story came out before the plaintiff’s.
“But you can’t eat scrambled eggs without breaking some eggs,” he said.
Demonstrating his admiration for the New York City police force, Milch devoted 15 to 20 minutes to talking about Bill Clark, a former detective who now produces “NYPD Blue.” When the makers of “NYPD Blue” were looking for an actual police source to work with, Milch said they were referred to Clark, who had handled several difficult criminal cases as a detective.
“We asked around for the best cop in town, and they all gave us the same guy,” Milch said.
Titus Welliver, one of Milch’s friends who attended the tea, said it was “different” to see Milch in an academic, rather than a personal or professional, atmosphere. But Welliver maintained that Milch was the same charismatic, interesting person he knew.
Susan Israel ’88, a local writer, said she came to see Milch’s tea because it was related to writing. At the tea, Israel asked Milch to read some of her works — a request echoed by several others present at the tea. In response, Milch gave the audience members his Los Angeles address and promised to look at their works there.
The tea was the first of three events featuring Milch and his work. Monday evening there was a public talk and a screening of his latest series, “Deadwood.”