David Mills, a former "NYPD Blue" and "Homicide: Life on the Street" writer most recently working on HBO’s "Treme," died Tuesday of a brain aneurysm. He was 48.
HBO also issued a statement Wednesday, noting it was "deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague David Mills. He was a gracious and humble man, and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him, as well as those who were aware of his immense talent. David has left us too soon but his brilliant work will live on."
I knew Mills far less well, and hadn’t talked to him in years. I was a huge fan of "Homicide," but didn’t know him then. We also both served stints writing for The Washington Times (I was TV critic there in 1993).
Most of my interactions with Mills came during the year or so he was working on "Kingpin," the woefully underrated drama he created for NBC.
Mills’ Spelling Television office at the time was at 5700 Wilshire, the same building which once housed my former employer, Variety. I remember heading over to Mills’ office in 2002 to take a look at an episode of "Kingpin" and to talk about it with Mills. He watched as I watched and seemed so very proud of the work (and a bit nervous, as I recall).
We discussed music, in particular Steely Dan. (I seem to remember "Do It Again" being used in the "Kingpin" pilot, quite brilliantly.)
Mills was passionate when discussing his show, but quietly so. There was no wild gesturing or contorted faces when he talked about his work. Just a quiet, deep love for what he was doing.
"Kingpin" was one of the first and earliest victims of a certain young NBC executive who shall not be named in this post because, quite frankly, I’m tired of bashing him and he doesn’t really deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Mills.
This young exec, who would go on to run the whole company, was at first fully behind "Kingpin," talking it up as the network’s version of "The Sopranos." There were plans to push the envelope with the content of the show, to make it an event. Then, quietly, the same executive got distracted, lost interest, and buried "Kingpin," letting it quietly fade away when it didn’t immediately click with viewers following a strong debut in 2003.
You need only look at Mills’ credits to realize he wasn’t in the TV business to just make a buck: "The Corner." "The Wire." "Homicide." "ER." "NYPD Blue." "Picket Fences." "Treme."
Some of these shows were more successful than others, but all had strong quality TV DNA within them. Clearly TV writing wasn’t just a way to make a living but a means by which Mills helped create art.
It’s a damn shame he’s left us so soon.