Thursday, March 15, 2012


The last time I attended a horse race was back in the 1980s. My brother Doug, who loved to play the ponies as much as our dad, took me to the track at the Alameda County Fair. In the home stretch of a race late in the day, one horse in the middle of the pack took a tremendous fall, end over end and breaking its neck. Though the procedure been blocked from the race attendees following the accident, it was obvious was what was occurring when the covered dead horse's body ended up a flat bed trailer and driven away. I didn't stay for the rest of the races, waiting for my brother outside the main gate.

I recalled this story when I heard that HBO had cancelled Luck this last week.

HBO premiered its gambling drama Luck this past winter, a show with an extremely high pedrigree what with the heavyweights involved. Created by Deadwood's David Milch, excutive produced by Michael Mann and with a cast featuring both Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. After a slow build, Luck instantly become addictive, not unlike gambling itself. One of the high points of each episode were the brilliantly staged horse races themselves, brilliantly staged and edited for maximum effect. These scenes came with an unfortunate price. In the filming of these scenes, accidents have occurred, resulting in the euthanizing of three horses. Not being able to insure that these would not happen again, HBO has decided to pull the plug on the show due to safety concerns. Both Milch and Mann have agreed and Luck will end its run after one season even though it had been renewed for next year.

Though Luck has the potential to be another classic series in the HBO stable, they made a wise decision scrapping it. To be realistic, I doubt they would have made this call if Luck was pulling in True Blood or Game of Thrones rating numbers. Despite the best cast on TV: Hoffman (his best role in years), Nolte (superbly understated as an aging trainer, a performance that makes me eat my ass-hat comments in the previous Oscar blog), Dennis Farina, Joan Allen, Michael Gambon, Jill Hennessey, Kevin Dunn, Richard Kind and so many more, Luck was an expensive bottom feeder in the audience department. To continue in light of this controversy would be folly on HBO's part. No amount of Hollywood magic (stock footage, green screen, motion capture, CGI) would be able to match the intensity of those racing scenes. Without them, the show might as well be set in video poker parlor. HBO wouldn't pony up the extra dough (so to speak) anyway.

So, I guess you could say HBO is shit outta Luck.

Wasn't David Milch really tempting fate by naming a show Luck?

He's in show business. Surely he understands the concept of the phrase:

"Break a leg."

They shoot horses, don't they?
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