HBO Runs Out of ‘Luck’

I have a feeling that poor David Milch wishes he’d chosen a less ironic title for his latest series. The writer/producer hasn’t had a whole lot of luck keeping new shows on the air in recent years. After an incident on set resulted in the death of a third horse, HBO has ceased production and officially canceled the racing drama ‘Luck’.

Milch is of course most famous for his long-running cop series ‘NYPD Blue’. After that, he went on to further success with the HBO hit ‘Deadwood’. Unfortunately, strife behind the scenes led to the abrupt cancelation of that series after its third season, which left a lot of storylines hanging and a lot of fans very upset. Milch’s next show, the baffling ‘John from Cincinnati’, confounded both viewers and critics, and barely eked through a single season on the air.

Nevertheless, Milch continued his relationship with HBO. For ‘Luck’, he teamed up with A-List filmmaker Michael Mann and assembled a powerhouse cast including big names like Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Michael Gambon. As I said in my recap of the pilot episode, I was intrigued by the show but also found its plotting excessively confusing and its tone emotionally chilly. I had a feeling that it would have trouble attracting an audience. Indeed, that turned out to be the case. Ratings for the series have been lackluster. Regardless, HBO decided to renew it for a second season anyway.

The network and the show’s producers claim that they worked with the American Humane Association to monitor the safety of horses used in the production. Despite this, three horses sustained injuries either during filming or behind-the-scenes, and had to be put down. In the latest incident, a horse unexpectedly reared up, fell over backwards, and hit its head on the ground while being walked back to its stable. The equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board claims that, “We see several of those injuries at the stable area every year… They are more common than people realize.” Needless to say, that wasn’t enough to placate PETA activists, who accused the production of having lax safety standards and using unfit animals.

Initially, HBO suspended filming of any scenes involving horses, but allowed production to continue on dramatic scenes that did not require animals. However, the network issued a statement late Wednesday that all further production has been shut down and the series will not continue.

The show’s first season had already completed production and still has two episodes left to air. At the time of this writing, they are still scheduled for March 18th and 25th respectively.

[Source: Los Angeles Times]


  1. August Lehe

    Although my connections with PETA are reed-thin (I think I paid dues for three years), I’m glad the show was put down. Of course I have no idea if the features: Seabiscuit or Secretariat wasted any horses, I’m convinced Luck could have managed with file/stock footage, plus an occasional walking horse paddock ‘cameo.’ After all, the two main actors are certainly no slouches. What upsets me is that Congress has set the stage for American school children to eat horsement in a few years and nobody has the slightest clue!

  2. I have a hard time believing any negligence led to these horse’s deaths. David Milch’s Deadwood featured many horses and to my knowledge there were never any injuries or deaths involved during that show’s production. The companies that supply horses to Hollywood productions have a vested interest in keeping their horses in good health because of the time and money they’ve invested in training them to work in film in television. They have nothing to gain by mistreating them aside from garnering bad press.

  3. I sure hope they take the time to wrap up the story! Maybe an additional episode to connect the dots. HBO should have learned from ‘Carnivalé’ and ‘Deadwood’ by now.

    • Josh Zyber

      I don’t know how far into production of Season 2 the show was, but I seriously doubt that anything from that season will ever air. HBO will just stop the series after the S1 finale.

    • Josh Zyber

      The show was warming up as it went along. Once you get the gist of who the characters are and what they’re up to, a lot of the confusing aspects of the pilot episode start to fall into place.

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