Luck (TV series)
|Created by||David Milch|
|Opening theme||"Splitting the Atom" by Massive Attack|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||9 (list of episodes)|
|Original release||December 11, 2011– March 25, 2012|
Luck is an American dramatic television series created by David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman. The pilot episode was directed by Michael Mann. The series premiered on January 29, 2012. HBO aired the first episode on December 11, 2011, as a preview. It was immediately renewed for a second season of 10 episodes, scheduled to air beginning in January 2013. However, the show was canceled on March 14, 2012 due to animal safety concerns. The first season's remaining episodes continued to air. The complete first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 27, 2012.
- Dustin Hoffman as Chester "Ace" Bernstein
- Dennis Farina as Gus Demitriou
- John Ortiz as Turo Escalante
- Richard Kind as Joey Rathburn
- Kevin Dunn as Marcus Becker
- Ian Hart as Lonnie McHinery
- Ritchie Coster as Renzo Calagari
- Jason Gedrick as Jerry Boyle
- Kerry Condon as Rosie Shanahan
- Gary Stevens as Ronnie Jenkins
- Tom Payne as Leon Micheaux
- Jill Hennessy as Jo Carter
- Nick Nolte as Walter Smith
- Michael Gambon as Michael "Mike" Smythe
- Ted Levine as Isadore Cohen
- Barry Shabaka Henley as Parole Officer
- Chantal Sutherland as Lizzy (Rosie's friend)
- Weronika Rosati as Naomi
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|"Pilot"||Michael Mann||David Milch||December 11, 2011||1.14|
|Ace Bernstein is released from prison after three years and begins to plot his revenge on the associates who had him sent away. Ace’s lieutenant Gus acts as front for an investment in the race horse Pint of Plain. Pint of Plain’s trainer Turo Escalante manipulates the odds in favor of one of his other horses, Mon Gateau. The four railbirds – Jerry, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie – pool their resources together to place a Pick Six bet with Mon Gateau as the centerpiece. Veteran trainer Walter Smith’s new thoroughbred, Gettn’up Morning, sparks an on-track rivalry between untested jockey Rosie and experience Ronnie, represented by agent Joey Rathburn. Ace’s plan against his former colleagues includes reviving the Santa Anita racetrack with casino gambling.|
|"Episode Two"||Terry George||John R. Perrotta||February 5, 2012||0.43|
|Ace loses his temper during a meeting with two of the men that sent him to prison, DiRossi and Isadore Cohen. Marcus advises the other railbirds to not flaunt their newfound wealth from the Pick Six. Compulsive gambler Jerry ignores the warning and sits in at high-stakes poker games. Renzo wishes to claim one of Escalante’s horses. Lonnie parties with two cunning women. Rosie asks Walter for a chance to ride Gettn’up Morning.|
|"Episode Three"||Allen Coulter||Bill Barich||February 12, 2012||0.55|
|Ronnie, Gettn’up Morning’s jockey, takes a tumble in another race and Walter is forced to call upon Joey to help locate the inexperienced Rosie. Ace meets the young and cocky Nathan Israel and hires him with the intent of getting closer to his revenge against his former associates. Ace is approached by Claire with a business opportunity. The railbirds attempt to buy Mon Gateau back from Mulligan and hire Escalante to train him.|
|"Episode Four"||Phillip Noyce||Jay Hovdey||February 19, 2012||0.44|
|Ace faces off with his one-time partner Mike over Ace’s plan to take control of the Santa Anita racetrack. Claire proposes a business venture to Ace, who wishes to have a more personal relationship with her. Chan challenges Jerry to a private poker game. The railbirds have to save Jerry from gambling away his life. Rosie has the race of her life on Gettn’up Morning.|
|"Episode Five"||Brian Kirk||Scott Willson||February 26, 2012||0.50|
|Escalante has entered Pint of Plain in a race with Leon as the jockey under the premise of needing to appease the gaming board, but ultimately scratching him. Ace sees through the lies and forces Escalante to swap out Leon for a more experienced jockey. Marcus has health concerns. Joey loses Ronnie as a client. Ace gives Claire a large check and invites her to watch Pint of Plain’s first race.|
|"Episode Six"||Henry Bronchtein||Robin Shushan||March 4, 2012||0.69|
|Israel is offered a chance to work as a double agent against Ace. An earthquake puts things into prospective for Joey. Leon’s actions during his race on Mon Gateau has Escalante and the railbirds worried. Rosie ignores Walter’s advice and he is met with unwanted consequences. Jo wonders about her future with Escalante.|
|"Episode Seven"||Brian Kirk||Amanda Ferguson||March 11, 2012||0.47|
|Ace and Claire take a tour of a prison outreach horse retirement farm. Walter defends his right of ownership to Gettn’up Morning. Jerry and Naomi try to enter a poker tournament. Israel represents Ace against Mike. Lonnie claims another horse named Niagara’s Fall. Walter has a decision to make. Rosie asks Joey for representation. Ronnie attempts to get his life back on track.|
|"Episode Eight"||Allen Coulter||John R. Perotta & Jay Hovdey||March 18, 2012||0.46|
|Ace makes his move to purchase control of the track and goes around his former partners. Mike makes a move of his own. Walter enters Gettn’up Morning in the Western Derby against Pint of Plain. Leon loses his ride. Joey comes through for Rosie as her new agent. Jo’s budding pregnancy is put into jeopardy.|
|"Episode Nine"||Mimi Leder||Eric Roth||March 25, 2012||0.44|
|The Western Derby, pitting Gettn’up Morning and Pint of Plain against each other, serves as the backdrop for other events. Jerry tries to figure out a new big score. Escalante awaits word about Jo. Renzo’s mother arrives in town. Ace feels guilt for Israel’s fate. Gus goes to extreme lengths to protect Ace.|
Before creating Luck, David Milch had worked in television for three decades. He started off as a writer on the series Hill Street Blues before co-creating NYPD Blue with Steven Bochco and creating the HBO series Deadwood. Milch had been fascinated by horse racing from an early age as his father would take him to the track. “My dad started taking me to Saratoga at age 5 or 6. You have so many associations from childhood that stay with you.” He stated that he had been thinking about creating the series for 25 years and always pictured that it would be set at Santa Anita Park. "It's the most beautiful setting for horse racing that I've seen, and I'd include Saratoga", he said.
The character of on-the-skids jockey Ronnie is portrayed by racing fixture Gary L. Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey who has won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the course of his career. Stevens portrayed jockey George Woolf in the 2003 film Seabiscuit.
The series used 50 horses, trained by Matt Chew at Santa Anita. As he described, "Because it’s a natural tendency for horses to want to be a part of a herd, most adapt to it very well. We have a couple individuals that have been taught to be race horses; we’re not going to get that out of their system. We'll just have to adapt to it. But of the 50 horses, I’d say 45 of them have adapted to it real well."
Safety concerns and cancellation
The safety of the series' working environment was called into question by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which criticized Luck over the injury and euthanization of two horses during filming for the pilot and the seventh episode. The American Humane Association (AHA) said both racehorses "stumbled and fell during short racing sequences" and that "the horses were checked immediately afterwards by the onsite veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable." HBO pointed out that precautions had been taken: each horse was "limited to three runs per day and was rested in between those runs." On March 13, 2012, HBO agreed to suspend all filming involving horses while investigations took place over the death of a third horse. The AHA insisted the stoppage remain in effect until a comprehensive investigation was completed; it also noted the horse's injury did not occur during filming or racing. The following day, HBO canceled the series, saying that while it "maintained the highest safety standards throughout production ... accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future."
At the time of the show's cancellation, the second episode of the second season was in production. Footage shot for the second season has not been released publicly.
Linda Stasi from New York Post said in her review: "With an impossibly good cast, writing so spot-on it's poetic, and slow-build stories, I, for one, was left wanting more—even after watching the entire season." Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times, on the other hand, found the show "needlessly opaque". Newsday's Verne Gay praised the talent behind the series, "There are three excellent reasons—Milch, Mann and Hoffman—why your faith will be rewarded." Alan Sepinwall from HitFix called the series "clear and engaging" and singled out Hoffman's performance: "Hoffman is the big name, and gives an impressively buttoned-down performance."
Some criticism focused on the opacity of the plot, the apparent lack of attractive characters, and their audibility.
The December 2011 preview episode garnered a total of 1.14 million viewers on its original airing with a 0.36 ratings share among adults 18-49. The official series premiere, which was shown on January 29, 2012, garnered 1.06 million viewers with a 0.3 ratings share. The viewership reached its second lowest mark with the seventh episode at 474,000 viewers and 0.14 share.
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- HBO show Luck attacked over horse deaths, BBC, February 10, 2012.
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- "HBO suspends filming with horses on 'Luck'". Associated Press via MSN.com. March 13, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
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- "Luck - Vanaf dinsdag 24 juni op Acht" (in Dutch). Retrieved August 3, 2013.
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