Friday, March 16, 2012

Quick Look: "Luck"

Although cable television has become the go-to option for most viewers, HBO retains its top-level ranking because of its commitment to quality. Last spring HBO unveiled its adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga with Game of Thrones, with its second season slated to premiere April 1. Some shows are immediate commercial hits, like True Blood, while others are critical darlings with limited ratings, like Enlightened. The network has not had a game changer like The Sopranos or The Wire since both series ended in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Game of Thrones, a fantasy series unlike any other on television, might be HBO's best shot at recapturing an envious position atop the growing list of cable networks.

Luck, created by mega-producer David Milch (of NYPD Blue and Deadwood) stars Dustin Hoffman as Ace Bernstein, a mobster recently released from prison who plans to take over the Santa Anita racetrack while getting revenge on the men who sent him to prison. The series features different narratives which are linked by the racetrack. We meet a group of men railbirds (habitual gamblers at the racetrack) who pool all their money together on a pick six that eventually earns them over two million dollars. There is also Walter (Nick Nolte), a trainer from Kentucky, who trains his own horse with the help of an Irish jockey named Rosie (Kerry Condon). Walter's horse was sired by a famous racehorse and very few people know its ancestry.

The overlapping narratives are hard to piece together at first, which is similar to other HBO series like The Wire. It is tremendously well acted and the cinematography is beautiful. Luck was previewed in December and immediately renewed for a second season, but disappointing ratings and news of the death of a third horse on set have forced the network to cancel the series, which will finish airing its first season on March 25. It is disappointing because Luck had potential to develop into a fantastic ensemble.

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