Questioning the cancellation of HBO’s ‘Luck’

By on March 25, 2012

HBO two weeks canceled its lackluster series “Luck” following the death of a third horse during production. Given that about 800 horses a year die at racetracks, Cord Jefferson questions the logic of the decision:

It’s a strange society in which a television show can’t kill horses with impunity but the more than 50 thoroughbred tracks in the United States can. Perhaps the producers of Luck have more of an affinity for the horses, agreeing to quit after killing only three while people in the racing industry destroy thousands. Perhaps people believe a death on the racetrack is somehow more honorable than a death for HBO. Whatever it is, America’s loyalty speaks volumes about how it prefers its horse deaths: Luck averaged only around 625,000 viewers per episode, but 14.5 million people watched the Kentucky Derby last year.

Tonight is the series finale.

It seems to me that while HBO does a wonderful job developing excellent television, it does not know how to end programming.  The series finales to HBO’s three most-critically acclaimed offerings – Deadwood, The Sopranos and The Wire – were mishandled, if not bungled.

The premature death of Luck only reinforces this notion.

Then again, maybe Luck wasn’t in the same pedigree as those other great works.

Reporter Buzz Bissingerwriting for the Daily Beast, accused Milch and Mann of being “obsessed with perfection on its own terms”; somehow, in Luck, this perfectionism backfired. Difficult and downbeat, lost in a self-indulgent fog of obfuscation, the show (which finished last night) grandly demanded infinite patience from the viewer, rather than grabbing them from the start. Scenes of intrigue were set (cliche alert here), around tables in near total darkness, not so much atmospheric as suggestive of a power cut. The dialogue was often inaudible, while Nolte’s geezerish turn as horse owner Walter Smith was marred by his unintelligibility, as if he lost the roof of his mouth in the great tornado of 1936.

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