Luck: Pilot Review

I don’t usually object to the “throw ‘em in the deep end and let ‘em work it out for themselves” school of exposition, but this was beyond me. I was utterly utterly lost within seconds and never managed to claw my way back.

Here’s what I did deduce – people buy and train horses to run round in circles as fast as possible and other people (or sometimes the same people) bet on what will happen. There’s a lot of money involved and people can have none one minute and lots the next, or vice versa and that’s all some people care about. Meanwhile all other people care about is the passion and the adrenalin of getting their horse to run faster than everyone else’s.

I was sufficiently intrigued by the idea of the show that I was looking forward to it (more than most of the pilots I slog through), I could see a lot of similarities between horse racing and the only other sport I’ve got any interest in – Formula 1. Both are about a complex combination of so many different things – money, talent, politics and luck, the biggest difference is that where one has technical engineering of machines, the other has biological engineering of horses. And of course if all else fails, there’s still some really fast paced action to watch.

Unfortunately the reality of the pilot was that I had no clue what was going on. There was too much jargon and I was just too unfamiliar with the language. I’ll also confess that I had considerable difficulty understanding what several of the characters were saying thanks to some really strong accents. Also, while I could tell the characters apart at least, I struggled with the horses and that badly affected the impact of some of the races and events where I lost track of who was racing for who.

There’s a lot that was good about the pilot – it certainly looked fantastic and the way the races were shot were absolutely incredible, putting you right in the middle of a crowd of galloping horses and desperate jockeys. But I think it’s crippled (possibly fatally) by too intricate a script and some poor casting choices which make the whole thing just impenetrable. I think the very fact that the series stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and I haven’t even mentioned them is an indicator that something’s gone very very wrong

Luck is currently airing on Sky Atlantic

Other Reviews
Maureen Ryan and the Huffington Post liked it a lot more, and her review may actually persuade me to not cancel my series link recording quite yet – Why you should stick with Luck

TV Fanatic – Personally, I’m okay with a slow boil if it allows the viewers to immerse themselves in the world, especially one so deeply detailed as the one depicted here. And you’ll need that time; Milch drops us into the story with absolutely no context, which makes for a steep learning curve.

The Guardian – Set in and around a California horse-racing track, Luck, Sky Atlantic’s latest star-encrusted US drama, might be another example of brilliant American television, to rank alongside The Sopranos and The Wire, or a piece of beautifully filmed and immaculately acted nonsense. It’s hard to tell. Or rather, it’s hard to hear.

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  1. The series has now been cancelled, after they killed 3 horses filming it:
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/03/hbo-luck-series-to-end-after-third-horse-dies-on-set/
    So, you may not want to bother with the other episodes.

  2. There’s an interesting piece by Maureen Ryan on the cancellation at The Huffington Post. I think I’ll probably keep the first season on my to-watch list (not least due to the fact that it’s not much of a commitment if it’s only ever going to be one season of 9 episodes).

    I will also comment that if three horse deaths on a television show in a year are unacceptable, surely five horse deaths in just two days at the Cheltenham Festival is a travesty (AFP).

  1. April 17th, 2012
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