HBO Cancels 'Luck' After Third Horse Death
It's rare that I ever find myself agreeing in any sort of way with PETA, but there's a first time for everything, and while they would probably be upset if it happened, pigs have finally flown. For a while now, the organization against animal cruelty, both real and virtual (and plumbing related) has been up in arms over the treatment of the horses on the set of HBO's "Luck", the universally-acclaimed Dustin Hoffman-starrer, and that pressure from the likes of PETA and other such organizations has led to the surprise cancellation of the series.
While I've only been able to catch the pilot personally, the show is pretty spectacular and you don't have to travel to too many review sites to figure that out. Everyone thought that HBO was continuing their streak of great TV, adding Luck -- the show about horse-racing, gambling, crime, and the plight of bad men -- to their already stacked slate that includes Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones among the award bait series. And for the most part they were right. Unless you have a lot of animal lovers on the Academy, expect to see Luck among the nominees for this year's Emmy Awards.
But when you have live animals on your set, live animals that are an integral part of the show no less, the odds of arising problems grow greater and great. Luck not only used live horses for the many racing and track scenes in their show, but they used retired -- a.k.a. older -- horses for those scenes, and that meant trouble.
This week, the show suffered its third horse death, and it appears that that was about enough for HBO to cancel the series. On Tuesday, after the horse died, it was decided that the show would only be allowed to shoot scenes that didn't involve any horses, and as you can imagine, that's not very many. It wasn't a day before the show was canceled entirely. The first season of the show will still air its remaining two episodes leading up to a March 25th finale, but it remains unclear whether any of the footage and episodes already shot for season 2 will wind up airing.
While the show is certainly great, and probably deserves a better fate. But enough is enough. There's a reason horses retire from racing, and probably an even better reason why the show didn't have any access to active racing horses. It was fun to see Luck try something different, and there definitely wasn't any other show out there, but there's only so many horses you can kill before people start to take notice.
There's of course another aspect to this. HBO could be using this as an excuse to cancel the series, which probably wasn't producing ratings that were up to expectations. Luck premiered to 1.1 million viewers, but has been steadily dropping since then. The last episode that aired didn't even break 700,000 viewers. HBO isn't usually all that concerned with ratings (Bored to Death was ready to hit 5 digit viewers before HBO decided enough was enough), but Luck is probably one of their more expensive shows to produce. Guys like Dennis Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Richard Kind, Dennis Farina, not to mention series creators David Milch and Michael Mann probably come at a high price. While it would be odd for HBO to simply stop production in the middle of a season if it wanted to cancel a show, it's not unheard of, and the pressure from animal rights groups could only be so strong.
Either way, television viewers lost a great show this week in Luck. But it was probably for the best that HBO put the kibosh on it.