Even with the glut of excellent TV soon to be upon us–the return of Mad Men this weekend and Game of Thrones next–I was disappointed to hear about the recent cancellation of HBO’s newest series, Luck. Created by David Milch (of Deadwood renown) and starring Dustin Hoffman, among other notables, Luck looked like it might have the goods to become a hit.
Sadly, after two horses died on set during the filming of season 1, and a third perished during the filming of season 2, HBO pulled the plug on the series. Some speculated that HBO’s reasoning had more to do with the buzz-diminishing effect of the deaths, while others pointed out that groups like PETA had been critical of Luck since the beginning.
What’s clear is that HBO entering into the unwinnable debate on the ethics of horse racing wouldn’t have been good for business.
The irony of this situation, of course, is that Milch is an outspoken lover of horses and horse racing, and Luck is something of a love letter to his lifelong devotion to the sport. A sad, seedy love letter, but a love letter nonetheless. The other irony is that horses regularly die in the course of horse racing and training, often at a far greater rate than they did on the show. Nonetheless, the argument that one horse death for the sake of entertainment is one too many seems to prevail here. The animal rights activists have won this battle, but the war is ongoing.