Monday, February 20, 2012

Luck - Revisited

I was not, and perhaps still not, a huge fan of HBO’s LUCK. But maybe it’s my hope springs eternal nature, or just plain curiosity that has kept me coming back.

As a horse person, I have been annoyed at the total portrayal of desperation of every speaking character in the show. The complexities are so totally dark and deranged. Every last person is tortured in some way. But last night’s episode showed a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Several things caught my attention. First, the deftness with which the vet retracted the scope, post-race (Now I KNOW she didn’t insert it) but she looked very professional. Adding to that, the look into the scope gave the viewers something that only people on the back side get to see. So it was actually educational.

Next, and perhaps the best scene of the night was when the 3 of the 4 pick six winners were in the shedrow, excited to feed carrots to their newly acquired horse. It was the first time there was true innocence and humility on anyone’s face since I’ve been watching the show. The reactions revealed that maybe the bustouts actually have a heart and a soul. Naturally, the horse brought it out.

As I said from the first episode, the casting is perfect. Gary Steven’s acting ability is superb. True, he’s playing a jock, so he has a lot to pull from. But he is genuine. And John Ortiz (Escalante), though diabolical, and the last trainer in the Universe that you would give a horse to, has channeled his character perfectly. Nick Nolte plays the tortured trainer (Walter) with angst and pure emotion. The gamblers are a group of misfits. They are so different from each other, my guess is, and Milch figured every gambler on the planet could relate in part, to some aspect of their degeneracy.

People should know that this is a snapshot of racetrack life according to Milch. He has captured the tortured and desperate human failings of “everyman” with the backdrop of our great game that is horseracing. He is obviously very good at what he does. But I have my doubts that it will create any new wagering dollars, new horse owners or any new fans. But I also know that that was surely not anyone’s objective when this concept was created.

The characters in” Luck” started out about as low as they could go, maybe there’s no place to go but up?


  1. I decided to stop reading after the first couple of paragraphs because I haven't actually watched last night's episode yet; it's on DVR. I'll be back.

    As for the dark characters, that has disappointed me a bit, too. But I fear it's the nature of television. Apart from super heroes (and even some of them are flawed), most viewers don't seem to want characters who are virtuous -- one might say, "better than they are." They want to explore the darker side of human nature.

    "The Sopranos" won 21 Emmys. An equally well-written and -cast show about a Scoutmaster and his Church-secretary wife who go around town doing good for others probably wouldn't have made it past two episodes.

    I've contemplated, however, the wrench that a truly "good guy" character might throw into "Luck." Obviously nobody should be portrayed as perfect. But the sport could benefit from the show's having at least one character who seems to be in it for all the right reasons. And fans could be entertained by Ace Bernstein's reaction to, say, a man (or woman) who is a match for him intellectually and has skills he needs, but who can't be bought.

  2. Thanks for stopping by , Glenn, I didn't read your comment till just now. Sorry! I appreciate your point of view and wonder if it has changed since watching the most recent episodes. I agree that those dark characters are many times more complex and , therefore more interesting. It's just that , for someone who has never been exposed to the racing industry and who might have an interest, well , would they still have an interest after "meeting" any one of these people?
    I am still watching the series. I like your idea of a character who might be a "match " for Ace. Maybe a proper re-evaluation is needed after a complete season?