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HBO Cancels Michael Mann & David Milch's 'Luck' After Another Horse Dies On Set

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by Joe Cunningham
March 15, 2012 9:24 AM
13 Comments
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Luck Dustin Hoffman Dennis Farina John Ortiz

If you're a fan of the HBO series "Luck," some sad news has arrived as HBO has decided to cease all future production on the show. It comes in the wake of a horse dying on set during the filming of the second episode of season two, marking the third horse to have died in total during the filming of the show.

This is a pretty unpleasant story all round -- both creatively speaking and in terms of the animals' welfare. The horse-racing series starred both Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and was executive produced by David Milch and Michael Mann, and was poised to become a long-running show at the network. HBO will now run the remaining episodes of the first season but all footage from the second season -- including the completed first episode -- will remain unaired. Initially it appeared that HBO would continue to film scenes that didn't involve horses for the time being, but that quickly changed and production is shutting down with immediate effect.

In a statement HBO said: "Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horse-racing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."

We imagine this may have been a harder decision to make had "Luck" been performing better in the ratings, but the series was drawing only modest viewing figures and it was something of a surprise that a second season was ordered so quickly in the first place. But with mounting pressure from groups like PETA, the horse deaths were becoming a PR nightmare for the cable network and the decision, while still likely a tough one to make, was ultimately a no-brainer.

At the end of HBO's statement, Mann and Milch added: “The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers. This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”

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13 Comments

  • Mw | March 26, 2012 6:57 PMReply

    Very sad about cancellation of Luck. Of course safety is major priority, and anything in need of changing should be changed, but as those of us who work with horses know, sometimes accidents happen and there are other parts of the horse industry with even more controversial and pressing safety concerns. I felt this was a series with amazing potential; complex, gritty and intriguing. I liked the obvious references to true events in the world of horse racing and found the characters believable and even multi-layered, changig even as the series progressed, adding new dimensions just when you thought you had a character neatly pegged. The effect of the horses on the humans was an emerging theme that held much promise,as well. I've heard criticisms that the series didn't portray the best aspects of horse racing, and that it was biased to the negative. I think it's unfair to expect one series to carry the image of an entire industry as part of its mission. There could have been more high end examples of the best of the best--Team Zenyatta for example- but who knows where Luck would have gone had its winning streak lasted? How ironic if Luck was cancelled due to bad Luck! I'll miss it.....

  • DeeDee | March 18, 2012 12:35 PMReply

    Sorry to hear of the cancellation....understand the welfare of the horses is a propriety. On the other hand, I'm not sure why the viewership is so low...this was turning into a wonderful show and could have been the next "Sopranos" for HBO. People seem to want to watch mediocre reality shows...creativity has almost disappeared completely on television and in the movies.

  • Leah | March 17, 2012 7:23 PMReply

    Uhm Tristan those horses died in vain. Nobody ate them. Derp!

  • BSBBC | March 15, 2012 2:02 PMReply

    HBO-suits are just a bunch of hypocrites. Two of the horses died while they were filming season one, HBO greenlit the second season anyway. After they started airing episodes, they realized that the show is an expensive flop. After PETA got involved, it was a flop with a lot of bad publicity.
    Now that the third horse died, HBO got an excuse to cancel the show and make it look like they are the good guys. They didn't care about the deaths when they still thought that the show was a potential hit.

  • StephenM | March 15, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    I think this is kind of ridiculous. Is it really impossible to film this without killing horses? I don't think so. The way they put it here, they have extremely high standards of safety but unfortunately accidents just happen. Though I suppose these are probably really valuable horses if they have to do races, it just seems really dumb to say, "We're going to cancel this because we had a couple accidents on set. Even though nobody got hurt, we did lose a couple horses, so we can't make any more." Unless you genuinely can't make more episodes without killing animals, why not tighten safety procedures and keep on, hoping for no more accidents? DOesn't make sense to me.

  • jingmei | March 15, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    Sad for the icon stars to make profits, meanwhile shows respect to animals, that's it.

  • tristan eldritch | March 15, 2012 10:32 AMReply

    Okay, I'm a big fan of the show, so probably rationalizing very heavily here, but does anyone who eats meat have any right to be upset about the accidental deaths of three horses over a two year period? I mean, eating meat is clearly a choice and by no means a necessity, and if you eat meat you are tacitly giving your approval to, and participating in the deliberate slaughter of millions and millions of animals annually. So, I dunno, seems like crocodile tears to me crying over a couple of accidental deaths just because horses are more poetic looking than cows or something.

  • The Playlist | March 15, 2012 11:08 AM

    What does eating meat have to do with the cancellation of this show?

  • Nik Grape | March 15, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    Yea, this was pretty shocking and unpleasant news. Part of me is angry that a show with such a stellar cast and crew will only have one season to its name, while other laughably bad HBO shows like True Blood get to be renewed. The other part of me, does that nodding/shaking gesture with the head because if animals were in danger and three horses already died, there's no telling if more would have died had production continued. It's the ugly life of the biz and some things have to be sacrificed I guess. Shame, really.

  • Nik Grape | March 15, 2012 1:02 PM

    You made the mistake of wrongly replying to me so you're gonna pay for it. Bringing this debate about unjust animal slaughter into an article about Luck getting canceled because of three horses dying is completely out of context. It's people like you who give "environmentalists" and animal activists a bad rep. Pushing the agenda anywhere you can as soon as there is any mention of animal cruelty, even when the topic has NOTHING to do with farm animals slaughtered for meat. I'm proud to eat organic meat from farms that treat animals with care because I can't afford to shell out more dollars on a dozen other non-animal products that will give me the same amount of nourishment that a single steak will provide. I still have the right to feel sad about horses dying on a film production for goodness sake.

  • tristan eldritch | March 15, 2012 11:31 AM

    Well, I'm just saying that's it seems vaguely hypocritical to be troubled by three horses dying accidentally during the making of tv show, while at the same time untroubled by the idea of thousands of animals being deliberately slaughtered so you and I (if not vegan) can eat a food product that we don't really need. I wasn't relating it so much to the concellation of the show as to the moral outrage that prompted it being cancelled.

  • James | March 15, 2012 9:57 AMReply

    From THR:

    "But pointing to the ratings is, in fact, pointless. They don’t matter. Most of the people quick to chide the lack of viewers for the show don’t like it anyway. If ratings really mattered, HBO wouldn’t have renewed it for a second season. In HBO’s world, Luck was setting up rather nicely. It had a ton of critical acclaim and the latter episodes of the season were bringing together a complicated storyline. Most important, viewers were getting more familiar and comfortable with a subculture – horse racing – that many knew nothing about when the series launched.

    Given that cable series often see a spike in ratings during the second season – after those who didn’t watch find it on DVD or rentals – HBO had every reason to believe it could build on the Luck track record."

  • BSBBC | March 15, 2012 2:06 PM

    "If ratings really mattered, HBO wouldn't have renewed it for a second season. "

    HBO renewed the show before they started airing episodes. They didn't know that it was going to tank.

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