December 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm #234498
The series premiere of HBO’s new drama series “Luck” begins on Sunday, January 29, 2012. The pilot episode is being shown as a sneak preview on Sunday, December 11. 2011 starting at 10 PM ET.
Here is some information on the series:
From acclaimed director Michael Mann and ‘”Deadwood” creator David Milch, “Luck” takes a provocative look at the world of horse racing—the owners, gamblers, jockeys, and diverse gaming industry players.
The cast stars Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, John Ortiz, Richard Kind, Ian Hart, Kevin Dunn, Ritchie Coster, Jason Gedrick, Jill Hennessy, Tom Payne, Kerry Condon, Gary Stevens, and Nick Nolte.
The pilot is directed by Michael Mann and written by David Milch.December 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm #234501
This show looks awesome. Can`t wait to see the pilot.December 10, 2011 at 10:28 pm #234502
Episode Title: “Pilot”
Synopsis: Out of prison after three years, “Ace” Bernstein and his aide/chauffeur Gus Demitriou, who’s a front for his boss’s racehorse investments, plot a purchase to reverse the sagging fortunes of a famous racetrack. Meanwhile, four dissolute gamblers at the track—Jerry, Marcus, Renzo, and Lonnie—pool their meager resources to make a Pick Six bet that could be worth millions; a key to their fortunes is a long-shot horse trained by Turo Escalante, a self-made success story with loads of talent and few scruples, who’s also training Gus/Ace’s colt; Walter Smith, another more grizzled trainer, sees classic potential in an untested thoroughbred with impressive bloodlines.
Discuss.December 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm #234503
Sneak preview already?
No, another show that I am going to be behind on!December 11, 2011 at 7:35 am #234504
This sounds really interesting. I can’t wait to see it.December 11, 2011 at 8:08 pm #234505
Someone needs to pull David Milch aside and politely explain to him that “Deadwood” was cancelled several years ago. His kind of heavily stylized dialogue requires a particular kind of milieu to work, but in a contemporary setting like this, with a dozen or so characters introduced to us all at once speaking overly elaborate dialogue with highly affected mannerisms that make it hard to understand who anyone is, what they’re doing, or why, I found it extremely tiresome. There is some very good race photography and a beautiful moment involving a horse with a broken leg, but otherwise it annoyed the heck out of me.
Whatever it’s faults, though, it doesn’t look nearly as bad as “John from Cincinnati.”December 12, 2011 at 7:50 am #234506
Even by usual HBO standards, this seems like a narrow concept for a drama series. It’s hard to see widespread appeal for the show, even with draws like Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte (who both weren’t used as prominently as I thought they’d be—more attention was focused on those Pick Six gambling guys instead of them). The pilot episode looked great, so there could be easy nods to get there (and I did like the main title design). I’ll give the pilot another try in January and watch a few more episodes to see how things go, as it looks like Hoffman will begin to take center stage then. But the show has a peculiar and contained structure about it that could go either way with audiences I think.December 12, 2011 at 8:49 am #234507
“Luck” sneak-peek premiere review: Dustin Hoffman, Michael Mann, David Milch, plus horses = more, please
by Ken Tucker
On Sunday night, HBO aired the pilot of “Luck,” the new David Milch-created horse track series, this first episode directed by Michael Mann. The opening hour was an entrancing mixture of beautiful horses, stumble-bum gamblers, exciting races, and a tightly controlled yet open, emotional performance by Dustin Hoffman.
Hoffman is Chester “Ace” Bernstein, recently released from a three-year prison stint; he took the fall for someone else, but is back to stake a claim as a wheeler-dealer in the gambling world. That’s one plot. Here’s another: four schmos who hang out at the Santa Anita racetrack all agree to bet the same numbers on a Pick Six, and end up splitting a two-million-plus buck jackpot. And another: Nick Nolte is a barely-scraping-by horse trainer who’s turning his current charge into a potential champion steed. There was a lot more, as well. Familiar faces dot “Luck”: Richard Kind as a stuttering agent for jockeys; John Ortiz, from Mann’s feature-film version of “Miami Vice,” has a crucial role as Escalante, who’s training the horse that Ace buys, but registers (because of his criminal record) as the owner his right-hand man, Gus, played by an ebullient Dennis Farina.
Milch, of course, is an HBO Hall of Famer for his creation of “Deadwood,” and had secured his place in broadcast history for his work on “NYPD Blue.” (He’s also the auteur of one of HBO’s most intriguing flops, “John from Cincinnati.”) Milch’s own creation myth involves study with literary lion Robert Penn Warren, a concomitant recent deal with the estate of William Faulkner to do God knows what to God knows which novels/short stories, and a more than passing interest in the ponies. It’s a wonder it took him this long to get around to crafting a horse-racing drama.
“Luck” is a luxuriously layered drama that uses the built-in, quick-burst excitement of the horse races to pace the more languid, alluring subplots that take place in the stables where the horses live, and the high-end hotel where Hoffman’s Ace takes up residence. It’s a top-to-bottom look at how a race track operates, how the people who work there and come to bet there use it as a place to forget the outside world, or to use their winnings to make a mark in the outside world, or use each other for respect, power, and love.
Mann does a remarkable job of setting the visual style for subsequent directors in the series to follow. The pilot returned again and again to shots of eyes—the big rich chocolate eyes of the horses; Hoffman’s hooded, hawk eyes; the exhausted, dimming eyes of Jason Gedrick (“Boomtown,” “Murder One”) as a “degenerate gambler” who’s hoping the Pick Six win will somehow save his life.
It was a beautiful hour of television to watch: The steam rising with an almost magical aura from the freshly exercised horses; the steely, inexorable pans across the faces of bettors as they strain their eyes, and their very souls, to figure out what position their horse is in during a race. Except for a few vertiginous overhead shots of the horses in the starting gate, the races were shot by Mann with the camera at the level of the horses bodies (it’s the animal version of Howard Hawks’ eye-height camera placement) as they glided horizontally across the screen. Mann’s outdoor color palette emphasizes the green of the grass, and picks up that tone wherever is appears, whether it’s a faded green shirt or a character’s green eyes.
There are other echoes as well. The early scene of Ace awaiting release from prison took place in white rooms, Hoffman glimpsed through white bars that recalled the way William Petersen and Brian Cox were framed in “Manhunter.”
Anyone who’s followed Mann’s TV career will recognize various alumni. In addition to Ortiz, Farina starred in Mann’s superb ’80s cop drama “Crime Story.” In future episodes, Barry Shabaka Henley turns up as Ace’s parole officer. Mann fans know him from the movies “Ali,” “Miami Vice,” and the vastly underrated 2002-2003 series “Robbery Homicide Division.” (Can we get a DVD release of “RHD,” please?)
From the Gil Scott-Heron music on the soundtrack to the staccato rhythm of the dialogue—“I’m tapped out—tapioca,” says Gedrick’s Jerry—“Luck” is a series about losers who nurse, sometimes desperately, sometimes coolly, the flickering flame of winning. Hoffman’s Ace might as well be talking to us as to Gus when he dropped the night’s final line: “I don’t trust no one, not even myself; you, I give a pass to.”
The full nine episodes of “Luck” will begin airing in January. It’s a brave piece of work, going against the blood, thunder, and mud style of “Game of Thrones,” or the lacquered polish of the season-ended “Boardwalk Empire.” I suspect “Luck” will need its own kind of luck to convince HBO subscribers to get on its wavelength—to go with the rhythm of its storytelling. But I’m tellin’ ya: It’s worth it.December 12, 2011 at 9:55 am #234508
I thought this was a solid pilot. It wasn`t the best pilot I have seen this year, but it was still a good and entertaining episode to watch. I was surprised how little Hoffman was in pilot. He did have a good scene with Farina at the end though. The horse race scenes were well done I thought. There is a lot of potential for this series, and I hope it can live up to it.
“Pilot”: B+December 12, 2011 at 10:23 am #234509
Enjoyed a lot this pilot, the camera shots were beautiful and the acting is incredible, Hoffman is excelent though he had a small amount of time in this pilot, felt really bad about that horse that had to be put down, it was a very strong scene, I can’t wait to check the next episodes I’m very very lookfor to see Michael Gambon on this show. Along with Game of Thrones this was the best Pilot I’ve seen this year.
Grade: ADecember 12, 2011 at 11:48 am #234510
And they’re off! Early thoughts on HBO’s “Luck”
by Alan Sepinwall Monday, Dec 12, 2011
David Milch, Michael Mann, Dustin Hoffman, and Nick Nolte team up for an impressive pilot.
Though HBO aired the pilot of “Luck” last night, the David Milch/Michael Mann horse racing drama won’t have its proper premiere until January 29, and the channel has treated last night’s airing as a sneak preview to start preliminary conversation, and little more. Copies weren’t set out to critics, though we’re apparently going to get all 9 first season episodes later this month, and there aren’t even publicity stills available yet. (The picture accompanying this review was taken off of HBO.com itself.)
Because I’ll be getting more episodes soon, because the real premiere is so far away, and because a Milch show tends to take a few episodes to fully establish itself, I’d like to wait until late January to offer a proper review, but I have a few preliminary impressions of the pilot, coming up just as soon as I know what Jim Beam is for . . .
The first time I met David Milch, he took me to the track. Writing is his profession, but horses—and betting on horses—is perhaps his deepest passion. “Luck” is the show Milch has been waiting a lifetime to make. Now, there’s a danger in making a show about a subject you know so much more intimately than the average viewer—especially when you’re a writer like Milch, whose dialogue isn’t always easy to follow even in a more familiar context—that you’ll just treat too many things as easily understood when they really aren’t. And there were definitely a few moments here and there in the “Luck” pilot where I was struggling to keep up with the plot. (My main point of confusion was whether the horse the Cajun jockey rode in the last race was Nick Nolte’s or not; obviously, it turned out not to be.)
But I don’t think it was any more opaque than, say, the “Deadwood” pilot. Easy as it is to forget now in its position among the HBO Holy Trinity, reaction was very mixed to “Deadwood” at first, and it wasn’t until the fourth episode or so where most people felt that series took shape, and Swearengen’s negotiation with Brom Garrett and Tim Driscoll was at least as convoluted as the four degenerate gamblers’ plan to win the Pick 6.
And while I imagine it’ll be at least a few episodes before I feel comfortable with all the lingo, I thought the pilot did a terrific job of capturing the atmosphere of the track and the people who hang around it. Though Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte are the big names, and will no doubt be more prominent in later episodes, it almost felt like the stars of the show this week were Jason Gedrick and Kevin Dunn (whose early grasp of Milch-speak reminded me very much of both Ian McShane and Dennis Franz), and all the scenes with their quartet were funny and sad and completely engaging, even if I couldn’t follow all of it.
Where I was really impressed, though, was Michael Mann’s direction. The cliche is that TV is a writer’s medium, and film a director’s medium. “Luck” is trying to be both, pairing one of the small screen’s all-time great wordsmiths with one of the most meticulous, impressive visual stylists in either movies or television. Various reports suggest the combination was predictably volatile off-camera, but the end result was very impressive. I’ve seen a lot of fictional horse races, but none felt quite as intimate or powerful as Mann’s work here. The horses are every bit as important to the show as most of the human characters—the pilot’s big emotional climax involves the 8 horse suffering a bad break in mid-race and having to be put down—and while Milch has no ability to put elaborate sentences into their mouths, Mann found a way to capture the individuality and strong will that so many of the humans ascribe to the horses.
It looked great, it sounded great, and Hoffman and Dennis Farina established a quick, entertaining rapport as Ace Bernstein and his driver/front Gus. Obviously, it could make a very wrong turn into a “John from Cincinnati” within a few episodes, but what I saw last night made me very, very eager for that HBO care package to arrive.
What did everybody else think? Did the sneak preview make you more or less excited for the series to debut late next month?December 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm #234511
Well well… Solid pilot! Very glad I saw it. Next to Homeland, the best pilot of the year.December 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm #234512
HBO has confirmed that will send the entire season for critics. The last show they did this for was The Wire. If you ask me, that’s a fucking good sign.January 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm #234513
Well, since it premieres this sunday, I thought I’d bump this thread. Right now the season has a 74 on Metacritic. Meaning it’s a divisive show. because the high grades for this thing are several and they are very high, but it also has some mixed.
However, even if it becomes too divisive to be nominated for Drama (which I’m not sure it’s the case), it still looks liely to get several other nominations, especially in Directing (besides Michael Mann, other big and/or acclaimed names are doing here too, including Phillip Noyce in episode 4, that seems to be the favorite of some critics).