David Milch and Michael Mann's "Luck" has been shut down after a third horse died during production, early in the shooting of the show's second season. It's a sad end for a series that's practically worshipful of the animals, both in the way they're shot — like magical things, muscles moving on gleaming skin as they round the track — and in the way they affect the people on screen next to them. Horses are able to bring out the soft side in even the toughest characters in "Luck," even Dustin Hoffman's revenge-focused mobster ex-con Chester Bernstein, who ends up staying with the Irish thoroughbred he bought all night after it's injured at the track.
"Luck" has lagged in ratings, but has been well-received critically and was renewed for a second season by HBO, but the equine accidents have made the show untenable for the network, who today released a statement saying that "It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series."
Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing 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 are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation.Quote from Michael Mann and David Milch: “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.”
I'm sorry to see "Luck" go — it's a series deeply in love with its racetrack setting, and its emotional warmth makes the fact that it's almost exclusively character-driven work. The accidents have attracted a lot of attention from animal rights activists, and it's possible further investigations into what happened and safety regulations on set will take place, but the content of the show at least suggests Milch would be just as distressed by these incidents as any of them.
The season, and now series, finale of "Luck" will air March 25.