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Herc Encourages Viewers To
Continue Trying HBO’s LUCK!!


I am – Hercules!!

A new nine-episode drama about the various personalities hanging around Southern California’s Santa Anita racetrack near Pasadena, “Luck” is masterminded by longtime horse owner David Milch (“NYPD Blue,” “Deadwood,” “John From Cincinnati”). Its pilot was directed by the great Michael Mann (“Heat”) and it stars Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Kerry Condon, Jill Hennessy, Joan Allen, Richard Kind, Ian Hart, Kevin Dunn, Jason Gedrick, Ritchie Coster, Dennis Farina, John Ortiz, Tom Payne, and Gary Stevens.

The first episode aired last month before the critics got a look at it, so you don’t need me to tell you whether it’s magnificent or dull or magnificently dull. But the critics are chiming in now.

If you own a computer or a smart phone, you can skip ahead to episode two, which is available via HBO Go starting 9 p.m. Sunday. It’s also easier to follow than episode one.

I am up to episode three, and am quite enjoying this tale of gambling and mammals. Hoffman’s character especially grows more interesting as the series wears on. And I love the Gedrick character’s repeated poker showdowns with Leo, a restaurateur played, if I’m not mistaken, by “Big Trouble In Little China” icon Dennis Dun.

HuffPost TV says:

... you're likely to feel a little lost at first, but, having seen seven of "Luck's" nine episodes, I can say that this impressively directed drama is very much worth sticking with. Not every aspect of "Luck" has the satisfying richness of the stories involving the trackside foursome and Nolte's quietly fascinating trainer; but the parts that do work possess the doom-laden yet strangely optimistic romanticism of Milch's best work. …

HitFix says:

... It's a race involving [the Nolte character’s] horse in the show's fourth episode that brings the series together. Like a lot of HBO dramas — including the all-time great ones like "Deadwood," "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" — "Luck" takes a few hours to establish its world, characters and rules, and there are some stumbles in the early chapters. But when Gettin' Up Morning races in front of the small crowd, "Luck" — and its love of this dirty, obsolete, addictive world — comes to life. …

The New York Times says:

... not close to great. ... maddeningly and needlessly opaque, and so deferential to the rites and rituals of the track that the storytelling is labored and even joyless. It improves over time, but it’s not really until the finale that “Luck” quickens its pace and builds suspense and a sense of urgency. … One reason for all the mystification may be that deep down, past the color and drama of horse racing, there is not much mystery. Problems turn out not to be all that complicated. Characters who speak inscrutably don’t have that much to say. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

… I wondered at times if I was looking at a new rule-breaking version of the art form, a Monet perhaps, or a "Ulysses." Or I wondered if it was just a show drowning in pretension, the work of people hoping that novelty would disguise a lack of professional rigor. Having finished the nine-episode first season, I am inclined toward the former, though there is enough of the latter to make me appreciate the confines of more traditional television storytelling. Also, the value of network notes. ...

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... even attentive viewers who aren't familiar with the race track-gambling world may be confused. Mr. Milch does not spell out everything in his scripts; he drops viewers into the world and expects them to fend for themselves. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

… "Deadwood" fans already know that Milch doesn't make it easy for viewers to get a purchase on his series, but for those willing to do the work, "Luck" pays off. …

The Washington Post says:

… there is a limit. “Luck” is suffused with brilliant acting and amazing scenes, but in a few unfortunate ways, it remains impenetrable almost until its last hour. By that point, a lot of potential viewers will have wandered off. … There’s a lot to like in “Luck,” which is not the same as saying it’s entirely enjoyable. I’d call it tediously fascinating — however contradictory that may seem — and not required viewing. …

The Boston Herald says:

... As he did on the canceled-far-too-soon “Deadwood,” Milch sketches out eccentric characters and memorable dialogue. …

The Boston Globe says:

… Pretty good, yes; but great, no - or at least not great in that Sunday-night way HBO has led people to take for granted. …

TV Guide says:

... the action on the track so thrillingly photographed and edited you may not mind when the human drama so often feels stalled at the gate. ... the plot is as stubbornly slow-burning as Hoffman's sharply reined-in performance and ultimately far less inspired. …

USA Today says:

If you want to have Luck, you'd better have patience. ... as much as Milch is clearly drawn to this world, he hasn't yet made it either a congenial or a particularly compelling place to visit. The smart money says he will. Whether you want to make that bet, though, is your call.

Time says:

... addictive … I loved. Eventually. Yes, this is another critic flogging a cable drama by saying “It’s really good, but give it a few episodes.” And I’ll throw in another caveat—this is not a show for everyone, not even every fan of other HBO dramas. ...

The Wall Street Journal says:

... The cast is large and the show drops us into the stream of each character's life without much explanation. Go with the flow until it begins to make sense. It will. ...

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... Like a lot of HBO series, Luck will require patience. It’s telling a dense story with nuanced characters and it doesn’t feel the need to rush in, like a network series, and hammer home the main themes. But each episode is more enriching, more engrossing than the last and there’s Hoffman’s superb turn at the forefront, even though his story unfolds with the least rush. Luck is a smart and ambitious series that looks to truly pay off in the home stretch. ...

Variety says:

… the fruits of all that thoroughbred talent are less than satisfying, luxuriating in a seamy array of desperate characters that Milch, an experienced horse owner and gambler, perhaps knows a little too well. Milch's mastery of language creates a distinctive world, and the show will surely have its admirers. That said, one suspects the payout to HBO audience-wise will be limited, with some apt to drift away short of the finish line.…

9 p.m. Sunday. HBO.



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Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 29, 2012, 5:39 a.m. CST

    A good pedigree

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    So I guess I had better give it a chance

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 5:46 a.m. CST


    by TheBurningHand

    how are tv shows reviewed in the real world? is it based on the first episode or the whole season? most shows get bashed by reviewers after 1 episode (especially on here) but from reading the reviews for this show it seemed like they gave it a few episodes. is there alot of money invested in this or what? most tv shows get a hell of alot better after the pilot. why is this show special?

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:01 a.m. CST

    Dustin Hoffman is jealous of Al Pacino. Wants more Emmys than Pacino!

    by Orionsangels

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:09 a.m. CST

    I will give it a try.....but I Cant stand Mann

    by smokie

    saw the Pilot....was interesting....I love Milch....cast is nothing short of inspiring....but....Michael Mann's camera just kills it for me.....can't stand it......I hope the entire series does not follow Manns style. I never could get into Mann's directorial style. It actually makes me sick to my stomach, literally. I am not sure why. Every single Michael Mann movie including Heat. I can't help it. I just fucking hate it. I really do not understand why he is so revered. Am I the only one who thinks this?

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:18 a.m. CST


    by proevad

    Man, are you all the wrong fucking board. Yes, you are the only one who hates Michael Mann.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:19 a.m. CST

    @siouxcitysarsaparilla ....exactly

    by smokie

    that was ridiculous

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Agree with Smokie

    by SiouxCitySarsaparilla

    The script and the lensing didn't quite synch for me in the pilot. I'm dubious about the reports of conflict on set but that doesn't mean there's not an aesthetic schism in the two men's vision. Hopefully they can make that work in an innovative way that strengthens their individual ideas. We often hear of shows that are made in a sort of critical dialectic with the network's editorial notes so it would be ironic if these two men of considerable repute now given their freedom from studio interference contrive to reconstruct their own version of that constraint with each other.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:26 a.m. CST

    @proevad - many will agree with you

    by smokie

    Many friends of mine don't understand my distaste for Mann especially because they all generally have a lot of respect for my taste in film and television. I don't know. It's like an allergy to me.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 6:53 a.m. CST

    I'm pretty ambivalent on Mann also

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    I've watched probably everything he's done, but I don't own a single one on DVD. Heat is probably the best film he's done, but apart from the shootout, its pretty unremarkable. And De Nero Vs Pacino was a scenery chew-off between two charictures of their former selves. I think The Insider is my favourite film, mainly from the heroic acting job from Russell Crowe, who showed real acting chops for the first time.

  • What has he done lately? And you know what, Red Dragon, let's go there... Manhunter is overrated. He's a guy who was earmarked young to become more influential than he's actually become. And to the extent that he is influential it's diluted by there not being the late period run of classic films somebody of his status ought to have made by now. I don't think he stands comparison to the names in the previous generation that his champions believed he would. There are younger directors that have achieved more. And I like Heat, Collateral, The Insider and Last of the Mohicans as much as the next guy. It's just what has he done lately. Public Enemies and Miami Vice were pretty lightweight. Public Enemies in particular has been one upped by Boardwalk Empire. Ali was okay I suppose.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 7:08 a.m. CST

    Ha, my spell check wants me to comment on a film called Last of the Mozambicans!

    by SiouxCitySarsaparilla

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Kerry Condon is in this ?

    by Itchy

    Good to hear. Loved her in Rome. Didn't blame Octavius a bit for tapping that.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 8:11 a.m. CST

    Best thing Michael Mann ever was involved in....

    by cokefrog22

    Crime Story Season One. So much of Heat was lifted from there... some things scene for scene.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Fuckin' Milch and HBO indignities.

    by Al Swearengen

    Those cocksuckers best hope their travels don't bring them to the paths of the good, hard working people of Deadwood. They may find themselves staring at the maw of Wu's pigs faster than that gunslinger, Hickock, could draw the weapon of his occupation.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 8:48 a.m. CST

    re: The Insider.... I stand corrected

    by smokie

    I forgot Michael Mann made The Insider. I really liked that one and Last of the Mohegans as well. So I can't say I am allergic to all work just most of it.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 10 a.m. CST

    Luck & Michael Mann

    by richievanderlow

    I'm a huge fan of Michael Mann, but I get the criticisms. If there is one thing I'd like to see, its him branch out more. Mohicans, Ali and the Insider were great segues from his typical crime drama theme. That being said, I have yet to be outright disappointed by any of his films, and despite the similarities in many of his crime films, he always seems to find a new and interesting aspect to explore, in my opinion. Stylistically, I love how he shoots his movies. I love how he utilizes his actors to speak through expression, attitude and just characterization. But the Luck pilot seemed like a bit of a mess, and perhaps that's the scripts fault, but I like the idea Herc lays out above of just 'dropping us in' so I that's just fine with me. I've often thought Mann employs the same technique but the viewer figures it out by the end of the film, and in this case the reveals come in future episodes.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 10:37 a.m. CST

    I found the pilot to be boring

    by sunwukong86

    other than Hoffman's character, there was no real indication as to where the series was going

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 10:39 a.m. CST


    by richievanderlow

    Regarding Mann's career, I tend to think he's a director that doesn't really care about his perception. I could be wrong and obviously have no idea, but his choices strike me as someone who chooses projects that solely interest him, not to advance a diverse career that wins him favor from the public. That's why he does something like 'Luck'.. because he wants to.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 10:45 a.m. CST

    The John from Cincinnati Effect

    by jjm

    I believe I speak for many about feeling absolutely betrayed by Milch and HBO for the untimely exit of Deadwood without any conclusion or promised wrap-up. I was glad to see John from Cincinnati die without ever seeing an episode as a big "up yours" to HBO and Milch, and I walked away from HBO for years. Game of Thrones slowly brought me back to HBO, but I'm still ticked at Milch. Speaking for myself, I hope Luck and every other project he works on post-Deadwood meets a similar fate as John from Cincinnati.

  • which probably means it's crap.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 11:01 a.m. CST

    First one was okay

    by BizarroJerry

    But, I wasn't sure if was interesting or boring. Milch's dialogue has a way of sometimes spicing up bland things. I think that the four chronic gamblers were the most Milchy characters, especially in their dialogue.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:06 p.m. CST

    One of the worst pilots I have ever seen

    by AshokForgiven

    Im sorry, I really wanted to like this show but imho the pilot was a total mess. Seriously, there is better stuff going on in network TV.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:06 p.m. CST

    poorly conceived

    by BeMoreFunny

    People don't find horseracing interesting. Almost no one bothers with it ever during their lives, and if you want to gamble you bet on football or play Texas Hold Em. There might as well be a TV show about curling.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST


    by Fing Fang Foom

    Mann does great work. He's not perfect but better than most filmmakers and 95% of the crap out there. But go ahead & nitpick all you want, then go back to your Resident Evil box set and whack off to Mila.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Maaaaann, Part 2

    by Fing Fang Foom

    I only like 5 of his movies, but he really sucks and makes me want to throw up wah wah wah...

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:39 p.m. CST

    fing fang foom

    by richievanderlow

    Yeah, agree with your first post above wholeheartedly. I really love watching his behind the scenes documentaries surrounding his movies. He's all about the process and it's fascinating to hear what's in his head. The three part featurette on the new Mohican's blu-ray is fantastic btw.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 12:47 p.m. CST

    RIP Ian Abercrombie

    by mbg98

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 2:21 p.m. CST

    What about Michael Gambon..???

    by DC Films

    They mention everyone else but the Gambon, who looks like the classiest aspect of this !!!

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 3:08 p.m. CST

    I own horses, and this bored the shit out of me.

    by Cash907

    If I'm going to watch something just for Hoffman's performance, there are many, many other choices out there.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 3:16 p.m. CST

    I want at least horse cock joke by ep.5 or I'm out!

    by Xenodistortion

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 3:17 p.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    Most critics get to see a handful of episodes (around 4) long before they air, so they can get a sense of what the show is rather than judging it on its pilot alone. It really depends on a lot of things. If you're thinking of "Touch," the difference there is that what aired last Sunday was a sneak preview and not an actual premiere. By the time it officially airs I'm sure critics will have seen more than one episode and you can determine for yourself whether or not they're being unfair.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 3:17 p.m. CST

    By the way...

    by Ribbons

    ...I thought the pilot was solid and am down for more, but I can't stand Richard Kind's character.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 3:50 p.m. CST

    sometimes they send us just the first episode.

    by Hercules

    sometimes they send us more. HBO (wisely) sent critics the entire first season. My appraisal would be very different if I'd only seen the first episode.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 7:26 p.m. CST


    by Andy_Dufresne

    I don't get the Mann hate at all. Heat is a modern American masterpiece. Probably one of the best crime flicks of all time. I don't care what else the guy has done. He has a lifetime free pass with me.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 7:32 p.m. CST

    At what point do people give HBO the benefit of a doubt ?

    by Itchy

    I mean fuck .... it's not like they're threatening to cut off your supply of cheetos, mountain dew and internet porn if you watch episode 2. Give the fucking thing a chance .

  • I hope it does get better, esp. for Nolte and Farina et, al. I don't know how effective Hoffman will be in the lead. He just doesn't pull off the tough, hardened criminal guy imo.

  • and they were on location somewhere dangerous and he suddenly hauled ass out of there and they had to do some reshoots b/c of his bullshit. Farrel was fucked up on rx pills but he stayed the whole time.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 8:42 p.m. CST

    Link to Game of Thrones Season 2 Trailer - "You Win or You Die"

    by Crow3711 You're welcome.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 10:40 p.m. CST

    Give it time

    by Boxcutter

    Pilot tried to do too much and Mann's insistence on relying on retro 80s score grated in bits, but there were some wonderful things here. Beautiful racing sequences and interesting relationships and dynamics being worked out, Nolte muttering to a horse, Hoffman being quite restrained (apart from the delightful tantrum where he ruins his shirt). I'm in, I want to know more about these people.

  • Jan. 29, 2012, 11:09 p.m. CST


    by justanactor

    Wait till you get to episode 4 (Phil Noyce's). You've never seen tv like the race in that episode.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 2:47 a.m. CST

    Miles Better Than the Preview Showing

    by no1ofimportance

    I savaged the preview showing pretty harshly last month because the sound balance was terrible, with the foley and soundtrack drowning out the dialog. I watched the pilot rebroadcast, and I'm not sure whether they did a new mix or just cut the background track level a couple notchs, it's 1000% better. I'm shocked by how much of the little plot details I had missed tat were in the little whispers or quick comments at the end of a scene. I was ready to write off the show, but now I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the season.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 9:28 a.m. CST

    I don't hate Mann, I just haven't enjoyed much he has done.

    by hst666

    I do like Milch and Hoffman though. I never understood the popularity of Heat. I have yet to see that Tom Cruise film from a couple years ago.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Insider was great

    by hst666

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 1:05 p.m. CST


    by Marc Cerasini

    Why the hell is it that everything that HBO does is "a tough slog in the beginning but worth it?" I heard that same shit about BOREDWALK EMPIRE, MILDREAD PIERCE, (Crapped out of a) JOHN FROM CINCINATTI, and now FUCK. "Stick with it, it will be worth it," "Doesn't really kick in until episode four" Come on. Since when is entertainment supposed to be fucking work? And who has four hours to waste to get to the good part? It's entertainment, not study hall. No wonder Starz and Showtime are growing, and HBO is in decline.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 1:33 p.m. CST

    First episode was dull

    by FrodoFraggins

    I'm sure I'll stick with it longer than I did with John from Cincinnati.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 3:24 p.m. CST


    by Ken

    If we followed your advise, HBO would have cancelled the Wire.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 6:01 p.m. CST


    by Keith Small

    Agree 100% And The Wire was certainly worth our patience.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 6:11 p.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    I can't tell whether you're trolling or not (it's certainly hard to imagine somebody actually thinking it's somehow witty to call this show "Fuck"), but for one thing, most people didn't like John from Cincinnati or Mildred Pierce, and for another, Boardwalk Empire's pilot was awesome. I don't understand your point, because it's almost a universal truth that shows get better after their first episode (with a few exceptions), so why should it be any different here? It's not "study hall," it's just being realistic. And if you don't have 3 hours of your life to spare you probably shouldn't be watching a TV series in the first place.

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 8:24 p.m. CST

    I loved the Luck Premiere!

    by DeltonParker

    First there was a cool riddle about a king, a priest and a richman. Cat pulled a knife on the pimp guy. The evil little shit king start stripping his future queen and pointed a crossbow at her head. The old evil queen is getting helped in the streets as a angry mob attacks her. The usually naked Dragon Girl threatens about taking what is hers with Fire and Blood.. After that I not quite sure what happened, because I kept fast forwarding through this first part....

  • Jan. 30, 2012, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Could anyone understand a fucking word?

    by Tristan

    It was difficult to understand most of the conversations. The characters were mumbling their dialogue. It was very frustrating. I couldn't make it through the pilot. I think Michael Mann is a great director, but certainly has fumbled, lately. Heat will always be his best work, imo. They have great actors on Luck, but that pilot was a huge letdown.

  • Jan. 31, 2012, 2:57 a.m. CST

    Audio problem is a thing with both Milch & Mann

    by MGTHEDJ

    NYPD Blue and Heat both had audio issues. Also Milch likes to write in sentence fragments littered with bizarre slang. Interesting pilot, and the big con of setting up slots at the track is interesting. Of course other states have done this for years, so why the shock that this is a radical idea? Hope they address this issue. I'll sick around for now.-----later-----m

  • Am I wrong?

  • Jan. 31, 2012, 11:37 a.m. CST


    by Marc Cerasini

    Some of us are not so enamored of THE WIRE. And their show TREME totally sucks. As HBO sucks since they cancelled the final season of ROME, and for what? Crapped Out of a John From Cincinatti. Waste of subscriber money.

  • Jan. 31, 2012, 11:41 a.m. CST


    by Marc Cerasini

    If you think the first, or the second, or even the THIRD episode of BOREDWALK EMPIRE was "awesome" you are someone who shouldn't be critiquing anything. Even top critics were not happy with the first episode, where we watched things happen and didn't know why because THERE WAS NO CONTEXT. Recall the first episode of THE SOPRANOS. Or even the first Episode of SPARTACUS. Both featured straightforward storytelling, without pretensions. Robert McKee would bitch slap you for suggesting that ANYONE wait two or three hours to be entertained.