Did you guys watch the premiere of Luck last night? It is the new high-profile HBO drama series about horse racing from David Milch (Deadwood, NYPD Blue) starring Dustin Hoffman. Last night’s episode was directed by Michael Mann. It was…pretty good? No, yeah, it was pretty good. To be completely honest, I had a really hard time understanding what anyone was talking about for a long time. I’m not sure if this is because I don’t know anything about horse racing, because the show was relatively dense and unwelcoming, or because I’m just very stupid, or maybe a combination of those three things. But, like, a jockey said “we’re going to ride big today” in a cajun accent and this made the trainer angry? Why was the trainer angry? What does “ride big” mean? It was a lot of things like that. But I’m excited to learn new things! Maybe in a couple weeks I will know what “ride big” means and I can go to cocktail parties and be like “they were riding those horses big this week, huh?” and everyone will know because we’re all learning together and it’s good for the brain’s synapses and now we won’t get Alzheimer’s. Incidentally, the least compelling aspect of the show was actually supposed to be its biggest draw: Dustin Hoffman.

It’s not that he was bad. He is a very good actor who is good at his job and I predict big things for him, I think he’s going to do really well. But, like, his character was the most obvious archetype. A mob-related figure just out of prison? Got it. I love that archetype, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not nearly as interesting or at least as novel as a rag-tag group of degenerate gamblers who just stumbled into 3 million dollars. Or even a horse trainer. I guess there’s The Horse Whisperer or whatever, but I’m a grown man, and it’s 2012, so I have never seen it, and I am just saying, even with The Horse Whisperer, who cares, this show has some new archetypes. (Unless this is just a rip-off word for word of The Horse Whisperer. I wouldn’t know. See also: The Seabiscuit Whisperer.)

So, last night’s episode was good. Horses horses horses. Races races races. We got introduced to all of our new friends. Dustin Hoffman lives in a hotel, I think? And his shirt buttons are very loose? But also there was a trailer for the whole season and it looks like things are about to get VERY intense, guys. MURDER! MURDER SO FOUL! Betrayal. Horses. Dust. Ribbons. Horses. California.

I do hope that the future episodes get a LITTLE easier to understand. But otherwise, I am on board. Guys? You guys?

Comments (27)
  1. I have a feeling I know how this series ends.

  2. I look very forward to watching more horsey-races.

    • It’s 1974, March 15th, and horseracing history is about to be made!
      A hot muggy day, all the horses are at their gates – let’s run the race, shall we?
      First of all, Mr. Fasthorse comes down his gate real slow-like. Not like his name at all!
      Papa’s Delicate Condition and Krystallnacht almost trip over each other!
      Get your bets in, gentlemen, because Batman: The Horse isn’t waitin’ around for anybody!
      Nice ‘N’ Sticky says, “What about me, boys?”
      Next up, Stinkfinger.
      Next to her, If Mandy Patankin Was a Horse comes in.
      Bringin’ up the rear, Ol’ Felcher!

      And that’s how the race was run!

  3. OBVIOUSLY he got upset because he thought that the joke about riding big in a horse race was another tired, obvious joke.

  4. I watched this episode a few weeks ago when they did a “sneak” preview after something else (I don’t remember what). I think Gabe is right on as far as it being dense and hard to follow for non-horse people.

    However, I think it was one of those things where I recognized that it was good even though I couldn’t quite embrace it. I expect that if I hang on for a few more episodes, the characters will fall more clearly into place as I get to know their world better. And then I’ll go back and re-watch the pilot and think it was great.

    Or maybe it’s John from Cincinnati all over again.

    • I haven’t seen this yet, but it feels like The Wire/Deadwood/Game of Thrones syndrome where it takes a couple of episodes to pin down the language and the relationships (or in the case of Thrones, the very NAMES of characters).

  5. Nice try, Gabe. You almost had me with the whole “I don’t know anything about horses” schtick. But then I remembered a little something called Pony Day.
    What’s the meaning of these lies?! We all know you’re a pony expert! What kind of sick game are you trying to play, man?

  6. Didn’t watch it, but that cast! Dennis Farina! Kevin Dunn! Richard Kind! I am somewhat interested now that I know my favorite old-ish white male actors from the ’90s are doing their thing together.

  7. Let’s theorize: why did the jockey saying ‘We’re going to ride big today’ make the trainer angry?

    Theory #1: Riding big means that the jockey will be extra hard on the horse today, and the trainer is worried that the horse will be hurt as a result.

    Theory #2: Riding big means ‘riding far’ and the jockey is not very good at hiding his horsenapping plans.

    Theory #3: They are showing the movie Big at the race track.

    Theory #4: A ‘ride big’ is like a meet cute for horses.

  8. The trainer was mad at the jockey for saying he was gonna “ride big”, aka do well, because the trainer was betting on the race. The horse was a longshot and did not want any chatter around the track to lessen his odds.

  9. and don’t forget, all of the horses are played by andy serkis

  10. Wilbur is coming.

  11. Also, Dumbledore, you guys!

    • Really?!?! I missed this episode last night due to DVR screw-ups and the SAG awards being on and me watching a pirated version of Drive, so I’ll have to catch it tonight! I <3 Michael Gambon!

  12. I went into the show assuming every single character was trying to pull some underhanded scam (counting horse cards! or whatever), so the twenty five percent of dialouge I managed to make out all translated as very ominous. I think I was mostly right, bar maybe the cocky jockey, but who knows, maybe he’s playing a long con.

  13. Vulture’s “Handy Guide to Understanding HBO’s Luck” is actually pretty…well…handy: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/12/handy-guide-to-understanding-hbos-luck.html

  14. It was a bunch of Milchy characters shot with Michael Mann’s handheld. That’s a cool combo. It was sort of hard to grasp what people were doing and saying as you guys point out. It’ll be interesting to see if the show becomes weirder as it goes on, or if it goes into a more distinct and structured storyline. I’m guessing the latter because I don’t think HBO wanted Milch to do another John From Cincinnati.

    But I do expect that after all the killing and all the cons and all of the getting ahead of the next guy – we’ll come to realize that these odd characters are in fact not truly separate entities, but rather part of the same whole. Oh, and Episode 2 is on HBOGO if you didn’t already know that.

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