David Milch has been attending horse races for over six decades and as a Thoroughbred owner his charges have won two Breeders’ Cup races. He also is the creator and writer of the blockbuster television series NYPD Blue and Deadwood.
Milch’s current project is an HBO nine-episode series called Luck that premiers on January 29, 2012 at 9 PM EST. The show focuses on life around a racetrack. The characters include owners, trainers, jockeys, and gamblers. The cast has well-known actors like Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, as well as former jockey Gary Stevens, who was in the movie Seabiscuit.
There was reportedly some conflict between Luck’s creator/writer Milch and the show’s acclaimed executive producer Michael Mann over how much the series should use the jargon of the racetrack. Mann feared that too much adherence to the special language and cultural nuances of the racetrack would risk losing the audience, whereas Milch wanted a close approximation of the real thing.
The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch presented a preview of the series, wherein reporter John Jurgensen called the program “slow-moving.” He said it will “try viewers’ patience” because of the racetrack lingo. However, another reviewer said that the series begins to move faster in episodes three and four, once the characters and setting have been established for the audience.
Readers of horse-racing websites like this one tend to underestimate just how arcane the world of the racetrack can be for people who are outsiders. While it is easy for a neophyte to understand that the objective in horse racing is to come home in front of the pack, handicapping is a much different matter. First-time racetrack attendees are apt to wonder about references to furlongs, maiden special weights, and bugs—and possibly never come back. Similarly, as the recent Jockey Club/McKinsey & Company study vividly illustrated, the intricacies of betting online can be an intimidating turnoff for newcomers.
While Luck is intended for entertainment, it may provide education about horse racing to many people who know little or nothing about the sport–and thereby stimulate some viewers’ interest in visiting a racetrack or watching racing on television. However, Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic wrote (see below for the link) that the series paints a wrong and dishonest picture of horse racing (and thus could be a deterrent to creating fan interest).
Here is hoping that Luck is a big winner in the ratings! Thanks, Mr. Milch for taking a chance.
Click here to access the Luck homepage.
Click here for the Wall Street Journal MarketWatch video that reviews Luck.
Click here to read a negative view of Luck by Andrew Cohen from The Atlantic.
Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business