HBO’s LUCK after three episodes: It’s dark and getting darker … but I like that!

Fortunately for HBO, I have no life. And I have the past experience of throwing in the towel early on shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ only to later be calling both the best shows I’ve ever seen. So, that means I’m likely to stick with HBO’s ‘Luck’ until the bitter end. As for others, I don’t see it happening.

We are now three episodes into the much-hyped horse racing drama and I still have ZERO clue what Dustin Hoffman’s character is all about. Uh, he’s not a rat. He’s chairman of the board somewhere. He owns a $2 million racehorse. So why the hell do I care? I don’t think I or anyone should be this lost this far in about the supposed main character.

That’s flaw No. 1 with the show. But beyond that, I don’t find any of the characters outside of ‘Turo Escalante’ to be the least bit interesting. Gary Stevens is playing himself. Great. The degenerate crew who hit the Pick 6 and still live in a motel are cute, but you’re not exactly capturing the imagination of the masses by having their next caper be owning a horse race. Thrilling.

Nick Nolte’s character. Well, I don’t even know his name. And each time Nolte raises his voice and starts cursing, I get bad memories of ‘The Prince of Tides.’

That brings us to Turo Escalante. This is my favorite character and that’s only because Santa Anita head of PR Mike Willman told me the character is based on real-life trainer Julio Canani. I’ve always found Canani to be very interesting. Don’t know why. Whenever I see him interact with people at the track, I can tell NOBODY trusts him but EVERYBODY kinda likes him.

Actor John Ortiz is hitting it out of the park with this character. It’s very easy to ALREADY understand what the character is all about and through three episodes, every part of him has been executed perfectly. What Turo Escalante does next is probably the only reason I remain excited to watch.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably like me and have extensive experience at the race track and its many interesting aspects. If you’re not like me and are essentially a novice, then this probably isn’t the show that’s going to get you hooked on horse racing.

Think about it, desperate race track execs were hoping this would be the sport’s e-ticket into the mainstream. Think ‘Rounders’ but for horse racing. But so far the show has taught/reminded us that trainers do shady things to cash winning tickets for THEMSELVES, the only way anyone can win is to get lucky and that horses can sometimes snap a limb and die right there on the race track. Oh yeah, and jockeys can crack their heads open by sitting in a sweat box trying to pull weight for too long.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, then come on down to Santa Anita with your gambling dollar Wednesday Thursday-Sunday … just don’t forget to bring $5 to park your car. Another $5-$12 to actually get in. Another $2-$8 to get a program and some form past performances.

All of this brings me to Luck producer/writer David Milch. I give him credit for tackling something nobody has ever tackled — the abundantly seedy side of the sport. Granted, much of what you see in Luck happens to be Milch’s own interpretation of that element. We all have our own.

If you’ve lost enough photo finishes, then you know movies like ‘Seabiscuit’ and ‘Secretariat’ do little to move your own personal needle. The horse racing fan in everyone dies a little bit with each hundred-dollar bill he/she sends through the window only to never see it return.

I got my start in horse racing because of Sunday Silence. I was the fat kid stuffed into a suit sitting in the Hollywood Park Turf Club with tears in my eyes when Prized beat Sunday Silence in the Swaps … frickin’ Siegel. Through the years, the more money I lost the less the Sunday Silences of the world mattered. (If any of you take umbrage with that line of thinking, please get off my blog and never come back).

So in the sense that Milch is trying to portray a realistic look at all the crappy things that make the race track scene what it is, and is so far steering clear of the feel-good ‘Seabiscuit’ garbage, Luck is a breath of fresh air. I appreciate that aspect of it more than anything.

I may not be able to understand the important characters thus far, but I at least know a rise and even bigger fall is likely coming for all of them. The overall theme of Luck is quite dark. That may suck for track execs, but for those of us who truly know the track, it’s somewhat refreshing.

In order to keep EVERYBODY watching, though, the plot better thicken and the characters better develop and fast!

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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