HBO cancels ‘Luck’ after three horses die during filming
It’s always sad to hear of a show being canceled, especially a show that carries as much talent and promise as David Milch’s ‘Luck.’ But it’s more sad to hear about the death of a third horse on set. Following the most recent death and a subsequent phone call from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) late Tuesday, HBO has decided to pull the plug on the horse racing drama.
The show, which had been renewed shortly after premiering to 1.1 million viewers in January, was in the middle of filming its second season. Initial interest in the show quickly waned, however, and it was constantly underperforming in the ratings, averaging only 625,000 viewers per episode, despite having big names like Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte as stars.
HBO released the following statement today:
It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK.
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.
Mann and Milch also released a statement saying, “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.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, HBO and the show’s producers had been “working closely with the American Humane Association and racing industry experts within the CHRB to implement safety protocols that go ‘above and beyond’ typical film TV industry standards and practices, with pre-race exams performed by a CHRB-certified vet with radiographs taken of the legs of all horses being considered for use in simulated racing sequences.”
Yet despite these exams and the safety protocols, three horses have died – Outlaw Yodeler and Marc’s Shadow during production on the first season, and now this one, who remains unnamed, during production on the second.
On March 6, Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s vice president of laboratory investigations, sent a letter to Michael Lombardo, the HBO president of programming, and Bruce Richmond, a vice president of production. The LA Times has the letter in full, it reads:
We are hearing from multiple credible sources that horses are once again at risk on the set of ‘Luck.’ We understand that there are currently no licensed humane officers on the set. This is inexplicable, unacceptable, and dangerous. While the American Humane Assn. may have a representative present for filming, this is inadequate. We ask you to return at least one, and preferably more, California licensed humane officers to the set and to ensure that their recommendations about the choice of the horses used and the filming methods are followed to the letter.
During the filming of the first season, there were reportedly four humane officers monitoring the use of horses. We are told that the production company, to its shame, did not always follow their advice, and this accounts, at least in part, for the two deaths during filming. These officers had rejected as unfit a number of horses who, we are now told, have been returned to the ‘Luck’ set for the filming of the second season.
PETA has also gone ahead and forwarded its original complaint about the two horses, Outlaw Yodeler and Marc’s Shadow, who died in 2010 and 2011, to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The show will air what is now its series finale Sunday March 25 at 9 PM.
Photo courtesy of HBO.