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#1 Overstreet

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 01:12 AM

Michael Mann's in talks to direct the pilot episode of a new HBO series about horse racing, from the creator of Deadwood.

Edited by Overstreet, 09 March 2010 - 12:19 PM.


#2 BethR

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Posted 09 January 2010 - 09:53 AM

Michael Mann's in talks to direct the pilot episode of a new HBO series about horse racing, from the creator of Deadwood.

Huh. They should have just worked from Jane Smiley's novel of interwoven horse-racing stories, Horse Heaven.

#3 Overstreet

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 12:20 PM

Nick Nolte makes things more interesting.

#4 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:20 PM



#5 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 10:11 AM



#6 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 10:44 PM

Anyone see the first episode? Dustin Hoffman is reminding me a little of the Rain Man in this one. It looks full of potential.

#7 Crow

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 12:54 PM

I finally got around to seeing the first episode, now that it's on its regular series run, and I think it does have potential. It looks like they are aiming for an interesting mix of inside-sports realism and literate mysticism. Some of the more technical aspects to the dialogue and its insider perspective are a little difficult penetrate at first, but once I got into its rhythm, I could appreciate they way it flows. The cinematography is gorgeous, it’s rare to see such quality on a TV series. I'm looking forward to where this is going.

#8 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:05 PM

Don't know how many of you are watching this, but it's growing on me. Great episode last night.

#9 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 02:01 AM

Ryan McGee at the A.V. Club has some interesting commentary about Luck's exhibiting the concept of the novelization of the TV show -

... HBO justly gets credit for pushing the medium of television forward. Broadly speaking, you can pinpoint the start of the modern TV era with The Sopranos, a show wildly hailed for taking a novelistic approach to the small screen. Back then, the word “novelistic” was used in a metaphorical sense. It wasn’t that David Chase literally applied the techniques used to construct a novel to his show. Rather, The Sopranos took a patient approach that rewarded sustained viewing. The promise that payoffs down the line would be that much sweeter for the journey didn’t originate with the HBO mob drama, but the series turned into the boilerplate for what passes as critically relevant television.

But is this a good thing? The Sopranos opened up what was possible on television. But it also limited it. It seems silly to state that the addition of ambition to the medium has somehow hindered its growth, but making HBO the gold standard against which quality programming is judged has hurt television more than it’s helped it. The A.V. Club’s TV editor Todd VanDerWerff started pointing out the change in HBO’s approach when, speaking of Game of Thrones, he noted something that had been in the back of my mind but not fully formulated until I heard him say it: HBO isn’t in the business of producing episodes in the traditional manner. Rather, it airs equal slices of an overall story over a fixed series of weeks. If I may put words into his mouth: HBO doesn’t air episodes of television, it airs installments.

This isn’t merely a semantic difference that paints lipstick on the same pig. It’s a fundamentally different way of viewing the function of an individual building block of a season, or series, of television. Calling The Sopranos a novelistic approach to the medium means praising both its new approach to television and its long-form storytelling. But HBO has shifted its model to produce televised novels, in which chapters unfold as part and parcel of a larger whole rather than serving the individual piece itself. Here’s the problem: A television show is not a novel. That’s not to put one above the other. It’s simply meant to illuminate that each piece of art has to accomplish different things. HBO’s apparent lack of awareness of this difference has filtered into its product, and also filtered into the product of nearly every other network as well.

Why is treating an episode as an installment a problem? An episode functions unto itself as a piece of entertainment, one that has an ebb and flow that can be enjoyed on its own terms. An installment serves the über-story of that season without regard for accomplishing anything substantial during its running time. The first three and a half hours of Luck are installments in the nine-hour story that is that show. Events happen, but they are shaped to the season first and the episode second. It’s one thing to have a goal toward which everything is progressing. But episodes need to have goals as well. It’s the difference between making people anticipate where the show is going, and making them wait for it ...

I've got to say I disagree with him. When the creator of a TV show decides not to be bound by the limits of having a complete little story arc for each and every episode, and decides not to be bound by conventional limits on acting and scriptwriting (why not try for Oscar/Academy Award winning acting, scriptwriting, and cinematography in a TV show?), then he or she is allowed to try and film a great story with well-developed characters ALSO without the time constraints of a 2-3 hour long film. It seems that Mr. McGee's main problem is that this sort of practice discourages easy entertainment and makes the viewer wait or be patient as the story is actually developed with some sort of depth.

In other words, the creators of these sorts of shows are asking much more from the viewer. It's a challenge to commit to a show that may start slowly (or even patiently take the time to build something that doesn't guarantee a resolution or a cliffhanger every 30-45 minutes), but I say it's exactly the sort of show worth getting excited about. Most recently, Mysteries of Lisbon, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Treme, and even Downton Abbey have all asked the viewer to raise his or her standards and to seek out the rewards of working through a story that is willing to go against the expectations of short attention spans. The result is a depth and complexity on the level of a classic novel - that is why the comparison keeps being made in the first place. When I think about my favorite old TV shows - Bonanza, Get Smart, The Avengers, etc. (or almost any TV show from the 1950s through the 1990s) - while they're all loveable and entertaining and all, they really don't ever try to be serious or great works of art. That's fine, but the fact remains that it's interesting that the creators of TV shows have now really only been trying for this over the last decade for the first time.

So the answer to Mr. McGee's question is no. The television works of David Chase, Terence Winter, David Simon, Bruno Heller, Daniel Knauf, David Milch, D.B. Weiss, David Benioff, Raul Ruiz or Julian Fellowes are not doing more harm than good. Creators like Joss Whedon and even Krzystof Kieslowski have proved that you can make something truly special with the episodic nature of an hour long TV series. But, in the age of increasingly popular reality TV shows, let's not discourage the guys who want to give us television in "installments."

#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 09:00 AM

Has TV really only been doing the "novel" thing for the past decade? Babylon 5 was conceived as a five-season story arc, and that show got off the ground TWO decades ago. Or is the issue here that HBO doesn't bother to give individual episodes their own beginnings, middles and ends?

#11 Tyler

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 09:19 AM

That's basically it. He says that novels and episodes are inherently different animals, and shows that value the season-long arc over the episode arc are missing the point of the medium. He doesn't support that assertion very well, though. I'd say it's the weakest part of his argument, although the overall tension he describes is interesting; I run into the same kind of thing with my master's thesis, which is a hybrid of novel and short story.

#12 Crow

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 03:55 PM

I am enjoying the current season. I like how these story arcs are building, and how these characters are growing. Heck, a horse is becoming one of the most sympathetic characters. I think this is some of Nick Nolte’s best work, and Joan Allen is always a delight.

I think this argument of "episodes" vs. "installments" is much ado about nothing. If the characters are interesting, that will keep me riveted, whether or not each episode ends with a cliffhanger or something more low-key. Too many efforts to artificially induce tension to keep people tuned-in can turn into a cliche. Good storytelling will win out in the end.

#13 Anders

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 08:32 PM

That's basically it. He says that novels and episodes are inherently different animals, and shows that value the season-long arc over the episode arc are missing the point of the medium. He doesn't support that assertion very well, though. I'd say it's the weakest part of his argument, although the overall tension he describes is interesting; I run into the same kind of thing with my master's thesis, which is a hybrid of novel and short story.


The same criticism has been levelled against modern comic books: that writers "write for the trade" (i.e. sacrifice the intelligibility of an individual issue because they know it will be collected in a six-issue trade paperback soon enough and want it to read well in that format).

Perhaps the fact that many of us consume our television on DVD or video-on-demand has changed things. I know I feel BREAKING BAD walks a nice line between balancing the overall story arc and individual episodes, at least in Season 4, which is the first I've watched on a weekly basis rather than on DVD/Blu-ray.

I think Jeremy's comments are fairly valid though. If a show is compelling enough, why begrudge them trying something different than immediate gratification. However, not all shows succeed at this. The return of THE WALKING DEAD has reminded me how many episodes in the first half dragged because NOTHING HAPPENED!

Oh, and I'll check out LUCK when I get a chance. Sounds interesting.

Edited by Anders, 21 February 2012 - 08:33 PM.


#14 Tyler

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:47 AM

HBO has suspended filming any animal-related scenes after a third horse died on the set.

#15 Overstreet

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 12:02 PM

Isn't that kind of like Mad Men suspending all advertising-related scenes, or The Sopranos suspended all gun-related scenes, or Weeds suspending all weed-related scenes?

#16 Overstreet

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 06:01 PM

Wow. HBO has ceased production on the show.

#17 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:35 PM

Wow. HBO has ceased production on the show.

What the hell is going on? This could be a 4-5 season excellent show.

#18 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:30 AM

From The Washington Post:

Earlier in the week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had asked the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Pasadena Humane Society to investigate the deaths of horses in the production of HBO's series "Luck," on which a third horse died this week. Filming of scenes that involve the use of horses had been shut down indefinitely after the third horse died Tuesday. The horse was euthanized after rearing, falling backward and hitting her head on the ground while being led back to her stall ...

PETA says the three dead horses were victims of “sloppy oversight.”

In its statement, the AHA pointed out that the most recent death did not occur on set, while filming or during racing, but rather while the horse was being walked back to its barn by a groom. And yet, AHA boasted: "We immediately demanded that all production involving horses shut down. We are also insisting that this stoppage remain in full effect pending a complete, thorough and comprehensive investigation."

From Alan Sepinwall:

I'm having trouble processing the news that HBO has canceled the series after a third horse died during filming, early in production of the second season ... This is the third series in a row Milch has done for HBO, and the third to end more abruptly than he had planned. "Deadwood" was canceled after the third season (out of a planned four) for financial reasons, with Milch playing the good soldier and playing along with the story that he was really eager to move on to the metaphysical surfing drama "John from Cincinnati." (Though I continue to argue to this day that the final "Deadwood" episode actually works better as a series finale than planned, or than it works as a finale to the third season. Milch wrote an ending without realizing it.) "John" was a mess, creatively and financially, and HBO pulled the plug after only one season. "Luck," though, seemed in better shape. The ratings had been poor (averaging about 500,000 viewers for each Sunday premiere), despite a big marketing campaign and the presence of Hoffman and Nick Nolte in the cast, but many of the reviews (my own included) were strong, HBO had already renewed it for that second season, and Milch and Mann's working arrangement (where Mann was the final authority and Milch didn't get to do his usual last-second rewrites) made it a more under-control production than "Deadwood" or "John" had been. Even with the low ratings, it was easy to see "Luck" running a while, particularly if Hoffman and/or Nolte started picking up Emmys.

Then one horse died. And another. And then another. And given that this project was being made by people with a deep, deep passion for horses, at a certain point, they had to say that their art simply wasn't worth the cost of these animals' lives ...

From Matt Zoller Seitz:

Suddenly a question that had simmered deep in the background of discussions of the series — Is it morally defensible to risk animals' lives to make art? — threatened to become the only topic of discussion, persisting for however long the show might have ultimately run. I can imagine the moral calculus that series creator David Milch, a longtime horse owner and racetrack denizen, must have gone through when news broke yesterday that a horse had suddenly reared up during what apparently was a routine walk, fell backward, hit its head, and was euthanized on a veterinarian's orders ...

What made this case unique — and probably forced the decision to cancel, I'm guessing —- was the nature of the show itself. No drama in TV history has been built exclusively around horse racing and the daily life of a track. Hollywood has used horses during production for over a century. Horses have been getting hurt or killed in production for just as long, sometimes because of negligence or cruelty but more often because of simple probability. When a story is dependent upon horses, and said horses are frequently being ridden in front of cameras in spectacular or risky fashion, over time it becomes increasingly likely that one of them is going to be hurt, no matter how careful their trainers are or how intensely activists scrutinize the set. Horses are huge, skittish creatures with delicate legs. Every time a director calls action, the odds of a mishap go up ... Plus, the healthiest animals aren't going to be working on a TV show; they're going to be out on the track in regular competition, making money for their owners. And that adds to the risk factor. As my friend Maryann, a racing aficionado, told me yesterday, "Here's the show's conundrum: they can't use great thoroughbreds, too valuable. So they use older ones or ones that aren't running well. Well, that's a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the things are bred to a fare-thee-well anyway."



#19 Darren H

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:53 AM

Here's the show's conundrum: they can't use great thoroughbreds, too valuable. So they use older ones or ones that aren't running well. Well, that's a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the things are bred to a fare-thee-well anyway.


That was my first thought when I heard how the third horse died. Although I'm not really a horse guy, my wife owns two, and a good part of my free time is spent tending to them and our property. Horses are big, beautiful, potentially-dangerous animals that are surprisingly fragile. A bad shoe can leave them crippled. The wrong kind of feed or not enough feed or too much feed can cause them to founder. And I'm talking about two lazy, old geldings. Even at the Kentucky Horse Park, where great thoroughbreds go to retire, handlers won't let visitors near the old racers; they're just too unpredictable. Horses that have been bred to be fast tend to rear. And sometimes when they rear they fall. And sometimes when they fall they have to be put down. Luck was in an untenable situation because it's pointless to make a show about horse racing without using racehorses, and they're a difficult lot to work with.