You never know … HBO series are generally very good at the least, and David Milch was responsible for Deadwood, one of the two or three best series the network has ever produced. But Milch was also responsible for John from Cincinnati, and HBO has had a few clunkers along the way.
Happily, Milch’s new HBO series, Luck, is closer in quality to Deadwood than to John. It shares many of the usual Milch touches: you have to pay attention, because he doesn’t baby his audience (Luck is about the world of horse racing, which Milch knows very well, and he immediately begins filling the dialogue with racing slang and situations most folks know nothing about); the dialogue is odd, even stagy, but highly quotable; and you get completely absorbed into the world of the series.
I can’t say I followed everything. I know what a Pick Six is, so I was able to explain to Robin what the deal was with that angle. On the other hand, there are three key horses, and I had a hard time remembering which was which. (There was also a fourth horse, not a regular, who served the same role as the redshirts did on Star Trek.) It appears the horses will be central characters in the show. Their trainers are also important (one is played by Nick Nolte), as are the jockeys, and their agents. Then there’s the owner of one horse in particular (played by Dustin Hoffman, although Dennis Farina acts as the front). Somewhere along the way all of this will fit together, but it won’t happen very quickly … this is David Milch we’re talking about.
Sundays are big nights for the cable networks, and right now you have to be very happy for the existence of DVRs. HBO’s got Luck, Showtime has Shameless (and, if I stick with it, House of Lies), and PBS has Downton Abbey. Based on this first night when all three contended with each other, I think our own schedule will be Luck, after which I’ll watch Shameless (which Robin doesn’t watch), and then Monday we’ll catch up with Downton Abbey. The three shows couldn’t be any different, but they are among the best shows on right now. Grade for Luck’s premiere: A-.