HBO’s Hard ‘Luck’

Not sure it was the best idea for HBO to provide a “sneak preview” of their next big drama on Sunday.

“Luck” will be one of its primary offerings next month, with a script from David Milch, still missed from his days at “Deadwood,” and directed by Michael Mann, with a manly man cast featuring Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, and, typical for these yarns, a dozen others.

That it is set in the race track world meant that Milch peopled the contemporary tale with the kind of characters you’d expect from Damon Runyon nearly a century ago. Steeped in race jargon made more obscure by delivery that is mumbled when it isn’t heavily accented, it didn’t make a whole lot of initial sense.

But I will say that the race scenes themselves were about the best shot I had seen of that sport, with cameras seemingly riding among the driving horses, such that it could swoop around them as they ran, or allowed you to see the track from their perspective, allowing you to see the paths where they might break out and run.

As thrilling as that can be, it’s all running, and cutting back to the characters we don’t know very well at all, and then back to the track. The most annoying member of the cast so far is Richard Kind, who exaggerates his own ticks and stammers to become a caricature.

A lot of the action had already been hinted in the many promo commercials for the show.  Yet this “preview” was nothing more than the pilot itself, presumably the same one you’ll see when you turn into the season start Jan. 29. By previewing it Sunday with little fanfare (and no advance press copies) means that a lot of bad word of mouth will sap any excitement the actual premiere would have generated. And people who hated the show (which seemed a little like “Entourage” with much older and ungainly guys), won’t have to bother to sample it at all.

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