Turns out David Milch and Michael Mann's hardcore new horse-racing show for HBO, the extremely well-received Luck, was a little too realistic for comfort.
PETA started the flamewar last month, enraged at the news that two horses had to be put down in a single season. And when word came today of a third horsey death, HBO caved to the pressure -- canceling the show entirely, halfway through a second season of filming.
But in the hard, fast world of THE races, three casualties is nothing:
Last season at the Santa Anita racetrack in far-east L.A. County, where HBO has been filming the show (with a beautiful cast including Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte), at least 11 horses died during real-life training and racing.
Similarly, those horses were injured to the point where euthanization was deemed the humane route.
What gives? Here's the official statement from HBO:
"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."
Ironically, PETA's original press release deriding Luck pointed out that the show "does acknowledge how many thoroughbreds suffer catastrophic breakdowns and how horses are routinely doped."
So why not keep this critically acclaimed awareness campaign of sorts on the air, where we can observe the harsh realities of a bloody sport that's drifted to the fringe of popular culture?
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It's also hard to imagine that Mann and the crew had no idea they were glorifying the races from the beginning. Guess liberal Hollywood has too sensitive a stomach to stick out the truths of its inspirational matter.
Anyway, the good old boys at Santa Anita must be crushed today. They sounded so excited for a second season of filming, back in early February:
"We're glad the show is off to a fast start and we look forward to working together with everyone at HBO on season two. By all accounts, Santa Anita appears on film as it is in person -- breathtakingly beautiful. To be able to command a world-wide stage of this magnitude for a second consecutive season is very gratifying and we believe, very good for business. We can't wait."