Friday, January 06, 2012

[TV] Luck

Luck: I have been anticipating this for a good long while. Dec 12, after the finale of Boardwalk Empire, we were treated to an early viewing of the first episode of the David Milch / Michael Mann series, Luck. I realize it's early and that it could fall flat, but I am seriously geeked to see this.

I knew it right from the outset. It just doesn't feel like anything else on TV. There is quiet and deliberation and implication and complete sentences. You couldn't find a greater tonal contrast for a show coming off the uranium-fisted Scorcese of Boardwalk Empire. It's requires attention. It leaves plot points open ended. It will likely be a ratings disaster, despite Hoffman, Nolte, and Farina. It's got Milch written all over it.

I've already procured a copy of Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies (not kidding) because I don't want to miss a stitch of what's going on. My favorite scene was a brief explanation of the strategy behind the selection on a pick-6 wager. It was one character looking over the picks of another gambler and talking through the thinking behind it. Almost whispered, no bombast, but it really capture the mix of reason, speculation and gut feel that goes into gambling.

Even the action is understated. There are no gun fights. No slit throats. Not a punch thrown. The closest thing to violence was the sight of a horse breaking its leg in a race, the touching reaction of the jockey, and the horse being painlessly, almost casually, put down via injection. Yet it more striking and memorable than any slaying on Dexter.

Hoffman and Farina have great chemistry as two old guys who appear to be taking one more shot at evening up the score. But evening up the score with what? The guys who Hoffman took a fall for? Or just life? Another quiet scene: Farina expresses to Hoffman that he feels out of his depth with his role in their plan. Hoffman simply replies that he (Farina) doesn't know his own depth. A complicated relationship between two desperate old male friends. How do you turn that into ratings?

You don't. You never will. You do have a shot at being a critic's darling, and that might sustain you. They liked it at Grantland, and at A.V. Club. I can't wait for it to start up in January. May we all have good luck.