Quality Overdose?

So, HBO’s Luck has recently been cancelled. Despite high expectations, pedigree and promised quality.
Some say that the show was plagued by fightings between director Michael Mann and writer-producer David Milch, added to raging animal-rights groups which condemned the horses’ treatment (three of them reportedly died). That surely didn’t help, but the real point is that nobody watched the show – 500.000 is actually a number too small even for advertisement-free HBO.

I have to be honest: I tried to watch Luck, but I just couldn’t even get to the end of the pilot. I could say that nothing happened, but that’s not a good reason. Even in Mad Men nothing really happens… on the surface. In fact, I felt that the problem with Luck was that nothing lied beneath the absence of action. There was no promise of great things ahead and all I could see was a display of technical proficiency. That was all.
So I wonder: HBO is the flagship channel of Quality TV. What if what we have here is a case of Quality Overdose? I think that the Premium network has taken to extremes the features that made it popular.
A month ago, Ryan McGee wrote on online magazine AV Club: “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.”. That’s right: I didn’t want to wait for it anymore. I was giving HBO a 50 minutes chance to entertain me and hook me. To make me desperately want to watch episode 2. Sorry to say that, but HBO failed.

You can’t ask entertainment to pay the price for “quality”.

Related articles:
Did The Soprano do More Harm Than Good? HBO and the Decline of the Episode, Ryan McGee
The Vulture Transcript: Michael Mann and David Milch Open Up About the Cancellation of Luck, Matt Zoller Seitz

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5 comments on “Quality Overdose?

  1. Jaina says:

    I think I managed about 4 episodes of Luck. I was really excited to see Dustin Hoffman on TV, week on week. The whole idea of Luck sounded promising. But beyond some fantastic directed and put together race scenes, the show just fell flat for me. It could be a matter of quality overdose. Almost as if the network is just searching out big names and big dramatic concepts but not really knowing where it’ll eventually lead to.

    I’m not surprised it was cancelled. It was visually stunning and solid performances but … it was just a bit boring.

  2. Jersey says:

    I’m not sure I’m glad to read that I didn’t miss much on the next three episodes. But at least this confirms my theory.
    As you said, it surely had a great visual power added to very solid performance. And I LOVE Dustin Hoffman, I guess he was the only reason I was curious about the show in the first place (I’m not a big fan of horse races shows and such). But, seriously, it was boring. Just like Boardwalk Empire season 2… I tried to finish it, but I got stuck at ep. 6. Gosh, I need EVENTS!

    • Jaina says:

      Yes! EVENTS! Or the least, things I could understand. As I see it, not a lot happens in say, Mad Men, though I LOVE that show. The characters make that show. I can probably count the number of proper events on that show on one hand, and yet… can’t not watch it.

  3. sanclementejedi says:

    I saw about 30 minutes of one epsisode. So glad I did not get invested in it, considering the quick cancellation. I know that three horses died during filming, but I find it hard to believe more don’t get killed at the track during a race season.

  4. Jersey says:

    Totally agree, that’s kind of hypocritical…

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