After announcing this week that it was temporarily suspending production
on its drama series "Luck," HBO surprisingly went ahead last night and killed the show off entirely.
The move comes in the wake of the death of a third horse during filming of the second season, which naturally led to flare-up of bad press for HBO and a flurry of condemnation from viewers and animal rights groups like PETA.
"All the evidence we have gathered points to sloppy oversight, the use of unfit, injured horses, and disregard for the treatment of race horses," a rep for the animal rights group said.
Earlier this week, HBO said that it was working in full cooperation with the American Humane Association (AHA) and the California Horse Racing Board to make sure further injuries were avoided, but apparently the consensus was there could be no guarantees that such accidents would not continue to haunt the series.
"Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horse racing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures," HBO said in a statement. "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 thank the whistleblowers who refused to let these horses' deaths go unnoticed," the group said in a statement. "Should Milch, Mann [Executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann], and HBO decide to start the series up again, PETA will be calling on them, as we have done from the start, to use stock racing footage instead of endangering horses for entertainment purposes. PETA has called on law enforcement to investigate the deaths of the horses used on the set and to bring charges as appropriate."
While I'd love to think that HBO canceled "Luck" for the horses, the real truth is that they were likely more interested in avoiding bad press. As Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter points out
, while the series' ratings were sub-par, that likely was never a serious concern for HBO, which relies more on subscriptions and word of mouth than numbers.
"Buzz, hype — and awards — are essential to the formula that fuels HBO’s business model, and three dead horses is not the kind of buzz HBO is after," writes Goodman.