HBO's 'Luck' anything but, horse deaths, lawsuits and still missed on TV

One of the better dramas last year was "Luck" on HBO, which shuttered in March despite a second season pickup over the alleged abuse and death of four horses.

"Luck" was created by David Milch ("Deadwood," "John From Cincinnati") and Michael Mann.  The series starred Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman, with a cast of characters whose lives each revolved around the Santa Anita race track.

Hoffman was cast as Chester "Ace" Bernstein, a quiet force, a mobster released from prison. Hoffman's Ace is joined at the hip by his aide-de-camp Gus (Dennis Farina).  Farina was one of "Luck's" best characters and certainly one of the best performances of his career, bringing a balance to the always percolating mind of Ace.

The racetrack "flies" - a group of damaged souls was led by Marcus (Kevin Dunn), the sarcastic wheelchair-bound leader; Jerry (Jason Gedrick), a genius numbers addict; the happy go lucky Renzo (Ritchie Coster); and Lonnie, a guy's guy played by Ian Hart. Their scenes were a beautiful study of male friendships and how some bond over shared weaknesses, like gambling. I also adored Richard Kind's performance as agent Joey.

Horse trainer Escalante (John Ortiz) was a fiery perfection paired with WASP Jill Hennessy, a coldish fish veterinarian who burned for him. Nick Nolte was cast as Walter, broken down and in love with the nurturing chase of a talented new horse. His partner in crime the glorious Irish Rosie (Kerry Condon of 'Rome' fame) whose love for the animals matches his.

The Hollywood Reporter published the legal papers filed on behalf of Barbara Casey, who worked as the director of production in the American Humane Association's film and television unit.  She is suing HBO, the AHA and producers. Casey says she worked for AHA for 13 years and is suing the organization for allegedly wrongfully terminating her in January 2012. She's also suing HBO and Luck producer Stewart Productions for purported abuse cover-up months before the series was ended.

According to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the AHA "observed drugged horses, underweight and/or sick horses routinely used for work on the show, the misidentification of horses by producers so that animal safety reps couldn't track their medical histories and more."

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO says: "We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."

HBO claims it worked closely with the American Humane Association's safety protocols yet Casey claims they "misidentified horses" so that the humane officers could not track their medical histories.

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