Pay cabler is sending out the entire nine-episode season to critics and TV writers next week, rather than the two- or three-episode advance that is usually the case, offered in hopes of whetting the appetite of scribes.
The full-season delivery is a rarity for HBO, which has done it only twice before: The fourth season of “The Wire” — known informally as the Corner Boys season — and for the World War II miniseries “The Pacific.”
HBO insiders are sending out “Luck” because they believe the series — about the inhabitants of racetrack life — has the potential will be one of the net’s great accomplishments.
Net, in reaching out to its audience beyond TV writers, will sneak the pilot of “Luck” this Sunday immediately following the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire.” The show’s regular run begins Jan. 29.
Series was created by David Milch, who is avid horseracing fan and has longed to bring his equine passion to TV. While the thought of bringing on Michael Mann to add the cinematic vision of the Sports of Kings sounded like a perfect accompaniment for Milch’s script, the two have often tangled and HBO execs have had their fair share of headaches intervening between the two. Yet, Milch said he and Mann have worked out their differences for the greater good.
“You get to a point where you realize that it’s a shame on you if you can’t make things work, and we did,” Milch said. “It was not an uneventful experience, but finally the responsibility has to be for the work.”
What HBO is also hoping with “Luck” is to erase the memory of “John From Cincinnati,” the surf noir series that always seemed an uneasy fit with Milch at the controls.
Milch, whose broadcast resume includes “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue,” is best known these days for his Western opus “Deadwood,” which after three seasons was cut too soon in order to make room for “John” — a decision that everyone involved likely deeply regrets.
What “Deadwood” did for Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant and Paula Malcomson, “Luck” could possibly do for little-known actor John Ortiz, who is phenomenal playing a Latin American trainer, partially based on real-life trainer Julio Canani.
What it also possibly may do is make a TV star out of Dustin Hoffman, a bigscreen giant for decades. Hoffman’s character is a bit mysterious in the pilot, but he’s clearly an individual with great power and is coming out of a prison term and looking to get back in the game.
Milch, who is preparing for another season of “Luck” — HBO hasn’t yet greenlit a second season, but it’s extremely likely and production needs an early start due to shooting at Santa Anita — and is looking forward to telling more stories.
As track announcer Trevor Denman says several times each race day at post time, “And away they go.”