With a run of impressively big hits to its name, including True Blood, Game of Thrones, WestWorld and True Detective, HBO often looks to have an unfailing ‘golden touch’ but, despite its successes, the studio has actually endured its fair share of high profile flops and creative failures.
Last year HBO backtracked on plans for a second series of Vinyl, a much trumpeted drama about a 1970s record producer whose creators included entertainment legends Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese.
Having originally announced a second run on February 18th 2016 – just two days after the first episode’s debut – HBO later reversed course and in June of the same year announced that the series wouldn’t be returning after all.
With a reported budget of $100m, Vinyl’s failure to find an audience was an expensive disappointment for the studio but at least it avoided the controversy associated with another of its high profile missteps.
Debuting in December 2011 and boasting Hollywood star Dustin Hoffman as its leading man alongside fellow big names Nick Nolte, Michael Gambon, Luck was created by David Milch, the creative force behind Deadwood and NYPD Blue, which he co-created with Steven Bochco.
Set against a backdrop of horse racing betting and power plays, the nine part series was filmed at the famous Santa Anita Park and widely praised for its production values, style, writing and Hoffman’s performances.
So happy were HBO with the series that it was instantly renewed for a second run which was to air from January 2013.
Unlike Vinyl, production actually got underway on the follow-up season but production was halted after the series made global headlines for the death of several horses during filming.
While HBO make signifiant efforts to ensure the wellbeing of its equine cast members, including limiting the number of times they were allowed to run each day and ensuring the production had a pool of around 50 to use, two horses sadly suffered injuries during the filming of the pilot and the seventh episode and were later put down.
When a third horse died during production of the second series, the studio halted all filming involving horses pending an investigation.
In March 2012 it pulled the plug on the show, saying that while it “maintained the highest safety standards throughout production … accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.”
HBO has of course since enjoyed a less troubled experience with horses – and other animals – on shows such as WestWorld and Game of Thrones but the scrutiny under which Luck came probably means it probably was impossible to continue with the show.
While the first season has been released on DVD and Blu-ray, the cancellation of the second left several plot lines unresolved, making it an undesirable purchase for all but the most dedicated HBO or Hoffman fans.
Going forward, HBO and Sky will be hoping that shows produced under their recently announced joint production partnership enjoy a less troubled production and prove to have longevity.