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Forgotten HBO shows of lore

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2014-10-04


15 years ago The Sopranos premiered on HBO. Up until that point HBO was mostly known for airing movies along with some original series. Before The Sopranos, shows like Tales from the Crypt, The Larry Sanders Show and 1st and Ten were all HBO staples. With the debut of The Sopranos and Sex and the City too, HBO would usher in a whole new age of TV comedy and drama with series like The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Game of Thrones, Six Feet Under, Veep, Deadwood and on and on.

But not all HBO series that came after The Sopranos are as fondly remembered as that series is. In fact there are a few post-Sopranos shows that are all but forgotten these days.

After the series Deadwood ended in 2006 show creator David Milch launched John From Cincinnati in 2007, "surf-noir" series about what may or may not be the return of God/a prophet/a something to a 21st century California surfing community. But that's not all, in this community are all sorts of unique and different characters, from the champion surfer Yost family to porn stars, reality TV producers, border Minutemen and many more.

It was all these disparate characters plus the idea that the title character of John (Austin Nichols) may or may not be some otherworldly deity which is never really answered that probably doomed the show to just one season.

In 2011 after John From Cincinnati, Milch would team up with director Michael Mann for another series about disparate characters, this time at a horse track in Luck. Luck followed just released from prison gambler Chester Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) trying to return to his old life but running into the realities of modern organized crime and high-finance.
Much like with John From Cincinnati and Deadwood too, Luck focused on a community of odd and quirky characters from horse-trainers, to gamblers who've just made a huge win, jockeys and more. While John From Cincinnati may have failed because of an odd story without a lot of clarity, Luck failed for a completely different reason.

The show was filmed at a working track in California and during the first season of the show two horses died during filming. A second season went into production and an episode was shot, but when another horse died the production was shut down and Luck became the odd show of having filmed episodes that would never ever see the light of day.

The series K Street in 2003 was one of the most unique and different shows to be released on HBO or any network for that matter. Created by Steven Soderbergh and co-executive produced by George Clooney, K Street was a series about lobbyists working for a firm in Washington DC. Co-starring John Slattery before he was "that guy from Mad Men," the show was different since it co-starred real-life DC power-couple James Carville and Mary Matalin and would also feature real-life politicians like Howard Dean in episodes. (Supposedly Clooney's involvement in the show helped secure some of these faces.)

But what really set K Street apart from every other series before or since was that the show was written, shot and then would air within a matter of days meaning that current news events and political happenings of the week could be worked into each episode of the show. Which could help the show -- what was in the news yesterday was being discussed by the characters tomorrow -- but also hurt it sometimes too since some episodes came off feeling slightly underdone.

The big question is from all the shows that have aired on HBO the last 15 years why have these three been forgotten? I'd say that with John From Cincinnati it was admittedly a weird show without a traditional storyline or characters and Luck's been forgotten since the horse deaths brought some unwelcome negative publicity to the channel.

But I don't understand why K Street's been forgotten. That show was unique for its time, co-starred one of the biggest names on TV today and was created by Soderbergh who is one of the biggest names in film and who's newest show The Knick is currently airing on Cinemax.
Maybe it's only a matter of time before that show's rediscovered? Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.

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