Do you like old men grumbling incomprehensibly and making old man jokes? Unending footage of small bouncing butts? How about watching twitchy addicts act gross? Do you like manipulative, soaring music intercut with people's screaming faces, so you know when to be excited? Do you enjoy not knowing what the hell is going on for long periods of time, followed by patronizingly expository dialogue akin to Grover and Elmo telling you how the alphabet works? Then have I got the show for you!
Just kidding, it's really good. I mean, all those things are true, but it's still good. It's about the goings-on at this racetrack outside of LA. The big names are Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, but the funny part is that they don't really do anything. Dustin Hoffman acts weird and has all these mean old man schemes, and Nick Nolte is possibly senile and possibly divine or transcendent in some way, definitely he talks in a scary voice, but there's not really much else to do for them, in these early stages before things get all operatic.
Ace (Hoffman) is just getting out of jail after taking the fall for mysterious people that he will now be taking down. He can't own a horse because of the jail thing, so he has his driver/bodyguard/only friend Gus (Dennis Farina) pretend to have won a slot machine so that he can own the horse for himself. He takes a meeting with a corrupt hotelier named DiRossi, in which he reveals that he is kind of insane, and then goes home to Gus so he can deliver a speech about something very mumbly.
Meanwhile, The Old Man (Nolte) has this horse and a girl (Exercise Girl is her name) exercises it. He says super weird things to it in a super weird voice, and it's exciting.
Who else finds this fascinating is Porky Pig (Richard Kind), who is the agent for Leon (Tom Payne), the jockey who wins a race on this Gus horse that everybody keeps talking about, yay, but then later he is also riding this other horse whose ankle snaps, which is the most awful thing that happens. He takes it badly, plus everybody is mean to him all the time even though he is very hot, because he is also very annoying, due to being Cajun.
Who is mean to him besides his agent is the trainer Turo Escalante, who is up in everybody's business: His amazing horsetraining skills put Gus's horse on the map, and also he has a crush on Jill Hennessey who is a horse doctor, and also he is everywhere all the time saying things that I guess sometimes are funny but mostly are just mumbles.
Then on the other side of the track you have the gross addicts that show up early in the morning and stay very late and generally have problems with twitching and spazzing and whatever. They are pretty gruesome. The most presentable of them is Jerry, who on the one hand has a magic power of guessing horses, but on the other hand has a very bad gambling problem. He picks the winners in six races in a row, the other three put up the money, and they end up collectively winning like $2.5M, and keeping it a secret for a bit.
So you have the four suddenly rich gamblers about to wreck themselves instead of checking themselves, because guess what about gamblers. Then you have The Old Man who has a good horse probably, and is out of his mind definitely. There's the two main jockeys, Leon and the Exercise Girl, who are involved with these two horses. You have Gus, Ace's heavy and BFF, and the trainer guy Escalante who won't quit being how he is. And then there's Dustin Hoffman who is going to take all these motherfuckers down, and his many business associates from before, and I guess Dumbledore is going to show up.
Mostly you will be looking at a variety of tiny little butts for very long periods of time. Maybe that is something that you are into, I don't know, but I do know that if you're uncomfortable with staring at butts, you may want to rethink committing to this television program.
If you liked Deadwood because you like things HBO tells you to like, you already liked this show before you saw it. I'm sure it was very good, that's what people say. If you have bad memories of John From Cincinnati I can't tell you this won't go the same way. If you honestly liked both or either of those, I think you will like it. For somebody who is wholly allergic to the "old men standing around saying cute shit" genre of HBO programming, I know I did. It is beautiful to look at, and the people are interesting, and the world they live in is super, super gross, and instead of "cocksucker" what they say every five seconds is "degenerate," which is a little sadder but funnier too. As long as nobody mentions "dumping out," I will stick around.
Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) went to jail, and boy is he grumpy about it. Now he's getting out of jail and heading back to the racetrack with his buddy Gus (Dennis Farina) and an unblinking intensity that means a lot of soft-focus staring into nowhere. They drive to some hotel somewhere so Ace can act senile in various locations, while having various set-piece conversations about mumbling and grumbling.
Ace wants a voice recorder, Gus wants to talk about his grove of trees, and the conversation lasts as long as it takes to drive the length of California. Gus has bought a horse on Ace's behalf, because you can't own a racehorse if you've committed certain crimes. So whether or not he actually deserved to be in jail, Ace can't have a horse anymore. Maybe that's why he's so grumpy.
In a stable you find horses, maybe a cute little billygoat, some music that sounds like The Sopranos, and lots of gorgeous shots of horses doing stuff and tiny little jockeys, doing their jockey cultural dances and having their jockey cultural feasts and talking their strange tiny language. It is in this pageantry, this milieu, that we find several things:
No. 1: Nick Nolte is insane and we have no way of knowing what the fuck he is talking about, but he is looking better than he has in years. His voice is so low you can't hear it, but your car alarm might go off. Not great for talking, but probably very nice for a horse. He has a horse that is his friend and he likes to say weird things to it; he has a jockey who is an Irish lass who seems pretty important in the overall scheme of things.
No. 2: The Pick Six jackpot is quite high. If you wonder what that is and are very interesting in finding out what that is through the decipherment of mumbles and grizzling, this is the show for you. Pick Six is when you somehow have psychic mental powers and can predict the horses that are going to win in six different races.
No. 3: Jill Hennessey's actress vanity threshold is so low that while I was explaining the Pick Six, she stuck her hand up a horse's rear. Up to the elbow. Not a leisure activity, to be sure, because she is a doctor of horses, but it is still a very mysterious or startling thing to see Jill Hennessey do on a Sunday.
Also, she is sleeping with a pretty crummy guy who mumbles like everybody else, but in Spanish so it's even less comprehensible. His name is Escalante, he's a famous horse trainer and what he mostly likes to do in this episode is yell at this little jockey he calls "Pinhead," but who is in actuality a British hottie who sadly is playing a Cajun in this show and thus speaks with the only accent on this planet more awful to listen to than an Australian one.