WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead on for the “Ballers” premiere.
Sure, it’s just a pilot, but I think I’ve seen enough.
But this is not for him.
The show has flaws apparent in episode 1 that I don’t think it has any chance of recovering from. And its biggest flaw is what should be it’s strongest asset: The Rock. And the show’s concept doesn’t help.
“Ballers,” a creation of the folks that brought you “Entourage,” revolves (mostly) around a group of friends who have retired from the NFL (or are still in it). Johnson plays Spencer Strassmore, a retired NFL player who’s trying to make a career for himself in money management now that he’s out of football.
His boss is a sort of whacked out dude named Joe, played by Rob Corddry (of ‘The Daily Show” fame). He only hired him, he says, because of his football connections, and he’s still starstruck by current and former players. Corddry is an odd choice for this mostly serious show. His ‘comic relief’ just feels annoying.
The season premiere mostly revolves around a current player and friend of Strassmore, played by John David Washington, who is trying to find a new place to play football after another in a series of off-the-field screw-ups. Strassmore spends his time trying to help him out, and working to get his post-football money management career off the ground.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. “Ballers” was not that fun to watch and gave me very little reason to come back for episode two. I get that it’s a pilot, and the show can evolve, but I don’t have a lot of hope.
This is not Dwayne Johnson’s wheelhouse. For a 30-minute HBO show it’s oddly serious and not really funny at all. Johnson is playing a character who is a bit lost after the NFL, but very type-A and working hard to get this new career off the ground, while helping his friends.
Does this sound like a Dwayne Johnson character to you? Definitely not. And as much as I love The Rock, he doesn’t have the acting chops to get the character off the ground. It just feels bland, like a weak audition reading from an actor who doesn’t have the range to pull a character off.
And the script doesn’t help him out that much.
Here’s the concept: Ex-NFL player who has his head on straight (played by a former WWF beast, what a choice), decides to pursue a career in money management after leaving the NFL. Along the way, former and current NFL players get in some trouble that he has to help sort out and organise.
If you fell asleep reading that you’ll get no judgment from me.
“Entourage” works so well because the concept is fun and the characters are written in such lively ways. Not to mention the casting is spot on.
But “Ballers” is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Even if we thought, for a second, that this concept was a good idea for some reason — Johnson is an awful fit. They would have been much better off casting a great actor with chops and range instead of someone universally popular to draw ratings.
Or maybe just put money into a different show.
“Ballers” is a disappointment, and has too much bad to likely ever be good.
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