KTB TV: CultureBroker – Ballers Review
It’s a legacy at this point. HBO produces some of the strongest, densest, and most thought provoking programming in the history of television. HBO has also created some of the silliest, indulgent, and flat out ridiculous programming as well. This contrast is the secret of their success. If HBO was nothing but The Wire, True Detective, and The Sopranos, they could never attract viewers like me who are pulled into the HBOrbit by lighter fare like Flight of the Concords, Life and Times of Tim (please put it on HBO Go!), True Blood, Entourage, and it’s younger brother, Ballers.
Entourage was an especially unique experience as the kind of show that just cannot be done by broke networks with no money. It’s essentially the Watch the Throne of television; only massive budget and megalomaniacal egos could will something so indulgently dripping with luxury into existence. Well the boys are back! Half the the producers anyway (including Mark Wahlberg), this time on the jock end of the entertainment ball with a new HBO show called Ballers. Ballers stars Dwayne Johnson as a retired NFL player starting a new career in the exciting world of financial planning He attempts to “leverage his friendships” and help younger players avoid the traps he fell prey to.
While that may sound fairly different from Entourage on paper, Ballers comes off as Entourage if the series focused more on E building a business than on Vinnie Chase having zany sexy adventures. In fact, that’s exactly what happened in the last few of seasons of Entourage which are the weakest of the series. This is because E is friggin boring. Managing is friggin borning. People making good decisions with their money is friggin BORING. Plus the rampant consumerism seems almost egregious in a post Great Recession world. Sure, some characters have money problems, but when going broke is framed with the same reverence as getting murdered, what does it say about you who is borrowing that HBO GO password because cable’s too expensive.
Fortunately, Ballers has just enough steam to keep me interested, but I don’t know for how long. Despite being younger than Entourage, Ballers already feels older. We get familiar Entourage-esque tropes of fast cars, faster women, bad decisions and the friendship through it all, but the characters in this show somehow seem too well adjusted to be fun as they have way more on the line than simply “moving back to Queens.” Still, I’m going to stick with it a while and see where it leads. Hopefully Ballers can find some way to inject some irreverent fun or find something a little more compelling than Black men living and dying by the decisions of old White bosses, oblivious to the CTE rotting their brains and causing that lack of anger management.
Check out my thoughts in the video and feel free to comment and fire back with your own.