Denzel Washington’s Son & the 5 Other Reasons You Should Have Been Watching ‘The Rock’s’ New HBO Show “Ballers”.
I had my concerns when I first read about the show and that Dwayne Johnson was being tapped for the lead. I had even bigger concerns when I saw the trailer. The show looked like it was just trying way too hard. I was afraid that HBO was going to shove this at us like a bad song that gets played on the radio so much that you are forced to like it. However, after watching the first 3 episodes….twice, I’m all in, and here are 5 reasons (now 6) you should be all in too for next season.
Warning: I will be using “The Rock” and Dwayne Johnson interchangeably…they will always be the same person to me.
REASON 1: DENZEL WASHINGTON’S SON
This is an updated story because when I wrote the original, we had no idea that the man who played receiver Ricky Jerret was Denzel Washington’s Son! By the end of season one, I was saying that John David Washington was good. Really good. As I was discovering his talent so was the internet. After doing a little digging we found out that John David Washington was not only the son of Denzel but he is really a football star turned actor, so this role comes naturally for him. He played for Morehouse college and was drafted to the Rams as a free agent and then played overseas before he decided to take acting seriously.
It’s funny how he went from being a good actor to now that he’s Denzel’s son, everyone is saying how good looking he is. This is what happens with a lot of actors. Trust me, if you saw “Idris” Elba sweeping floors at the grocery store, no one would be drooling over him. He would be “Idris” the janitor not the Black James Bond. The world works by proxy and by proxy, John David Washington is now a sex symbol.
Ricky Jerret is one of the more complex characters in a series that doesn’t really have or need much character depth. What makes John David so good is that he has the skill to be what he needs to be for what the scene is calling for. He can go as deep as you need him to go or he can be a muscle head jock for 10 minutes. The fact that he is Denzel Washington’s son just makes him that much more interesting to watch. The funny part is, once you know that he is Denzel’s son, you wonder how could you not know before. Look at the resemblance.
REASON 2: THE ROCK as Spencer Strasmore
The Rock is awesome in this show. What’s good about it being a weekly show is that The Rock’s charisma builds upon itself week after week. Once you make it through the first scene of the first episode (which is just filled with awful acting), The Rock becomes incredibly believable and extremely likable as his character Spencer Strasmore. He’s an ex-linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. His character comes with a long list of baggage. We see hints of possible PTSD from hits he’s delivered on the field, possible concussion ramifications and pain killer addiction as evidence of the pills he pops like Tick Tacs throughout the day and his need to monetize his friendships so that he can earn a living as a financial manager because the former Pro-bowler is flat broke.
The need for audiences to like Spencer is the key to the success of the entire show. You need to be rooting for Spencer Strasmore in order for the entire premise and many of the sub-plots to work. So far Johnson is nailing that.
REASON 3: Rob Corddry as Joe Krutel
Most of us know Corddry from “Hot Tub Time Machine”. Corddry’s character Joe, is not only Spencer’s boss, but you can see his character start to emerge as Spencer’s nerdy side kick. He is somewhat comic relief at first but as the show progresses you see that he has a pretty integral role. If you recall, this is very similar to Ari Gold in the early episodes of “Entourage”. He was just another perimeter character and slowly during the life of the series he grew; sometimes being the star of entire episodes.
In the world of athletes knowing athletes, Joe Krutel represents the general public’s outsider’s view looking in. Someone who is still awed by girls in bikinis, exotic cars, mansions and large sums of money. These are things that the ballers on the show take for granted. However these are things that Joe Krutel along with us at home are stilled impressed by. He is often saying what you and I are thinking or at least what we want to say, but either don’t have the balls, the arrogance or the ignorance to. (See usage of the “N” word in episode 3 – classic!)
REASON 4: Football in the Off Season With Real Athletes & Teams
Despite the show’s lucky timing with Dwayne Johnson (fresh off of back to back blockbusters), the show’s timing with regards to football fans is even better. It’s refreshing that we actually get to see Cowboy’s and Dolphins’ logos and apparel throughout each episode, at a time when fans are craving it the most. I remember when ESPN produced “Playmakers”, their version of an NFL drama, that starred Omar Gooding. It was an amazingly accurate show but ESPN did not use any actual NFL properties. In the end it was crushed by the pressure from the NFL due to its negative portrayal of the league. Both football films, “Any Given Sunday” and “The Replacements” also did not use real NFL teams. All three projects lacked authenticity because of it. The made up teams were a distraction preventing the audience from full engaging.
HBO and the NFL have done business before with the Hard Knock series, however the NFL has no involvement in this project and did not give permission for usage of any of its intellectual properties. A Spokesperson for HBO said that despite what we might think, the NFL’s consent is actually not needed,
“HBO is always mindful of other intellectual property owners, but in this context there is no legal requirement to obtain their consent,”
REASON 5: We miss Entourage
If for some reason, you did not like Entourage then leave now. If you didn’t like Entourage then you will hate “Ballers”. For fans of the show, this is the next best thing. “Ballers” is created by Entourage’s executive producer, Stephen Levinson and has a list of executive producers which include Mark Wahlberg, Rob Weiss and a list of other Entourage alumni. Instead of movie stars these are sports stars. Hollywood actors popping up out of no where through scenes shot in Beverly Hills are replaced with athletes making cameos in Florida. In just the first episode alone you see; Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson, Steven Jackson, Larry Csonka and Don Shula. Jeremy Shockey, Jared Odrick, Will Davis, Dannell Ellerbe, LaMarr Woodley, Victor Cruz, Rashard Mendenhall, Arrelious Benn and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. I think you get the idea.
REASON 6: Your Weekly 22 Minutes of Coolness
For 22 minutes you are thrust into a world of coolness. Hot girls, fast cars, yachts, and tons of other material things that you or I will never buy, even if we could. All of it spun at you to the back drop of a hip hop based musical score. You jump right in with the theme song, which is “Right Above It” by Drake and Lil Wayne. Although that song is a few years old, by episode 3 when you hear the beat of that song you immediately connect it to “Ballers”. During episode 2 you can hear: “Still Not a Player” by Big Pun, “Work” by Gang Starr, “Put your hands Where My Eyes Could See” by Busta Rhymes and more. (click here for a full list of songs in each episode). No song is forced on you and the music always fits the mood of the scene. Whoever is in charge of the score not only needs a raise but they need to DJ my kids next birthday party.
Former athletes, nerds, future athletes and guys with daddy bellies all get to be six-packed-up, energy drinking, Nike wearing, pro athletes. Women, who watch this get to gush all over men who can out lift, out run and out earn the man you are most likely sitting next to. This is real life fantasy TV at its finest.
For HBO those 5 reasons must have been enough. They have already renewed it for a 2nd season. The first season will have 7 more episodes for a total of 10. The premiere was the most watched HBO comedy in over 6 years. HBO’s president Michael Lombardo was pleased and had this to say,
The charismatic and hugely talented Dwayne Johnson, along with the rest of the Ballers cast, has truly struck a chord with the HBO audience. We are thrilled with the overwhelming response the series has received and look forward to another exciting season.
DON’T GET ME WRONG…
By no means am I saying this is quality TV. Please don’t tune in expecting “House of Cards”. Ballers is a decent show at best but it’s very entertaining. There is a difference. The movie Ted is a crap film, but entertaining as hell. If you don’t take yourself too seriously then you will have no problem enjoying it. If you are a TV snob (and you know who you are), then I suggest you don’t waste your time. If you are looking you can find 10,000 reasons why this show sucks.
Huge numbers don’t mean that the show is good either. The Rock is a mega-star with a mega social media following. He could be filmed taking a dump and the first episode would get high ratings. The question is, would the the 2nd and 3rd episodes?
The fourth episode premieres on July 12th, so it’s not too late to binge watch episodes 1 -3 and tune in and “Ball out of control” like the rest of us….at least in your head, sitting on the couch for 22 minutes.