Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pilot Review: Ballers

Ballers (HBO)
Premiered June 21 at 10pm

I knew it before I watched it, and everyone I’ve spoken to has described this as just like “Entourage” but about football rather than Hollywood. It’s extremely accurate, though I think that having an active interest in sports and appreciating all the cameos goes a lot further here than it did when you were simply watching four guys who coasted on fame in a big city without much discernable talent. What’s more worthwhile for me is seeing actors who I’ve seen in other projects get the opportunity to be featured here. I’ve always thought that the Rock was more talented than he got credit for, and so it’s good to see him taking on a role that isn’t entirely action-oriented. Omar Benson Miller, Rob Corddry, Troy Garity, and Dulé Hill are a foursome I would never have imagined together in any context, and I don’t think Arielle Kebbel even appeared in this episode. It’s good to know that there is talent involved, even if it’s not clear how they’ll be used. A half-hour felt long as an introduction to this show’s universe (though a friend and colleague said he felt the opposite, that a show like this needs a full hour to be able to truly set the stage), and I’m not terribly interested in investing in it. It’s only half an hour though, and there’s not so much on television at the moment, so I figure it’s worth giving HBO the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the kind of comedies they’re producing might be worth watching, even if this skews towards the less sophisticated of the series they’re presenting.

How will it work as a series? The pilot identified a few key characters, with manager Spencer and screwup Ricky looking like the primary players. There will be ups and downs, scandals to manage, victories to celebrate, and plenty more, plus a whole lot of high-octane sports and personal drama, which might make this show appealing to a certain kind of audience.
How long will it last? Probably a long time. Even though it’s not as good as a lot of the other fare HBO has aired over the years, it did find many more viewers than the often niche programming the network offers does. A second season renewal should be coming along shortly.

Pilot grade: C+

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