Dwayne Johnson sure likes to keep busy. In case you didn’t already get enough of him on the big screen in ‘Furious 7’ and ‘San Andreas’ this year, The Rock is also starring in the new HBO half-hour football… “comedy” is how it’s being promoted… called ‘Ballers’. Unfortunately, this ball is completely deflated.
The series is produced by Steven Levinson and Mark Wahlberg, who obviously pitched it to HBO as “Entourage for sports.” Johnson stars as Spencer Strassmore, a former NFL legend looking to redefine himself now that he’s too old and beaten-up to play anymore. He’s currently working for a sports management agency, where his douchebag boss (Rob Corddry) pressures him to monetize his friendships – in other words, use his network of connections with still-active athletes to sign as many of them with the agency as possible. To do so, Spence must navigate through a web of players and their wives and girlfriends and hoes and others, watching them all burn through mountains of cash like he once irresponsibly did while he frets over his own current money problems.
The primary storyline in the pilot episode involves a hotshot player who gets cut from the Green Bay Packers after video footage of a bar fight he was involved in goes viral on social media. Spence helps him start rehabilitating his image and land a meeting with the coach of the Miami Dolphins (Peter Berg, who also directed – because he’s apparently the go-to guy for TV shows about football).
Beyond that, I’m not going to bother recapping the plot of the episode, because it is boring as shit. Holy hell, is this thing terrible. Sure, I get that it’s supposed to be more “dramedy” than comedy, but the drama is boring and the episode doesn’t have a single laugh in the whole thing. Not one memorable line of dialogue. Not one funny or interesting scene. It’s completely pointless and tedious and awful, sprinkled with copious profanity and gratuitous nudity in a desperate (failed) effort to hold anyone’s attention.
If this is supposed to be the new ‘Entourage’, at best it’s like ‘Entourage’ seven or eight seasons in after everybody had given up and were just phoning in their performances. But even that show’s worst episodes had the occasional funny scene. This has nothing.
The only redeeming feature ‘Ballers’ has going for it is Johnson’s immensely likable screen presence. He tries to carry this train wreck on his shoulders, but it’s too much burden even for his huge muscles to bear. If it hadn’t been a vanity project for him, the show wouldn’t have made it past the pilot stage. It shouldn’t have.