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Title: Ballers: The Complete First Season

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:73

The Rock (I’m sorry I still can’t say Dwayne Johnson, I grew up with WWE and he’s still “The Rock” to me after all these years) has had a fantastic career as of late. Starting off as a CGI character in “The Mummy Returns” he soon became a star on the silver screen. One who rose from the ashes of mediocre action movies to straight up being a fun addition to most any movie you can think of (although there have been a few stinkers like “The Tooth Fairy”). However none have come so close to mimicking his old life as a footballs star as “Ballers” has. An old football star himself, The Rock returns to field as an ex player turned financial manager for the players in this irreverent dramedy that is a bit larger than life. Some parts of the show are a bit over the top, but it captures the essence of a football player’s life in the NFL. Booze, women, money and fancy cars and a healthy dose of debauchery mixed in as well.

There’s kind of a melancholy flair to the first season of “Ballers” that resonates with those who feel like they have not reached their full potential in life. Like they peaked years ago and are now living out their days in a slight downward curve of the bell graph. This is how life feels like for ex superstar Spencer Strasmore. Once a legend in the NFL he has now passed into the afterlife of a player and is trying to make a go of it as a financial manage aimed directly at football stars. His partner Joe (Rob Corddry) got him into the business BECAUSE of Spencer’s contacts within the NFL, but things aren’t going so hot for the two of them. Especially Spencer. The aging star isn’t sure where he wants to go in life, or even how he wants to get there. What he does know is that he wants to be a sort of guiding light for all the younger generation of superstars coming up. Not make the same mistakes he made and not to squander the time they have in the NFL with stupidity and poor financial decisions which leave so many stars trying to make money after they’re done despite their millions of millions in contract money.

This is most evident with rouge player Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), a player who perhaps gets into a bit TOOOOO much trouble. After an incident in a bar Ricky is traded to Miami where he now has to start making up for lost time with his new team. Instead of the big superstar he’s now the outsider, and hopefully with the help of Spencer he can regain his status in the big leagues and make the most of his waning career. At the same time the show looks into the lives of ex-players like Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), a washed up old star who now has to work at a car dealership to keep himself busy. Now with too much time on his hands Charles is finding out that monogamy and ex-football players are a bit harder to balance than he thought.

The show balances a line between “Jerry MaGuire”, the weaker aspects of “Entourage” and a myriad of other “too much money for their own good“ type of sports shows. Spencer acts as the actual straight man of the group here, without the trademark comedy that the Rock has brought to many of his acting gigs. The show itself is played off for laughs, but there is much more of a dramedy aspect to the series than one would expect. However this dramedy feels a bit low key and shallow for the subject matter at hand. Things just work out way too easily for the main characters and wrapped up in a pretty bow in a matter of episodes. There are several moments in the season where there are ample opportunities for more serious moments to take hold, such as Spencer having to deal with what appears to be brain damage from his last tackle, but that wraps up suddenly in just a few eps. The same goes for an ex-girlfriend trying to make a blackmail case with some old photos of a player, but once again, wrapped up in a few episodes.

What makes the show work is frankly Dwayne Johnson and Rob Corddry. Rob is VERY much the funny guy here, and he does it quite well. Usually he can be a bit over the top, but in the wide world of NFL level sports over the top is just what the doctor ordered. Dwayne is just such an affable guy on screen that you just can’t help but really root for Spencer. He’s easily the star of the series and may keep it running for a few seasons more. Without him this would be largely forgettable, but “Ballers” lives and dies on the characters that it has at its disposal, and luckily for them they have a pair of very likeable men helming the show.


Rated TV-MA

Video :4stars:
“Ballers” is a sleek and shiny looking show, being completely shot on the Arri Amira camera system (an offshoot of the Alexa line) and the results are very satisfactory. The bright and cheery Miami atmosphere keeps the show looking glossy and well detailed, from the suits that barely fit the Rock’s imposing frame to the water lapping at the yacht of a party gone overboard. Surprisingly there is a slightly soft look to the image though, with an overlay that looks like some digital processing was done to the master beforehand. There is not artifacting or problems with blacks or anything like that, which leads me to believe that it was a stylistic choice that was used during the filming.

Audio :4stars:
Being a dramedy of sorts, “Ballers: The Complete First Season” has a decidedly front heavy soundtrack a majority of the time. Dialog is the main focus of the show and that is cleanly replicated, but the series knows how to bring out the big guns now and then. The parties get crazy and the more raucous moments light up the surround field with the yelling crowd and pulsing energy of a good club beat. Fists hit hard during a scuffle and the LFE channel kicks up to pound away during the bars as well as random parties that occur in the life of a football star. It’s a low key track much of the time, but those boisterous moments come out of left field and really turn it up a notch if you know what I mean.

Extras :1.5stars:

• Behind-the-scenes looks for each episode.

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Ballers: The Complete First Season” is not exactly tip top entertainment, but luckily Dwayne Johnson makes for such an imposing and enjoyable persona on screen that you soon forget about the weaker parts of the series. Episodes are light and fluffy with some serious moments interwoven, and the longer the show goes on the more the characters actually start to ingratiate themselves upon the viewers. HBO does a solid job with a nice digital image and impressive dramedy level soundtrack to fill out the package. Sadly the extras are a bit lacking for an HBO release, but comedies very rarely have a whole lot of extras to go along with things so it’s understandable. Worth a good watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Rob Cordry, John David Washington
Created by: Stephen Levinson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, German DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 2.0
Studio: HBO
Rated: TV-MA
Runtime: 358 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 14th, 2016

Buy Ballers: The Complete First Season Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Solid Watch

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