HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ballers: The Complete Second Season
HTS Overall Score:75
“Ballers” took HBO by storm last year with a solid first season of goodness, but like every show, the fans are looking for a progression in quality as the series progresses. In that goal “Ballers Season 2” does quite nicely in many ways (with one major caveat). The creators learned from many of the rookie mistakes in the first 10 round set and have done their best to curb the flaws going into the sophomore run of the show. The story arcs are longer lasting, the drama is less clichéd, and the stupidity of the booze and women aspect has been toned down a good bit. Sure there’s still moronic male behavior, but its sharper and the humor in the situations are less slapstick. Charm oozes from Dwayne Johnson’s every poor and the season just feels more agile and riveting than freshman season ever did. I have a few gripes with the supporting cast, but it’s nothing that really drags the show down any.
Things are looking up for Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) and Joe (Rob Corddry). Spencer is now in charge of the whole division in Miami for his financial management firm and they’re going after bigger and better clients. The thing is, they are going for some REALLY big clients, and that is ticking off the big shark in the pool. After poaching “the Sizzle” from financial manager Andre Allen (Andy Garcia) the duo starts a sort of “war” between the two firms for competition. Spencer is still angling for his clients and running the gambit of “ex-player manager FOR the player”, while Andre is a complete and total powerhouse with 20+ years of experience under his belt.
Deals are part of the game, but so is the art of war, and Spencer is soon finding out that Andre is a more formidable opponent than he thought. His main client Vernon Littlefield (Donovan Carter) injures himself while playing paintball, putting his entire career at jeopardy, while his addiction to Vicodin plays a more major role in this season. Injuries that were shrugged off last year come back to haunt him as his doctor confronts Spence with the fact that he can’t run from the pain forever. Even if it that means confronting his own pride and ego. Then there’s the wild fun of his relationship with his off again on again girlfriend as well as a few side stories with some up and coming stars that will allow the manager to keep himself from getting FIRED for the troubles he’s been having lately.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84330[/img]If anything, “Ballers” has really grown on me. I liked the first season, don’t get me wrong. But it had some pacing flaws and boring storytelling that was really off-putting. HBO tried to make it too soap operish and that got old real fast, as every “adult” or “mature” TV show on the market can market sleaze easily. It’s a dime a dozen arrangement. However the second season tightened down some of the storytelling and allowed the character arcs to progress more naturally and (more importantly) LONGER this go around. Instead of 2 episode arcs we have several major ones that flow throughout the entire season. Ricky Jerret and his conundrum over where he is going to move lasts nearly the entire season, and the battle between Andre and Spencer is a major development in the entire premise of the show now. Even Charles Greane goes forward as well. He’s easily the weakest of the football star heroes, but he goes from almost philandering husband to a well fleshed out character that matures and changes as the season goes on (although the “war” with the 16 year old kid in the blue sports car had me cracking up at every turn).
The show is still played for laughs, but the laughs are less noticeable this season. That’s not to say that the show isn’t funny, but rather that they blend more seamlessly with the heavy amounts of drama thrown in. Especially in regards to Joe and Spencer. Which brings me to my ONE complaint of the show that really bugs me. Spencer. He’s the best character in the show and Johnson makes the hulking beast of a manager look effortless with his charm and humor and brutish sophistication. Therein lies the problem. He’s TOO good. The rest of the cast is overshadowed as the creators put the entire weight of the show’s success on the Rock’s massive shoulders. A good ensemble show like “Veep” or “Entourage” relies on more than just one character to keep the show going. The humor flows from multiple sources and that keeps it fresh and entertaining. When “Ballers” shifts away from Spencer the stories start to really devolve and get a bit boring, only to immediately perk up when Dwayne Johnson walks into the room. It’s not that the show ITSELF is boring, it’s just that too much relies on one man and I’m not sure how long they can keep that up (although I’m not complaining. I adore the Rock as much as everyone else does).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84338[/img]“Ballers” is a sleek and shiny looking show, still shot on the Arri Amira camera system, the show has a nice glossy look to it that fights the bright and glitzy Miami Florida stage. Everything is well detailed with strong primary colors and a really natural look. Very little, if any, color grading has gone on and the results are generally VERY Impressive. There is that digital softness that is still present (much like Season 1), but it is not exactly overt or distracting. It just makes the show not AS crisp and clean as other HBO productions. If I was going to compare it to another show's visuals it would be "Entourage". Blacks are still strong and inky, with no signs of crush or washed out levels. Basically a very nice, very clean, and very pretty looking TV transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84346[/img]Being a dramedy of sorts, “Ballers: The Complete Second 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 in the front sound stage with no distortions or balance issues, but the show still has a few surprises that can kick things up a notch now and again. Music is till powerful and impacting with strong LFE and good use of the surround channels. The roar of a Lambo's engine as it revs to level 10 is powerful and exilerating, while the surround channels get some nice use with the sounds of birds chirping on a beach while Travis makes a run, or the woosh as the Lambo blasts by a couple of cops like nothing happened.. The 5.1 mix is definitely a dramedy track, but one that has a little more kick and punch than your average TV show.
• Inside the Episode bonus segments that give the play-by-play on all 10 episodes, featuring interviews with executive producer Evan Reilly, star Dwayne Johnson and more
“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.
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
Runtime: 358 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Buy Ballers: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
More about Mike