HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ballers: The Complete Second Season
HTS Overall Score:78
“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]Being a digitally streamed service review, I can't give an actual star rating to the picture quality as that is dependent on the internet capabilities of the device streaming it. This was seen through Vudu (although there are differing qualities ranging from SD to full 1080p HDX on there, as well as Amazon streaming and other service like Itunes with differing file sizes). With that being said “Ballers” is a sleek and shiny looking show, much like the first season. It still uses the Arri line of cameras and the glossy looking digital image is clean and clear of any source noise or the like. The blacks look good for a streaming service and I still noticed that slightly soft veneer that was present on the Blu-ray on season 1, but overall a nice looking streamed image.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84346[/img]Same here. This is a streaming review thus the quality and bitrate of the Dolby Digital+ 5.1 soundtrack will vary depending on how fast your internet speeds are. Still, while not a full lossless audio track I was quite pleased with the sonic arrangement. Nice dialog levels in the front soundstage, and the heavy duty LFE coming through with the thump of a car stereo system, or the crash of weights slamming into the floor during a workout. Surrounds have ample opportunity to flex their muscles during the parties and overall it's a nice sounding mix. It fits how the first season sounded, just feels a bit thinner due to the lossy audio compression that you get with streaming services like Vudu.
• Behind-the-scenes looks for each episode.
• Invitation to the Set
"Ballers Season 2" matured a good bit from the rocky first season that it enjoyed last year. Season 1 had some fun bits to it, but suffered from being too cliched and more like the weaker seasons of "Entourage" than anything else. This season they amped up the game just a little bit and come at us with some nice dramatic moments and more cohesive season long arcs that deal with the character flaws of Spencer, Ricky, Charles Greane, and even some with Andre and Joe. While it's STILL not high level entertainment like "Game of Thrones" or shows of that ilk, I enjoyed this 10 episode jaunt more than I expected I would. The affability of Dwayne Johnson plays a big part with that, as well as the tighter writer and more serious themes that play off the flippant humor of Corddry and Johnson's pairing. Definitely worth it for a good watch.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Rob Cordry, John David Washington
Created by: Stephen Levinson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: Dolby Digital+ 5.1
Runtime: 287 minutes
Digital Release Date: October 24th, 2016
Recommendation: Solid Watch
More about Mike