HBO's Miami-Based Show Ballers Underwhelms

Dwayne Johnson in Ballers
Dwayne Johnson in Ballers
Photo by Gene Page/courtesy of HBO

The reviews coming in following the Sunday debut of HBO's newest super-hyped-Miami-set series Ballers, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as retired Miami Dolphins superstar turned financial manager Spencer Strasmore, have been anything but the balls. Critics seems to agree the debut was painfully unoriginal in its content; just another recycled 33 minutes of the usual jock porn you might expect to find when tuning into a show about the fictional off-field like of NFL players. 

The New York Observer says the series "Needs More Balls"; the New York Daily News says Ballers "Kicks a FG" in it's debut, and Variety hit the hardest writing that Johnson can't save the new HBO show from itself. The other reviews read the same.

Unless Ballers takes a turn from the tired and familiar formula of using women as little more than bed candy, and Miami for nothing more than South Beach scenery, the show is destined to be forgettable. Right off the bat, Ballers felt very much like the Playstation to the older-yet-original Nintendo that was ESPN’s Playmakers in 2003.

One aspect that may lead the show down a possibly more interesting, and definitely more meaningful path, is the subject of NFL players' money management, or lack thereof. In the first episode Johnson's character struggles to get his friends (soon to be clients?) to learn from his financial mistakes. At one point toward the end of the debut episode, Johnson, in a happy moment, goes to withdraw $200 from an ATM, only to be rejected due to insufficient funds. 

Ballers also has some hilarious moments, particularly for fans of the Miami Dolphins. There's a standout scene in which legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula says to a potential Dolphins player that arrived at 5:01 p.m. for a 5 p.m. meeting, "You're an asshole" as the boat pulls away, leaving the player dejected and confused. 

Besides the Rock's character of Spencer Strasmore, the cast includes retired nice guy Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), high-maintenance wide receiver Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), rising star Vernon (Donovan Carter), ace agent Jason (Troy Garity), and the widow of an ex-player killed in the premiere Tina (LeToya Luckett).

So while the debut of Ballers was, at times, intriguing, and funny; the premiere was a bit underwhelming. But we'll keep watching, if only for the Dolphins jokes alone.

Ballers airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on HBO.


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