Ballers: Did HBO's Sports Comedy Score With Its First Episode?

Ballers HBO

Don’t be fooled by the stereotypes you may have heard about retirement: For ex-NFL players, it isn’t all about golf courses, Bingo Nights and vacation homes in Miami.

Well, actually, the Miami part is true.

But for retired Miami Dolphins linebacker Spencer Strasmore  — the protagonist of HBO’s sports comedy Ballers, played by San Andreas‘ Dwayne Johnson — his post-pro football life isn’t quite what he imagined. Despite living in a beautiful Florida home, with a gorgeous woman on his arm, Spencer’s new career as a financial consultant to the current NFL stars isn’t fulfilling him.

After the sudden death of his former teammate Rodney Slater, Spencer promises his boss (Rob Corddry, Childrens Hospital) that he will ramp up his efforts to bring in new clients and “monetize his friendships.” Easier said than done, considering one of his clients is Ricky Jerret (John David Washington, Malcolm X), a temperamental Green Bay Packer who gets cut from his team after getting freaky in a nightclub bathroom and punching a civilian (who sort of deserved it, but that’s neither here nor there).

Spencer spends most of the premiere episode trying to rehabilitate Ricky’s image, and ultimately lands the hot-headed player a meeting with the Miami Dolphins coach (Chicago Hope‘s Peter Berg, who also directed this episode). The coach initially dismisses Ricky when he is a minute late for their crucial meeting, but is later impressed by Ricky’s drive and offers him a spot on the team.

In the meantime, when he’s not working near-miracles for Ricky, Spencer is giving a $300,000 loan to one of his pals Vernon (newcomer Donovan Carter), who he then brings on as an official client so that Vernon won’t waste all that money on his freeloading family and friends. As happy as he is to help his friends in need, though, Spencer has to be careful how much money he gives away: By the end of the half-hour, the financial consultant doesn’t have enough cash in the bank to even make a $200 withdrawal.

Ballers‘ Sunday-night debut is abundant in a lot of things, namely football jargon, scantily clad women and strong-enough writing to warrant a few genuine belly laughs. What it lacks, though — much like Ricky Jerret himself — is a clear creative focus, and that could be reason enough for the HBO comedy to fumble.

What’s your take on Ballers‘ series premiere? Grade the episode via our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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17 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    Eh, I didn’t have a ton of hope for it going in, and I got what I wanted out of it. I’ll probably keep watching because that’s the way I am, but…..*shrugs*

  2. Tuni66 says:

    Having little to no knowledge of football, I didn’t know if I was going to like it or not, but I’m hooked on it. Can’t wait for next Sunday!

  3. sladewilson says:

    Better than I thought it would be. Definitely needs some fine tuning but plenty of potential

  4. Nick says:

    It’s better if you know some football, I think.

  5. bsimpson1 says:

    haven’t checked it out yet, but looks like 1 part entourage, one part Arliss, and one part Lights out…if that holds true, should be decent.

  6. Joe romano says:

    The show has potential. Always enjoy dwayne Johnson’s work he is very talented and this show has a future if handled with the right creativity. It’s like the entourage of NFL instead of the movie business. Whatever is next to come I will be watching cause the first episode I thought was entertaining

  7. James D says:

    meh. if it weren’t for Dwayne Johnson i wouldn’t watch again. if it’s goal was to be a comedy in the vain of entourage it didn’t succeed, sorry.

  8. bobC927 says:

    One and done for me. I thought it sucked.

  9. Steve says:

    1st HBO sports comedy? Isn’t it like the 3rd after Arliss and 1st and 10?

  10. LaLa says:

    It was a “meh” for me. I’ll give it one more episode.

  11. Heathers says:

    I agree with Lala, just meh. I watched it for Dwayne Johnson. I don’t know any of the other actors. The jerkoff who got cut was a real a-hole.

  12. HAP says:

    I was disappointed by the show. Besides, didn’t Sarah Shahi already do this? And better.

  13. Jules says:

    I’ll watch again for John David Washington. That’s a gorgeous man. Considering his dad is Denzel, it’s not surprising.

  14. meatwad says:

    It had a more serious tone than i expected and i’m happy about that. I will definitely be watching this weekly