Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers’ is TV’s answer to the summer beach read

Updated August 11, 2018 - 12:06 pm

After three seasons and a handful of episodes of the upcoming fourth, it’s time to accept the fact that Dwayne Johnson’s “Ballers” (10 p.m. Sunday, HBO) will never be more than a dopey, mildly distracting bit of escapism.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every brain can use a break. It’s just that with HBO, the home of “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld,” you tend to expect bigger, better or both.

Ostensibly a series about retired NFL star Spencer Strasmore (Johnson) starting a second career managing the money of his former colleagues, “Ballers” is basically whatever its producers, including most of the team behind “Entourage,” want it to be at any given moment.

After two seasons of struggling to sign clients, last year found Spencer and his business partner, Joe (Rob Corddry), angling to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. Then Spencer pulled a last-minute swerve with a plea, complete with stadium financing, to keep the team in Oakland. “Moving a third team in two years is very dangerous to your brand,” he told the assembled owners. The fans in Oakland deserve to keep their team, he added, and doing so would make the owners “look like good guys instead of looking like a bunch of greedy, out of touch, old white men.”

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Spence.

In Season 4, Spencer and Joe leave their Miami sports management firm and its 200 employees — unsupervised, from the looks of things — to head to Los Angeles and buy an agency specializing in extreme sports that’s run by one of Joe’s acquaintances (Russell Brand at his Russell Brand-iest).

Why? Even Spencer has trouble processing that one. This isn’t us, he tells Joe, it’s not what we do. “Were we financial managers?” Joe responds. “Were we real estate developers?”

It’s hard to argue with that logic.

The writing on “Ballers” always has leaned toward the slapdash, but it’s declined noticeably this season.

In a scene in Sunday’s premiere, Spencer explains to Joe that he hasn’t set foot in Los Angeles since his junior year of college when his older brother, a star quarterback “for the Trojans,” jumped off a bridge there and killed himself. “Oh, yeah,” a stunned Joe says. “That rings a bell.”

A famous athlete — an athlete who shares a sport and an uncommon last name with your best friend — commits suicide in a very public way, you work with athletes for a living, and that “rings a bell”?

In the very next episode, Joe tells Spencer, “I know you better than you know yourself.”

Ya know, Joe, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t.

“Ballers” is so disposable that, three seasons in, I’d barely noticed John David Washington as Spencer’s buddy, wide receiver Ricky Jarrett, and he tears up the screen as the lead in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”

Given its pedigree, it makes sense that “Ballers” is mindless and pretty — mansions, yachts, luxury cars — in an “Entourage” sort of way.

It’s practically the television equivalent of those paperbacks you kinda, sorta read — somewhat guiltily — while lying in the sun.

This summer, “Ballers” embraces that idea more than ever. The opening episodes are even set at the beach.

What to watch

Issa (reigning best actress in a comedy Emmy nominee Issa Rae) tries to get her life together after a breakup in the third season of “Insecure” (10:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO).

The animated “Disenchantment” (Friday, Netflix), from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, follows a hard-drinking princess in the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland.

Pahrump hit man Miles Daly (Chris O’Dowd) struggles to maintain his momentum as a filmmaker in Season 2 of “Get Shorty” (9 p.m. Sunday, Epix).

“Minding the Gap” (Friday, Hulu), which won a special jury award for breakthrough filmmaking this year at Sundance, was filmed over the course of 12 years and follows three skateboarders trying to make it out of Rockford, Illinois.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like