Look, I don’t understand American football at all. I have no idea what any of it means; the obsession with stats, the random numbers and the odd yelling of hut, hut hike. But somehow, the writers of the TV show Ballers have captured my interest.
I have just finished the 10-episode first season that was shown on HBO in the US, and let me tell you, this is an awesome TV show. It’s definitely worth tuning in to Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays to watch this. Here are some of the biggest reasons to do so:
Over the past few years, and while we’ve not been watching, Dwayne Johnson has become a really solid actor. He plays one of the lead parts in Ballers – a former pro football player turned financial manager called Spencer Strasmore. Spencer, throughout the show, struggles with the transition from the adrenaline-pumping Friday night lights to the murky world of consultancy.
The way Johnson takes to the role, in terms of both the dramatic and comedic elements, is a revelation. We can’t help but think that this is owed in part to him playing up his former experience as a college football player. What’s more is that the writing of the character is really strong – we really get a feel for the psychology of Strasmore, his motivations in life and his emotional make-up, but without distracting too much from the main story arc.
This subheading may sound stupid as the show is billed as a comedy, but our point is that it’s surprising how funny those moments are. There’s no forced set-up and joke. This is more natural than that. We don’t just laugh at the funny moments, but we sympathise with the characters and laugh with them too. A storyline involving one of the Miami Dolphins players and his team-mate’s mother is a rather unique take on 21st-century gallows humour. But one that succeeds. This isn’t pre-packaged comedy like…Everybody Loves Raymond. This will make you uncomfortable and make you laugh in equal measures.
The Ethnic Minorities
I know. This always comes up when the cast is mostly made-up of ethnic minority actors. But the beauty of Ballers is that this show doesn’t just rely on ethnic stereotyping for its humour. It treats its actors as actors, and presents a wide selection of characters – sometimes postive, some negative, but all defined by who they are and not the colour of their skin. It doesn’t sound like much, but it honestly is a strong message to send out.
Put simply, Ballers is really well shot. Some of the scenes, like the party on Anderson’s boat, show off the creativity of the director. They actually highlight a modern Miami that doesn’t just hark back to classic tropes. The Scarface motif has gone, and in its place is a young football player’s paradise. Check out the scene above for a taste of what we mean.
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