TV review: Ballers Season 2, Sky Atlantic
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson shines in football comedy
Much like Stephen Levinson's last HBO comedy, Entourage, Ballers peeks behind the gilded curtain. Swapping Hollywood glamour for the million dollar deals of American football, going behind the scenes at the NFL, focusing on the agents and account managers behind the sport's superstars. Ballers is a harder sell in the UK. Entourage's take on the film industry and star system had a global reach whereas American football is a strictly Stateside phenomenon. So many of the cameos, references and technical terms might pass you by.
Nicely mirroring his own life, former gridiron star and pro-wrestler turned actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson plays Spencer Strasmore, a financial adviser to a stable of 'ballers'. A retired lineman struggling with his own injuries and a career littered with friends and enemies made on and off the field. Not only managing their money but the players' lives as sex and drugs threaten to destroy their careers. Season 2 finds Spencer and his business partner, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), tackling the big boys as they go head to head with Andre Allen (Andy Garcia) after poaching one of his clients.
Season 2 really is the Spencer Strasmore show. Corddry is the perfect comedy partner but feels side-lined (though he kills it with the material he's given, delivering the majority of Ballers laugh out loud gags). It's a lot for Johnson to bear on his muscular shoulders. Luckily he's effortlessly charismatic, especially as the comedy / drama mix actually calls on his acting chops unlike his big screen action persona. There's solid support from John David Washington (son of Denzel), Omar Benson Miller and Donovan W Carter as footballers at various stages in their career but they deserve more screen time. The reality is American football is dominated by men but one major flaw with Ballers is the almost complete lack of strong women (there are a few token wives and girlfriends but they're subsidiary characters).
Johnson is Ballers MVP but it needs to concentrate on building a stronger team to score that winning touchdown.
Season 2 of Ballers starts on Sky Atlantic, Tue 26 Jul, 9pm.