Ballers Pilot Episode: — June 21, 2015
Our special contributor Ralph S. knows his TV and gives us his take on the new HBO show, Ballers.
When we first encounter Spencer Strassmore (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) he’s waking up after a dream recounting what appears to be an unpleasant experience from his glory days on the gridiron. He ambles into the bathroom to down a handful of painkillers in order to begin his day. Spencer was a star defensive back for the Miami Dolphins who is now retired and trying to make it as a financial adviser to the star athletes he once played with. This is how the first episode of Ballers on HBO introduces us to the sometimes funny lives of the men who made or make their living playing professional football.
In the very next scene, we see an example of stupidity at its finest. Rodney, Spencer’s former teammate, is cruising down the freeway in his nice, shiny Bentley sports coupe carrying on small talk with his mistress who’s inquiring about how in love he is with her. When Rodney hesitates after she asks him if he’ll leave his wife for her the woman goes all Mike Tyson on him and starts punching him in the head. Of course, while trying to keep this berserk broad off him Rodney loses control of the car and they get t-boned by a big dump truck. Damn shame, that looked like a really nice Bentley.
After Rodney’s funeral Spencer offers his condolences to Rodney’s widow and she talks to him about how irresponsible Rodney was. She also implies that Spencer may be headed down the same path. “After Rod stopped playing he had no idea who he was,” she tells Spencer. “You’re a grown-ass man so go out there and figure your shit out.” Spencer tries to assure her that he’s got it handled, but you can tell neither of believe this. Hell, I didn’t believe him. Spencer also makes plans to hang out at a local club with two friends, Charles Greane (Omar Miller), another retired player, and Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), a hot-shot receiver for the Green Bay Packers.
On his way to work after the funeral, Spencer gets a call from one of his clients, Vernon Littlefield (Donovan Carter). Vernon needs a short-term loan for $300,000 even though he’s got a twelve-million dollar deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Vernon apparently has quite an entourage to care for. Yeah man, those blood-sucking family members and good friends will eat ya outta house and home real quick.
Back at the office, Spencer’s boss, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), wastes no time in reminding Spencer that he needs to start bringing in some big clients to the business. The heat is on! Joe reminds Spencer that he was hired because he has a lot of friends who make a lot of cash playing football.
Next we see Charles relaxing at home and “conversating” with his wife, Julie (Jazmyn Simon), who is also on his case about what he’s going to do with his life after football. She’s on him to get out and find a job. “Do us both a favor and learn something from Rodney’s life,” Julie says. To which Charles replies, “What do you want me to learn?” “When you have too much free time on your hands and you fuck groupie whores you end up dead,” she responds with a smile.
At the club the fellas, Spencer, Charles and Ricky, are hanging out with friends to whom Spencer gives a bit of free financial advice when he finds that one guy just paid cash for a new Bentley. (Damn, another Bentley! Is that product placement, or what?) Never buy a depreciating asset Spencer tells him. “If it drives, flies, floats or fucks – lease it!”
Inside we find yet another groupie who sidles up to Ricky and soon they’re doing the nasty in the unisex restroom. Coming out of the restroom he encounters a loud-mouth bozo who works Ricky’s last nerves until Ricky does his best impression of Rocky, pounding on the guy like he’s a side of beef. As the cellphones come out and start videoing Spencer grabs his friend and hustles him out the door. Once outside he tells Ricky to call his agent, Jason Antolotti (Troy Garity) right away as loud-mouth yells after Ricky about the impending lawsuit.
It must be that time of night, cause Ricky’s call catches Jason deep in the middle of some serious carnal knowledge of some blond with a decent set of implants. Jason appears to be somewhat perturbed by Ricky’s latest antics but assures his client he’ll handle it. Ricky continues on with his evening telling his friends the situation is well in hand.
The next day Spencer and Jason meet up and discuss Ricky, whose situation is screwed. The team wants to cut him lose because of his ‘impulse control’ issues. They also discuss Vernon who also happens to be one of Jason’s clients. Jason advises Spencer to take Vernon on as a client. “You know his childhood friend handles his money,” Jason says. Spencer is familiar with the childhood friend, some nimrod named ‘Fat Reggie from Crenshaw’. How can you not be on your way to financial stability when you have the Bernie Madoff of the ghetto managing your millions? Spencer decides to loan Vernon the money and take him on as a client although Jason advises against the loan.
Spencer meets up with Ricky, who is now an ex-Packer. They have a ‘come to Jesus’ conversation, with Spencer saying that Ricky has just one more contract in him and when that contract is finished so is Ricky. “You’re gonna be out here on the streets with the rest of us… And nobody’s gonna give a fuck about you.”
Next, we see Charles pull into the parking lot of a local Chevy dealership and, after some convincing conversation, smiling and hand shaking, land himself a job as the dealership’s newest sales associate. He goes home to tell his wife and she expresses her pleasure at his success by giving him some – pleasure.
Spencer has a phone conversation with the Dolphins’ scout and convinces him to think about giving Ricky a shot. The scout goes and talks to Charles, at the dealership, to get more info on Ricky’s character. Ricky gets the call to meet with the Dolphin’s coaching after thanking God, Jason and Spencer who tell him not to be late, Jason and Spencer that is – I don’t recall hearing God chime in with any advice, Ricky manages to show up at the coach’s fishing boat one minute late. The boat leaves the dock without Ricky.
Spencer shows up at Vernon’s with a check for the $300,000 loan which Vernon gratefully accepts vowing to pay Spencer back. Spencer acknowledges Vernon’s gratitude and implies that Vernon will also become a client. It’s not clear to Spencer whether Vernon acknowledges the implication.
Ricky is still waiting when the coach maneuvers his boat back to the dock. After a short, stern dialogue about second and third chances Ricky is assured of his shot with the Dolphins. He calls Spencer who’s at the ATM with his date about to get some cash for the evening’s events. Ricky informs Spencer that he’s now with the Dolphins and Spencer gets to have him as a client. When Spencer goes to withdraw the cash he gets that annoying insufficient funds screen and our story ends there. So does this mean he’ll be penniless at the start of the next episode? Guess we’ll have to tune in to find out.
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