HBO premiered two new shows this past Sunday night. "Ballers" and "The Brink".
I was excited to watch both shows. "Ballers" seemed like a good idea. It is about an ex football player that becomes a financial advisor for current players. It stars Dwayne Johnson, some of you know him as The Rock, as said ex football player. The show started out okay. A flashback scene to his playing days, hitting a receiver after the catch, they both get dinged up and flash forward to present day and he's taking pain killers, literally eating them like candy, and he has pain in his joints as he exits his bed. Typical stuff to show you that football can cause future, lingering injuries. No duh, thanks for the insight writers of "Ballers". Then we see the building that Dwayne Johnson works in. He's met there by his colleague, played by the hilarious Rob Corddry. They have a decent scene together, but that's all we get in the pilot between the two stars of the show. One scene. They seem to have pretty good on screen chemistry so I hope in the future episodes they have a lot more scenes together. According to the preview of the upcoming season after the pilot episode, that seems to be the case. During the episode, there's a scene with another ex player speeding down a dangerous highway in Miami with his mistress. They get into a fight and during said fight, the guy takes his eyes off the road and gets crushed by a semi truck. Smash cut to a funeral and Dwayne Johnson talking to the widow. She explains to him that the now deceased athlete didn't save any money because he had no financial advisor. See the irony. Later on, a current football player/bad boy gets into a fight with a fan at a bar, knocks the guy out cold and gets cut the next day by his current team. He gets signed by a new team in the next few days and calls Dwayne Johnson to tell him that he needs someone to help him keep his money straight. This couldn't come at a better time for him because, right at that moment, he is unable to withdraw 200,000 dollars from his bank account. At the ATM! How can he take so much money out at one time at an ATM?! This show seems pretty ridiculous and probably won't last for more than one season unless the writers and directors put Rob Corddry in more scenes with Dwayne Johnson. That's about the only thing that worked for me in the pilot. I will continue to watch since it's only been one episode, but "Ballers" is on pretty thin ice.
"The Brink" on the other hand, I enjoyed. The show takes place between a Washington D.C. war room, with Tim Robbins playing one of the President's right hand men in matters related to war, and in Pakistan where Jack Black plays a lower level US Ambassador that has a driver played by Aasif Mandvi. Mandvi is excellent in his role. Tim Robbins character is a sex crazed booze hound, but he's also extremely intelligent in all matters involving when to strike and when not to in war situations. He's playing the role with gusto. Jack Black is playing his typical buffoon. He is a little stupid, but a little smart and he likes to ogle women and get stoned. It's basically Jack Black playing a clean shaved Jack Black. He's still pretty funny because he's a good actor. But, the real star of the show is Mandvi. Like I said earlier, he's a glorified taxi driver for Jack Black, but in one scene we get to see his home and his family. This was great. He lives in a beautiful home, equipped with a pool and many comfortable rooms. His dad is a distinguished doctor and his uncle, that lives with them, is a well respected psychiatrist. He also has a smoking hot sister that, of course, Jack Black wants to hook up with. The topic of war is brought up during unrest in Pakistan over a political vote gone bad. There's a evil dictator type person that wants to get people on his side and the militants are more than willing to help. Jack Black finds out that the uncle has worked with this dictator and declared him clinically insane. Black feels that this info will get him on the good side of the president and they will relocate him to Paris. Mandvi's family catches him trying to fax this stuff over and end communication immediately believing that he works for the CIA and housing a CIA agent will get them in worlds of trouble. Back in DC, Robbins is trying to convince the president to wait on sending missiles because he doesn't want to start World War Three. I know this all sounds serious and dramatic, but it's quite the opposite. The pilot was very funny and doesn't take it's source material too seriously, in a good way. I hope the rest of the episodes follow the same direction as the pilot. That would be great.
Of the two new shows that premiered this week, I have more hope for "The Brink" than I do for "Ballers". Time will tell.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for Seed Sing. He is shocked the political show is more interesting than the sports show (so far). Follow him on twitter @tykulik.