Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Of Hbo Debuts, 'Ballers' Is Funny, 'Brink' Silly

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Of Hbo Debuts, 'Ballers' Is Funny, 'Brink' Silly

Article excerpt

HBO debuts two new comedies tonight that couldn't be more different in tone.

Sports comedy "Ballers" roots its humor in specificity and realism; "The Brink" goes broad with over-the-top gags.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in "Ballers" (10 tonight) as retired football star Spencer, who's trying to jump-start his post- football career as a financial adviser to wealthy sports clients. In "Ballers" Spencer is seemingly the only adult in a roomful of athletically inclined children who are always brawling or getting in trouble for incendiary comments on Twitter.

He's under pressure from his boss, Joe (Rob Corddry), who says Spencer needs to "monetize his friendships." That may include rising star Vernon (Donovan Carter) and bad boy wide receiver Ricky (John David Washington).

The pilot begins with rocky introductory scenes of a tangential story about another friend who died in a car wreck with a woman who was not his wife. More bad behavior from sports stars follows, but in its second half the "Ballers" pilot finds its footing and the show's trajectory becomes clear, playing like an entertaining mix of HBO's "Entourage" and "Arli$$" and Starz's "Survivor's Remorse."

"Ballers" doesn't try to provoke belly laughs, but the bad behavior and character interactions are amusing enough, and Mr. Johnson makes for a terrific TV lead. (Perhaps "Ballers" is a grab for acting legitimacy after successful movie schlock like "San Andreas.")

"The Brink" (10:30 tonight) tries harder yet feels less successful.

HBO comedies are well acquainted with political cynicism (see HBO's "Veep"), but there's a broadness to "The Brink" that's out of character.

HBO series are typically celebrated for their insight or seeming realness; "The Brink" is just silliness. It takes a while to get used to that, but this broad humor may win over some viewers. …

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