Ballers and Brink Fall Short
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For many, last night marked the first Sunday in a long time that came and went without the thrill of an episode of Game of Thrones. Last week’s season finale was a good one, and promised an exciting season six, but knowing the show will continue didn’t make it any easier to get by without the Sunday night thriller.

One of the great benefits of Game of Thrones for me was that it introduced me to the two shows that followed in its wake, Silicon Valley and Veep. I especially fell in love with Silicon Valley, because several of its cast members are regulars on the podcast “Comedy Bang Bang,” and even though they are funny on Silicon Valley, their characters don’t come close to rivaling the comedic abilities of the actors themselves.

The plotline of the show is great, and obviously incredibly relevant to the times. The acting is spot on, the humor is there, and across the board Silicon Valley feels like a show that had my demographic in its crosshairs and succeeded wildly in snaring millennials.

Losing Silicon Valley in addition to Game of Thrones and Veep was a hard proposition, as watching the shows in succession produced the best two hours of television I have ever enjoyed. Week after week, all three shows produced content that I would have tuned in to watch individually. The fact that they all followed each other just made it that much sweeter.

I was interested in seeing what the shows would be like that replaced these programs, and so I tuned into HBO last night to watch the newcomers—Ballers and Brink, both of which had looked appealing to me in their HBO promotions that preceded episodes of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.

Ballers is a show about an ex-football player who is trying to start a career as a financial advisor for current football players. Dwayne Johnson takes the lead role, supporting my conclusion that The Rock has had an incredible 2015, appearing in many different shows, movies and roles and must have some amazing agent or something.

The show gives Johnson the chance to shine, as he’s clearly the top-billed actor in the series. The problem is, the other actors seem intent on making the success of the show unlikely. While I like the overall feel of the series—obviously predicated on the appeal of sports, money and women—the acting was undeniably bad all across, with the exception of Johnson.

Some of the difficulty may have come from the fact that the actors they had portraying the football players all had to be immense, muscular black guys, which might have reduced the number of actors they had use. In fact, the two main characters beside Johnson are not really athletic looking, making it seem like finding talented actors who also resemble pro athletes is pretty difficult. Nonetheless, I don’t know if I can keep watching the show if it continues to feel so amateurish, despite the fact that I like the story and content.

The next show, The Brink, seemed similarly plagued by acting, though not nearly to the same degree. Led by Jack Black and Tim Robbins, Brink seemed to follow in Silicon Valley’s footsteps in its modern relevancy. The show revolves around political unrest in the Middle East, and in that sense feels like it could almost be mistaken for news footage instead of HBO series.

Black, despite the fact that I have a personal affinity for the actor, may not quite be up to par for the degree of difficulty that I would like to see in an HBO show, and his character in the first episode felt like a rehashing of the generic lovable loser that he plays in most of his movies.

Robbins, on the other hand, seems to have created an interesting character as the Secretary of State. He has several vices meant to give his character a hint of roguishness, including an affinity for prostitutes and alcohol, but it’s his humor that is the most eye-catching. He and his assistant Kendra have a good rapport on the screen, and their character duo seemed to be the most watchable.

All in all, I very much wanted to like both shows, as they either featured content or actors that appealed to me personally, but had a hard time embracing either. The acting in both seemed sub-standard, especially compared to Veep and Silicon Valley. Still, it was the first episode, and I plan on watching at least two more episodes before writing the two series off. Here’s to hoping the Ballers grows up a little bit and Brink successfully avoids relying on picked over material.

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