FURTHER REVIEW: ‘Ballers’ Was Especially Stupid Last Night
What "Ballers" lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in nudity. That's gotta be worth something, right?
"Machete Charge" brings us on two distinctly contrived plotlines that rely heavily on characters behaving irrationally and out-of-character. Sure, this is something we generally accept when watching a television series -- "The Walking Dead" is great at making someone do something they would never do in order to create/solve a problem -- but episode five of "Ballers" goes above and beyond any reasonable expectation.
First we have Ricky Jerret -- who is still seething at his teammates for taking the wheels off his Ferrari -- changing his tune in the time it takes to walk the length of a supercar repair shop. His attempt at "being an adult" and "finding common ground" with Alonzo equates to taking the douchey teammate to a strip club. Not a dinner at a barbeque place or a trip to a high school football game -- a midday jaunt at a "titty bar."
"You had me at 'strip club,'" Alonzo gleefully tells Jerret, because, ya know, a professional athlete living in Miami needs an invitation to go to a strip club.
Without getting into all the details -- of which there are few that tell us anything we didn't already know -- Alonzo brings along his entire family to take advantage of Ricky's conciliatory gesture. The plotline culminates in Alonzo getting pinched by a cop in the parking lot while he's fucking one of the girls and Ricky saves the day by convincing the cop to let it slide just this once.
"I'm a lifelong cheesehead," the cop excitedly tells Ricky, who played for the Packers before being cut for assaulting someone at a club. He then let's him go and the Alonzo-Ricky beef vanishes. "You can have 18," Alonzo tells Ricky about the jersey number he was so defiant about earlier in the season. Problem solved!
Despite the very believable premise of this scene -- which undoubtedly occurs in reality all the time -- the show can't seem to avoid using the potential arrest as a vessel for goofy visual gags that make exactly no one laugh. It was unwatchable. Case in point: a cavalier Alonzo does not put his pants on before getting out of the car to talk with the police officer. Haha, get it? He's having sex! Underwears! This kind of baseline humor is the defining characteristic of "Ballers," which neither takes the time to be funny nor maintain any honesty about the world it's depicting. It's not a drama. It's not a comedy. It's lifestyle porn that has to shoehorn a problem and its solution into a 30-second sequence.
"Machete Charge" felt like one of the "Naked Gun" movies minus the parts that make you laugh.
This show spends so little time building obstacles for the charcters to overcome, they might as well just hold up a sign explaining what happens in the rest of the episode. Another example of how heavy handed "Ballers" can be comes when Charles Greane consults with Ricky as to whether or not he should cheat on his wife with the girl who keeps texting him pictures of her ass. This occurs while both men are getting lap dances. Ricky -- who inexplicably gave the girl Charles' phone number -- advises him to forget about her and go back to his wife. Charles then makes the decision to hang on to the pictures she sent him, which reads as "holy shit this is obviously going to blow up in his face when his wife finds them."
Here's how they set this trainwreck up:
Take a guess whether Charlers' wife finds these pictures? pic.twitter.com/k56OfDlkBU
— Jake O'Donnell (@_JakeODonnell) July 20, 2015
"It's just one little picture," he says as he's being grinded on by a beautiful woman. Why would someone who happily joins his friends at strip clubs in the middle of the day be so insistent on keeping a picture of a butt? Way to telegraph the next scene in the episode, guys. Ugh.
Greane' wife Julie finds them literally three minutes later in one of the least surprising reveals in television history. Can you believe it?!?!?
The most interesting plotline we saw Sunday night also involves a pictures of naked women (duh), which a slimey lawyer is using to extort $500,000 from Spencer, Joe and Vernon Littlefield -- who was photographed smoking weed with prostitutes. It's a vastly more complicated problem than Ricky's or Charles', as it portends to derail Vernon's contract negotiations with the Dallas Cowboys unless Spencer and Joe empty the Anderson Financial's coffers to bury the evidence. Subtext: the solution to this problem involves someone losing their job no matter what. The episode ends with Spencer and Joe storming out of the lawyers office after he turns down their offer of $50,000, with Spencer revealing that he knows the woman who took the pictures. Plot, thickened.
See, that wasn't so hard, was it? Adding a few extra layers to a problem makes it vastly more compelling to watch the characters figure out how to solve it. Too bad that requires dialogue and narrative structure, which would inevitably cut into the airtime set aside for big ol' boobies and vroom-vroom cars. Oh well, we're excited to see how Spencer plans to convince this woman to squash her extortion plot in next week's episode.
Episode 6 Preview: