Do You Know Anyone Who Has Watched Even a Single Episode of Ballers or Ray Donovan?

So, I open up Entertainment Weekly‘s big Comic-Con issue this morning, and what do I almost immediately see? A full-page ad for Ballers, Dwayne Johnson’s Entourage-lite dramedy which returns for its third season this Sunday, where it has been gifted the cushy, post-Game of Thrones timeslot. Wait. Third season? That can’t be right, can it? How has this show been on the air for two full seasons and generated next to zero awards and/or social media buzz? It’s a TV showing built around one of the biggest movie stars in the world, yet I haven’t encountered a single person, either in person or through social media, who has watched a single episode.

Welcome to reality in the age of peak TV, where it sometimes feels like the number of shows outweighs the number of potential viewers. Of course, we’re talking about hundreds of shows (FX estimated there were 455 scripted originals on TV last year) versus millions of viewers. So, there are enough viewers to go around, but with a 71% increase in the number of scripted originals since 2011 fewer and fewer of us are all watching the same shows.

For example, my best friend and I recently debated our picks for best TV shows of the past year, and it was less a practice of contesting opinions and more of repeating the same “Oh, I haven’t watched/finished that show yet” line over and over again. I haven’t watched Night Of; she hasn’t watched Fleabag. I haven’t finished American Gods; she hasn’t finished Legion. You get the idea.

With choice at an all-time high, word of mouth has never been more important. As such, when shows like Ballers – which, btw, centers around Johnson and Rob Corddry as financial advisors for professional athletes – somehow just float by without ever popping up on your radar it’s the universe’s way of telling you that your TV viewing time will be better spent elsewhere. It’s the same reason I’ve never watched Ray Donovan, and am only reminded of its existence when the Golden Globes and Emmy’s persist in nominating Liev Schrieber for Best Actor.

But what if I’m wrong? What if Ballers is this unheralded HBO gem featuring Johnson’s best work to date? Heck, it’s not even all that “unheralded.” It’s actually a ratings hit, ending its first season as the most-watched half-hour HBO program since 2009 and continuing strong into its second season, which averaged 7.1 million viewers. And while it’s not exactly a critical darling it’s not Friends From College-level reviled either, generally regarded as a slightly better version of Entourage but set in the world of the NFL instead of Hollywood. Of course, that’s not a great selling point if you’re someone who hated Entourage, which, um, guilty.

So, help me out. Have you or has anyone you know watched Ballers? If so, what’s the verdict? Same goes for Ray Donovan.

In fact, while I’m at it here are some other current TV shows I’ve never watched:

  • American Crime
  • Baskets
  • Billions
  • Dark Matter
  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • House of Cards
  • Into the Badlands (actually, I made it 5 minutes into the pilot 5 months ago, and have made no progress since then)
  • Outlander
  • Power
  • Shameless
  • Survivor’s Remorse
  • The Strain
  • Z Nation

You learn in the age of peak TV to stop asking how much great TV you’re missing out on because the answer is always “more than you possibly have time to watch.” But, please, take to the comments to shame me into watching one of the above-mentioned shows.


  1. The only show in your list of “not watched” that I HAVE watched is Dark Matter — and it’s really quite enjoyable, especially if you’re a sci fi fan.

    I did watch the first episode or two of Outlander but couldn’t get into it. None of the others even have a premise that interests me.

    BTW, Ray Donovan was a very compelling show for the first couple of seasons. I never stopped LIKING it but somehow never cared enough to stay current after those first couple seasons.

    1. Now that I think about it, I have watched the first couple of minutes of the Outlander and Into the Badlands pilots, but there obviously wasn’t enough to push me past the 5 minute mark with either show.

      Of the shows I mentioned, Dark Matter is probably highest or at least close to highest up there as something I would genuinely like to watch but simply haven’t found the time yet. Several of the others I have willfully ignored or just don’t know much about it. Dark Matter, on the other hand, is more a case of it keeps getting pushed down the list.

      I am glad to hear that about Ray Donovan because it really is like clockwork at this point. Every time the Globes or Emmys release their nominations Liev Schrieber is guaranteed to be nominated. He’s never treated as someone with any chance of actually winning, but he’s always in there. So, there must be something of value there.

      ” I never stopped LIKING it but somehow never cared enough to stay current after those first couple seasons.”

      I feel like that it is kind of true of just about every Showtime show.

  2. I’m more of a movie than a t.v. consumer but since I used to live in Washington, D.C., I have quite the penchant for political dramas (and yeah, I love “House of Cards”). I also just started “Ray Donovan” a couple of months ago and it’s pretty damn great. The writing reminds me a lot of season 1 of “True Detective.” I only started watching it because I got Showtime for the new “Twin Peaks” series (which is also fantastic). More and more of these shows are becoming cinematic in their storytelling, and that’s what’s attracting me to them. — Louisa

    1. I hear ya about movies versus tv. I’ve been gravitating more toward TV lately. For example, I skipped the horror movie Wish Upon this weekend in favor of binge-watching Twin Peaks (I had somehow never seen the original), and every time I make a choice like that it seems as if the show I watch is amazing and the movie I skipped is revealed by other critics and bloggers I trust (you’re on that list) to be okay at best. However, then I’ll see something like Baby Driver and get that old familiar “Oh, yeah. This is why I love movies.”

      I probably should give Ray Donovan more of a chance. He’s a fixer, right? And sometimes he works as a Hollywood fixer? That seems like it would be right up my alley. However, whenever I see Jon Voight in something I put on the big ignore button in my head because through a career of so much shit I associate him with terrible or just average material.

      And if you want to talk about cinematic storytelling, man, have you seen Lynch’s Eraserhead-esque episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return?

      1. Yes, Ray is a fixer who is not above blackmail, bribing, violence, and even killing to get the job done. He’s a family man but not faithful to his wife. Yet somehow, he remains a sympathetic character — maybe a bit like The Shield.

        And the people he works for tend to be worse than he is!

        Lot’s of cussing and nudity which could be a plus or a minus, depending on preferences.

      2. Episode 8 was freaking epic. I loved it so much I immediately watched it again after it was over. (But I’m a longtime Lynch fan). I can’t believe you haven’t seen the original Twin Peaks. I was, of course, a nerd about that back in the day too. Ray Donovan is great, and Voight is phenomenal in the role. He’s won a bunch of awards for that performance and he deserves every one. He really is amazing. I hope you’ll give the show a shot!

      3. Correction: I hadn’t seen Twin Peaks. My best friend had been on me for years to watch it, but she always framed it as “it’s amazing before it quickly becomes unwatchable.” Not the greatest selling point. Then after she showed me episode 3 of the first season (or whichever episode is the one with Dale’s legendary dream sequence) she accidentally told me how the murder mystery played out. So, I knew that the show turned really bad halfway through the second season, and that Lynch and Frost were just as surprised as anyone by the show’s success and seriously miscalculated just how invested people would get in finding out the answer to “Who Killed Laura Palmer?”.

        Still, I should have watched it. In retrospect, I wish I had maybe watched and reviewed every episode of the original series after The Return was announced. Instead, I was caught sleeping on it a bit, and decided to catch up over the past couple of weeks, binging the entire first season, half of the second season (I was told by multiple sources to stop after episode 8 or 9 and simply jump ahead to the season/series finale, which is exactly what I did) and the first 9 episodes of The Return. At the moment, I prefer the original series to The Return (I plan on expanding on that viewpoint for something for the site in the near future), but there are certain sequences in these new episodes which have stuck with me long after I thought they would have faded from memory, such as Dougie at the casino (lol) or the villain descending on that radio station in episode 8.

        As for Ray Donovan, I think at this point I’ve answered the question I posed in the article: Yes, plenty of people watch and like Ray Donovan. There is a reason Schrieber is a perennial nominee for the show at this point.

  3. Nope. I assumed it was just a filler. A fake image on netflix. Dont believe there really is a show with such a dull name and lead man who is best known for being in the scream tv show. Nah that isnt real.

  4. Yes, myself actually,, I’ve seen the first season of Ballers aaand nothing since, it’s okay, a bit of a blunt show with crude humour but The Rock’s always great to watch, not necessarily prime time TV though but I can see its appeal for a certain type of audience.

    I’ve seen a few of the other shows on your never watched list, The Strain is cheesy B horror, fun for people who have read the books or for people into more gritty vampire fiction, Dark Matter’s quite a fun, quirky show, I love my space dramas so I was pretty much always going to like it.

    1. I was turned off of The Strain by The AV Club’s oddly combative reviews. If I recall, that show turned into a real hate-watch for their reviewer.

      Dark Matter’s on the list to get to. I just had to finally binge Twin Peaks first.

  5. I never watched Twin Peaks — original nor new one. Is the new one a remake or something of a sequel? Is the new one worth watching w/o seeing the original?

    1. The new Twin Peaks (called Twin Peaks: The Return) is a sequel. I tried watching the first 2 episodes of The Return despite having only watched maybe an episode or two of the original, and while there was enough exposition/flashbacks to give me the gist of what was happening it was really barely sufficient. So, I circled back around and binged the first season (which is only 8 episodes long) and the first 8 or 9 of the second season. That’s when they settled the mystery of Who Killed Laura Palmer, and then sort of coasted along with a lot of filler storylines because the co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost lost interest and weren’t as involved in the day-to-day running of the show.

      And then binged The Return to catch up (it’s now up to episode 10 of its 18-episode season).

      Personally, I prefer the original TV show to The Return. The original show started out as a quirky murder mystery where the whodunnit didn’t really matter, and instead acted as a bit of satire of America’s romanticized version of small town life. Then towards the end it morphed into a more humorless exploration of the battle of good vs. evil and explored supernatural notions like alternate dimensions and demons. The Return takes it cue from that version of the show, and is purposefully opaque, meandering and self-indulgent. It’s also capable of contained bursts of awe-inspiring brilliance, but as a whole it’s a frustrating watch.

      It comes down to how much you know about David Lynch’s filmography, and whether or not you are down with his unique style, because The Return is Lynch times 10.

      1. Kelly, I just found a new show for you to add to your watch list: Salvation.

        Based on the trailer and description, I really did not expect to like it, but it’s surprisingly great. Acting, story telling, suspense. Got a touch of sci fi as well. The only downside is it’s only on episode 2. No binge watching unless you want to wait a few months. 🙂

        Seriously, you should check it out. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

      2. I’d heard about that show but had avoided it because my last experience with a CBS summer show left me a bit gun shy (they canceled the fantastic BrainDead, how dare they). However, I’ll give Salvation a look.

      3. I hadn’t considered THAT downside –It’s a big risk getting hooked on a show when there’s a good chance of it getting prematurely canceled.

      4. In this case, Salvation is probably a bit more on brand for CBS, which trotted out Under the Dome for several seasons and still does the same with Zoo. BrainDead was inventive, quirky and genre-bending, which is off brand for CBS and ultimately why it didn’t make it. Had it aired somewhere else or been a streaming series BrainDead would still be going. But their loss is Fargo season 3’s gain (BrainDead’s star Mary Elizabeth Winstead went straight to Fargo). So, I don’t know what the ratings are like, but if you just look at its profile Salvation is in a better place on CBS than BrainDead was.

  6. I think I’ve said this before but there’s only a finite amount of time. However, it’s different. I was studying again while working full-time and just feeling depressed about study (it’s hard to get interviews with people and that’s the bottleneck to the assignments).

    I have not seen any of those shows you mention except:

    > Fear the Walking Dead

    I watched the first season.I vaguely remember hating most of the characters and feeling unsympathetic. On social media, people were exceptionally negative to the ex-drug addict son, Nick, who I thought had common sense and world-experienced intelligence. I want the gay boat “owner” to kick the family off the boat.

    > Outlander

    I watched the first half of season 1 then they took a really long time to release the second half, which I watched. Then forgot about it. I felt like there was great unrealized potential. A nurse from post-WWII going to the past would know more about medicine and use it but she didn’t. I guess it wasn’t sci-fi enough for me.

    > The Strain

    I expected more from this because of Guillermo del Toro’s involvement. Like Grimm, I haven’t watched the final two seasons yet.

    Other shows that I haven’t bothered to catch up on:
    Grimm (last two seasons)
    The Man in the High Castle
    Stranger Things

    1. “I think I’ve said this before but there’s only a finite amount of time.”

      Very true. It’s always been true that we’ll live our entire lives without seeing all of the greatest movies, reading every classic novel, listening to every amazing song or streaming every transcendent TV show. We’re maybe just more aware of how much we’re truly missing out on these days thanks to social media, but there’s only so many hours in the day. You learn to lean on word-of-mouth, and Ballers and Ray Donovan are the two shows I picked in the title of the article because they are oddly two shows which don’t seem to register much buzz or at least not in my social circles. The rest of the shows I mentioned, though, several of them have gone unwatched by me simply because I’ve heard they were either frustratingly average (The Strain), outright bad (Fear the Walking Dead) or simply had premises which didn’t excite me (Billions).

      Of the ones you mentioned, I backed away from Grimm after maybe the 2nd or 3rd season. Wasn’t necessarily a quality issue; I just stopped caring about anyone on the show, perhaps realizing I never cared all that much about them to begin with. Man in the High Castle is one I’ve certainly avoided (outside of watching the opening scene of the pilot) due to bad word of mouth.

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