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
- 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)
- 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.