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This Sunday night will be a full house of all-new programming on HBO, with episodes of the sophomore hit Succession and Danny McBride's recent debut The Righteous Gemstones leading into the Season 5 premiere of the sports-centric Ballers. Curiously, HBO chose this week to announce that Ballers will be ending with this final season, with star Dwayne Johnson taking to social media to also share the news with fans.
Here's how The Rock worded things with his Instagram post:
Cheers to our FINAL SEASON of @HBO’s BALLERS ????My heart ???? is full of gratitude to all of you for rockin’ with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped create and sustain a platform for other actors to have the OPPORTUNITY to work hard, grow and become household names. To me, the opportunity Ballers created for so many others, is the real gold of our show. I love you, I thank you and enjoy our final season of BALLERS. This SUNDAY on @HBO.
Created by Steven Levinson, who also served as the series' showrunner, Ballers brought its stress-filled, high-status drama to HBO back in 2015. It remains one of the only major fictional TV shows allowed to use official NFL teams, logos and players within its storytelling. With the series ending this year, it'll be interesting to see whether the league decides to promote itself in this way elsewhere.
Ballers was also the first fictional TV show to lure Dwayne Johnson away from the highly successful film career that was spawned from his WWE superstardom. (2015 was also the year that Johnson starred in Furious 7 and San Andreas.) As Johnson put it in his Instagram video, it's not like movie stars were all over TV just yet, though True Detective had arguably kicked off the megastar-in-an-anthology-series trend in early 2014.
Not that joining Ballers was only about multimedia success for Dwayne Johnson. The show happened to bring together several elements that the actor and athlete was enthused to work with. In his words:
A little bit of a backstory. Five years ago, when they came to me with this idea of Ballers, at that time there were no movie actors or movie stars really doing television. And at that time, I really didn’t want to concern myself with what was happening traditionally. I didn’t want to trailblaze. But I certainly wanted to disrupt. And #1, I wanted to partner with HBO. They’ve been tremendous partners. #2, I also wanted to partner with my buddies Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson. Of course, they created Entourage. And then also, I just felt like it was an opportunity not only to embrace culture, not only embrace ambition, not only embrace success – as we do in the show – but also embrace the failures. Which is a key and critical thing in life is to embrace failures and to learn from them. But also, it was embracing a game that has been so very good to me personally. Even though things didn’t work out for me in my own NFL dreams and those that I failed at, it was still an opportunity to play a character who loved the game, and the game wound up being such a critical and defining anchor in his life, and that happened to me as well, personally.
There was definitely a keen parallel to be found between Dwayne Johnson's NFL past and that of Spencer Strasmore, even though the latter's career was more celebrated in comparison. But I don't think any of Johnson's fans are overtly disappointed that he never became an NFL or CFL great. He never would have became The Rock, never would have asked if anyone could smell what he was cooking. And, of course, there wouldn't have been a time for him to take on Ballers or become the highest-earning actor in Hollywood.
To be expected, Dwayne Johnson was more smiles than anything else in the Instagram video seen below, although there does seem to be a touch of stinging disappointment lurking behind it all. Check it out.
While no real reasons were give for why Ballers was cancelled after Season 5, it's possible that the show's dwindling numbers and fledgling critical appeal had something to do with it. Ballers experienced its biggest ratings in Season 3, when it was paired up with Game of Thrones Season 7. Understandably, Season 4 wasn't nearly as successful in Live + Same Night viewing, and Season 5 likely won't reach those levels either.
The final season will center on Spencer's goal to retire get thwarted when he gets an offer to become a team owner. Ballers will welcome back guest stars such as Russell Brand, Carl McDowell, Jazmyn Simon, Jay Glazer, Richard Schiff, Steven Weber and Emayatzy Corinealdi, among others. First-time guest stars include Catherine Haena Kim, Odell Beckham Jr., Melvin Gordon, Rick Fox, Mikey Alfred, Randy Couture, DeAndre Hopkins, Derwin James, Von Miller, Malcolm Jenkins and Dante Fowler, Jr. Lots of NFL players in the mix.
Ballers Season 5 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, April 25, at 10:30 p.m. ET. Now let's see if Tyrese Gibson has anything to say about it.