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HBO’s football comedy/drama Ballers was renewed for a second season earlier this year, but now the show has taken a post-season hit that would throw any football player for a loop. The show has been socked with a lawsuit.
According to Deadline, the lawsuit was filed by writers Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton, who are suing HBO, Ballers star and Executive Producer Dwayne Johnson, Executive Producer Mark Wahlberg and creator and Executive Producer Stephen Levinson. The duo is seeking a jury trial in federal court for unspecified compensatory, punitive and special damages. Silas and Littleton claim that the producers and HBO stole their original concept for a show called Off Season.
Ballers focuses on Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson), a gifted NFL player who was injured at the height of his career and had to quite the game. Strasmore decides to use his knowledge of the game to become a financial manager for other league players. As he tries to help young NFL stars gain control over the millions they’ve recently come into, he also gets caught up in their mistake-filled personal lives, and attempts to guide them down a smart path of stardom, all while dealing with his own post-NFL demons.
The suit from Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton alleges that the producers and studio created a project in Ballers that borrowed significant ideas from the concept of their show, Off Season. These ideas include “certain aesthetic elements, including, without limitation, physical appearance of the characters and their vehicles, and plots, scenes, as well as story lines,” the suit states. The document adds that the defendants had previous access to their story.
While that all may end up being true, there is a little wrinkle for the plaintiffs in this case: they never actually met with any of the people named in the suit, or any of the defendants’ direct representatives. The duo had come to an agreement with producers Richard Brustein, Mayhem Pictures’ Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, who had all worked with Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson previously on separate projects, and supposedly mentioned their names during talks to have Off Season made. That deal fell though in January 2009, when the duo refused to sign documents that would remove their “Created By” credits from the proposed show.
So, what does all this messy legal business mean for the show? Well, it’s hard to say. And it’s so early in the lawsuit process that we may not know for some time. It’s possible that the judge may halt production or stop it from beginning at all until the matter is cleared up. Whatever happens, I hope this suit gets cleared up enough to leave Ballers on the air. The show is a perfect mix of comedy and drama, and offers up good times for football fans and non-fans on an equal basis. All the show’s fans really want is to be able to watch Ballers next summer without a nasty shadow hanging over the show’s head.