Probably one of the best things about writing for Pajiba is the Overlord Slack channel, where thoughtful discussions take place. It’s also a place that certain people (ie: me) treat as a personal concierge service, soliciting opinions from smart, savvy people about which haunted hotel I should stay at, which cleaner is best at getting out bloodstains, and on Sunday night, the answer to this very important question, which I am pasting verbatim for you now: “If I were to start a new show tonight, which would be more fulfilling (FOR ME) Ballers or Succession?”
Dustin responded almost immediately, “SUCCESSION. EVEN FOR YOU” and Tori added in the helpful commentary: “Did you like Entourage? And sports? Then you’ll like Ballers. If you’re iffy on either of those things, then literally anything else will be better.”
Look, it’s not that I don’t trust my colleagues’ advice, it’s just that I love The Rock and felt like this was a glaring omission in my Rockucation, so I at least had to give it a try, you know? So, friends, I have now seen episodes of Succession and Ballers, and I can break it down for you which one is worth your time if you need a new show because obviously you can only watch one. People have to pick a side, and you need to know which team you’re on.
If you like to watch bad people of average intelligence act as if they are geniuses because they’re very, very, very obscenely wealthy, this is a show you might be into. It’s all about the Roy family, who are clearly based on the Murdoch family, and their bitching and moaning about how they can’t get more power than they already have in the family-run media empire.
Every episode is about them constantly trying to backstab each other and jockey for power all the while screaming at various people how they’re either f*cking them or being f*cked by them. This all gets punctuated by full-orchestra instrumental music that gives mundane scenes added weight that makes you think that something important or profound happened, but probably didn’t.
I think people watch this show because it’s kind of fun to see the people who have made the world a less kind place (the Roy family also owns a Fox News type of network) get constantly kicked in the face by life and each other. I’ll admit it’s fascinating but also episodes can drag on (they’re about an hour each) and they haven’t done a stand-alone episode in a haunted house (or hotel) and spooooooky mystery, so like…OK, I guess?
As an added bonus, Roxana is currently doing Succession recaps, so you get to read her thoughtful commentary on the show.
Basically you’re a Succession person if you like real-life corporate intrigue, seeing rich-ass people get stomped on by life due to their own machinations, or are a huge Culkin family fan, as Kieran is in it, which I didn’t mention until now lest that cloud your judgment on this show.
Succession, I might add, does not ball though.
Look, if you like to watch people ball hard or go home, Ballers is your show. You can tell what it’s about by the opening credits, which employ a rap song and don’t use title case in their font. Straight up balling! I’m not really sure what it’s about other than football and The Rock being The Rock, but that’s kind of all you need to know, really. The characters in this show ball because they live, and they live because they ball.
What I like about this show is that each episode is 30 mins long, so it completely understands the attention span limitations in place, and also, did I mention The Rock is in it? I f*cking love The Rock. Tori was absolutely right in her summation above, but I would add that this show is so soaked in Axe body spray that it overwhelms your senses until you don’t notice it and actually somehow becomes palatable if you squint at it right because it reminds the viewer of a very important ethos: You’re a hater if you hate on a Baller ballin’ hard, yo.
I believe the Venn diagram between people who watch Ballers and people who unironically say “don’t hate the player, hate the game” to be a perfect circle. That is to say that unlike in Succession where you want everyone to choke to death on whatever rare and endangered species they’re eating for a fast-casual lunch, you’re supposed to root for the Ballers in Ballers.
Also, the cast is very good looking, and Elizabeth Warren is inexplicably a fan, so that’s two points working in its favor.
The biggest contrast between Ballers and Succession is that the people in Succession are the Ballers in Ballers bosses’ bosses’ bosses. What is not an insignificant sum to a Baller (take $300,000, which was needed in the pilot episode) doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error to someone in Succession. Wealth is all a matter of perspective, but balling is eternal.
Unfortunately, Roxana does not do thoughtful recaps of Ballers (I mean, if it’s possible, Roxana would be the one to successfully thread that needle) but you can basically find out what happened in any episode and discuss it with like-minded people if you hang out at a 7/11 after midnight, because those people are probably there to buy booze and prophylactics, so, you know, the core-Ballers audience.
So, which one should you watch, Succession or Ballers?
I mean, if you like to watch people get balled hard, watch Succession. If you want to watch people ball hard, watch Ballers. Whatever you do, just remember to ball, player, and you’ll be OK.
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