Dwayne “The Rock Forever” Johnson is having a hell of a year. Furious 7 is the second highest-grossing film of 2015 so far with more than $1.5 billion worldwide, his disaster flick San Andreas picked up nearly half a billion dollars, and he’s been off making a movie with comedy superstar Kevin Hart that’s likely to be a hit for both of them next year. On the big screen, he’s officially one of the world’s biggest stars, and he’s only getting bigger. Now, he’s also conquered the small screen. Again.
Ballers, the sports comedy starring Johnson and created by Stephen Levinson, ended its first season on Sunday with 1.40 million live viewers. If that number sounds low to you, it’s because it is; the lowest of the season, in fact. When you look at the big picture when it comes to Ballers’ ratings, though, you can see why HBO’s already picked it up for Season 2: It’s their biggest comedy series since the first season of Hung in 2009.
Yes, 1.40 million live viewers for the season finale is low, but it’s actually kinda impressive when you consider that the show is no longer following True Detective (which ended two weeks ago), and that Ballers was ending its season while competing against both preseason football and the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead (which, it turns out, was the highest-rated cable premiere ever). Looking at the whole season, though, Ballers is an unquestionable success story.
According to HBO, the average weekly viewer number across all platforms (meaning live, streaming, and DVR) for Ballers is a whopping 8.8 million, which places it third in HBO’s history among comedies (behind Hung and, unsurprisingly, Sex and the City in the top spot). When compared with the entire cable landscape, it’s the summer’s highest-rated new comedy, and even managed to edge out fellow HBO hit Silicon Valley.
While there are certainly other reasons for Ballers’ success – it looks slick as hell, the supporting cast, led by Rob Corddry, is solid, and the vicarious element of watching guys in peak physical condition drive around Bentleys and take home hot women is nothing to shrug at – it’s hard not to place a lot of this ratings might on Johnson’s superhumanly broad shoulders. Ballers is not the kind of show I think about for hours after it’s over, like Hannibal or Mad Men or even Louie, and plenty of critics have already saddled it with an “Entourage with shoulder pads” label, but all that aside, Johnson is just so damn charming that I look forward to the show every week.
After years of carrying Monday Night RAW broadcasts with his charisma, he’s now carrying an HBO hit, and he looks more unstoppable than ever.