Starz suffers from a bit of middle-child syndrome, so the channel is within its rights to have boasted about “Survivor’s Remorse,” a superior version of material covered in HBO’s similarly themed “Ballers.” Both shows owe a debt to “Entourage,” but the Starz series — a.k.a. “LeBrontourage,” thanks to having LeBron James on its producing team — stands pretty firmly on its own, deriving its fair share of laughs from the ridiculous situations that come with being young, famous and filthy rich. The show has also developed a strong ensemble, making it a pleasant lark (the awful title notwithstanding) that viewers should enjoy guilt-free.
Not much has changed since season one, except for the fact that NBA star Cam Calloway (Jesse T. Usher) has bought an enormous mansion, and moved his extended family into it. Still, Cam’s gravy train comes with certain responsibilities, which includes being asked by the team’s owner (Chris Bauer) to glad-hand attendees at a party for luxury box owners, which understandably makes him feel a bit like a circus exhibit.
Reflecting the show’s mix of the silly with the more sober, subsequent episodes feature Cam being given a black eye by his sister (Erica Ash), leading to a series of amusing consequences; and their mom (Tichina Arnold) deciding to get a “vaginal rejuvenation,” which starts out as one of those “Because this is pay cable” gags and actually becomes unexpectedly sweet before it’s over.
Produced by actor/comic Mike O’Malley, “Survivor’s Remorse” (which refers to the title character’s guilt at having escaped his modest upbringing) continues to mine the funnier aspects of Cam’s superstardom without ever showing him on the court, essentially pulling back the curtain on everything that happens to an NBA star when the world isn’t watching him. And while that might have seemed a tad awkward at first, the series has settled into a nice groove thanks to the clever writing and strong interplay among the cast.
Granted, the series can be accused of providing a rather self-serving LeBron’s-eye-view of the world, but the point is frequently made that some of the indignities that come Cam’s way aren’t necessarily such a big price to pay for the conspicuous rewards. Indeed, after he snubs the team owner, it’s explained to him that everyone — even a millionaire living in a fantasy world — actually has to do things he doesn’t want to as part of being a grown-up.
Cam might live a life of astonishing privilege, but “Survivor’s Remorse” — which returns paired, somewhat incongruously, with the Patrick Stewart vehicle “Blunt Talk” — amusingly captures how family dynamics don’t really change even when they migrate to a different zip code and tax bracket. For Starz, that’s ultimately why this baller looks like a winner.