This Sunday, HBO’s long-running series Entourage starts its eighth and final season (following a new episode of the still-strong Curb Your Enthusiasm). As with any show, I have to ask, what was the point? The “point” does not have to be to espouse some major, life-changing philosophy- it could be as easy as “making you laugh”- but I’ve never really gotten a clear grasp on the purpose of Entourage, especially in the later seasons.
An Aside: For sake of honesty, I should admit that I never loved the show. I liked it for a period and now kind of despise it. With Entourage gone, Burn Notice now takes that category’s top “honor.” By this point you’d think word would get around the Miami crime scene that if a dark haired guy you’ve never seen before starts promising riches beyond your wildest dreams while talking in a really goofy voice, shoot him on sight.
Back to the topic at hand. Entourage is not really a “comedy” show. Aside from occasional stuff concerning Super Agent Ari Gold and the “Ari-verse,” has much ever been genuinely funny on the show? It’s not about the drama, as story lines rarely have consequence that extend beyond a season (if that) before everything reverts back to normal. Everything works out in the end. And, if Entourage was created merely to show someone living amazingly, why bother with the faux-drama? Is it about the depravity and emptiness that comes with having everything and everyone at your beck and call? Well, last season, the series broke new ground by introducing the concept of anal sex, but overall no.
Entourage‘s behind-the-scenes look into navigating glamorous-Hollywood, as non-actors prove why they aren’t actors, had a hollowness befitting Hollywood, so I guess that could be one, albeit unsatisfying, answer. The show might have popularized “bro-hood,” but “friends ‘till the end” seems like a flimsy premise on which to hang one’s exclusive hat (or stupid baseball cap). Related, what about the characters and their respective journeys? That seems as good a place as any to focus my criticism. Alternatively, I guess I can discuss the senselessness of plots such as sorority girls breaking into megastar Vincent Chase’s house to steal his driver’s underpants and a crazy stalker who just kind of left everyone alone, but I really don’t want to re-watch hours of this program.
Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier)
Vincent Chase is a bland character. It may be argued that one of the points of Entourage is to show that behind every Hollywood star lies a human being who is dull, just like most human beings. Fair enough. Nevertheless, Grenier fails at showing why Vincent, of all people, rose to the rank of bona fide movie star. We never get real insight into what he has to go through as a genuine celebrity. He rarely has paparazzi chasing him (his lackey Turtle seemed to have more press coverage when he was dating former The Sopranos star (and possible sole survivor of Schrödinger’s Diner Massacre) Jamie-Lynn Sigler). He rarely seems to go on press junkets. Sure, he went on Leno two seasons ago and announced Aquaman at Comic-Con several years prior, but actors generally have to go on marathon media tours to promote their products. Even two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks had to read the weather on Spanish television to lure people into Larry Crowne.
And, perhaps most bothersome to me is that after eight years I still haven’t figured out where Vincent’s “passion” lies.
If the show is supposed to show struggles of this sexual dynamo, it does a remarkably poor job at it. In Season 5, after Vinnie allegedly loses everything following investing and starring in legendary bomb Medellin, he still lives a better life than most people- jetting off with super models, buying $10,000 sneakers, etc. It never seems to occur to him that he no longer has a dime, until the season finale when, in one scene, he actually evinces an emotion- anger. Soon after, he’s magically rescued by Deux Ex Martin Scorsese offering him the role of a lifetime in his version of The Great Gatsby.
By the time the next season begins, he’s a superstar again, earning millions to voice a dog in a cartoon movie, and about to star in an Enzo Ferrari biopic (which I’m sure would be utterly fascinating). And, again, we never learn how well the movie did or if it garnered him any awards or nominations.
Last season, Entourage made another attempt to give Chase something to do (unlike in Season 6, where his biggest arc seemed to be trying on pants) by turning him into a drug (first pain killers, later cocaine) addict. Whether it was the writing or Grenier’s limitations as an actor, I never bought him as anything more than slightly edgier than usual, maybe with a tad more personality. A guy who couldn’t hold his liquor possibly, but not a cokehead.
Eric Murphy (Kevin Connelly)
Vincent’s childhood friend and manager Eric Murphy is the second most major character on Entourage (and some might say that he is the major character). However, this eternal worrywart is kind of a crappy manager. While his instincts might be right a lot of the time regarding Vince’s career, he has never proven himself as a person or a professional beyond Vince. Every attempt to grow his business and not remain reliant solely on his buddy has imploded. His comedian-client lost his own television show, his writer-clients had their movie shut down, his attempt to hang up his own shingle failed, and several clients have negatively commented on his inability to handle their needs due to his dependence on Vince. I’m not saying that this isn’t meant to be a character flaw, but it doesn’t feel as explored as it should be, as Eric is generally presented as “right” most of the time.
Most recently, he joined a management company owned by fictional Super Manager Murray Berenson’s (George Segal). There, he complained a lot about how the office was run, but never provided anything to the firm beyond, of course, Vincent. He also only got the job because he was dating Berenson’s goddaughter and, of course, had superstar Vincent Chase on his roster. There, he engaged in a petty rivalry with fellow young manager Scott Lavin (Scott Caan), who was easily more Vincent’s speed and even got the former Aquaman attached to another potentially major franchise while Eric…I’m not sure what he did for Vince last year except whine a lot.
Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon)
Vincent’s older brother, the somewhat thickheaded Johnny, emerged as a fan and critical favorite because he came across as a somewhat decent person, and his love for the craft easily exceeded that of his younger brother’s. Dillon even received several Best Supporting Actor Emmy nominations for his performance. A rarity for Entourage, Drama went on a character journey that actually stuck for a while after accepting that stardom isn’t important, working is.
Then they squashed the former Viking Quest star’s revelation by regressing him back to a hothead, throwing fits because things were not too his diva-ish standards. Last season, after having a tantrum, he eventually accepted a role voicing the main character in an animated series (Johnny’s Bananas) that was semi-based on him, except in monkey form.
NOTE: He only took the gig after being convinced not by his manager, Eric Murphy, but by Murphy’s assistant, Jenny.
Turtle (Jerry Ferrara)
I don’t know if we’re supposed to root for him, pity him, or hate him. I understand that many know people like Turtle- the idiot always looking for the next get rich quick scheme- but his likeability has faded and his schemes have gotten increasing imbecilic.
At the opening of last season, his newest venture was about to close for lack of business. It was a car/limo service where the chauffeurs were hot chicks. Just let that sit. I’m relatively certain that they weren’t whores, though that would make for a much more lucrative enterprise. However, if they weren’t whores, then you’re catering to a very narrow clientele of people with a back-of-the-right-shoulder fetish. He later attempted to get billionaire Mark Cuban (playing himself) to invest several million dollars into a tequila company that he didn’t own the rights to and misunderstood his obligations because the company’s owner was never clear as to his plans. For awhile, it seemed like Turtle might run afoul of Mexican gangs, which would have added a new dimension to Entourage (it’s not like any of its other storylines are any more realistic), but no, just another stupidly crafted business deal gone south.
FUN FACT: The tequila is actually a real product made by a friend of show creator Doug Ellin.
Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven)
Without question, Gold is the best character on the show, and a lot of that has to do with Piven being the best actor on the show. Unfortunately, he too has suffered from lackluster writing that has turned Gold into a caricature. When Piven is allowed to act rather than scream, he shows his talents and still gains the show’s best emotional and comic moments. However, over the past couple of years, he has become cartoonishly over-the-top and his cry of “Lloyd!” has morphed into a rote catchphrase worthy of canned applause.
While the non-Vincent-related business side of Ari’s career has always been a major element of Entourage, Gold’s meteoric rise through the Hollywood ranks to become the biggest agent in the world was never given the respect it deserved. We never got a sense of his exaggerated duties or responsibilities as he was always there for Vince in the same way he was in the first season. Though I think he rode a helicopter to a movie set one time.
The show also feels compelled to shove Gold in one of the most hackneyed plots in all of media- workaholic husband with long-suffering wife. For a time, his wife (Perrey Reeves) seemed to understand that his job required him to be on call 24/7, and he always showed love and devotion to her and the kids. Yet time and time again we were forced to relive the repetitive “but you’re always on the phone!” plotline. Last season, his wife separated from him after the fact that he screams a lot was publicized all over the gossip pages.
In eight short weeks, these five will ride into the sunset, hugging it out for eternity. … Or will they?
The show’s executive producer Mark Wahlberg has announced that once the series ends, he plans to keep the series going with at least one movie, if not more. But would an Entourage movie even work? Does Entourage have the level of commitment from its viewers that warrants more adventures with these characters?
Television programs that earn a theatrically-released movie (not a movie remake, but a movie sequel/spin-off) are a very special, very rare breed. Decent ratings seem to be less important than a fanatically loyal fan base. Series that have received this honor include The Simpsons, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The X-Files (twice), Firefly, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Star Trek, and Twin Peaks- all shows with obsessive fans and in genres drastically different from Entourage. Furthermore, fellow HBO series-turned-movie Sex and the City offered something unique to a very specific and relatively underserved audience.
And the Sex And The City audience was also pretty devoted to their show. Women went around determining if they were a Carrie, Samantha, Brunette, or Redhead. (I assume, it was referenced in Bruno). Do guys go around determining if they’re Eric, Vince, Turtle or Drama? If they do, they are playing with a very narrow ratio of stupid to bland. Considering how little the show offers in way of novelty, interesting characters, or character development, I cannot imagine that Entourage deserves the treatment.
Unless, of course, the movie completely changes formats and it’s like The Beatles’ Help!, where Turtle finds a magical ring or something and the guys have to travel the world to return it to a zany tribe.
Now that … that has potential.