As someone who fell in love with Entourage as fast as Brett Favre fell in love with himself, it's been a bit of a rocky road for me.
Yes, I'm not sure there is a show in history that I have enjoyed more than Entourage... during seasons one and two, at least. Since then, I've been very aware that the show was had its problems, although too often the real issue is that I can't pinpoint them. I'd love to say, "Hey, they should fix this thing by doing this..." and then naming several excellent answers and solutions... only, you can't.
There have been so many small plot lines that lasted only a few episodes, almost like the producers said, "Wait, this sucks. Change it." These include:
- The stalker in season six
- The Ramones movie in season three
- The Ashley/Eric thing in season six
- The Scott Lavin thing in season six, seven and eight
- and, Medellin as a whole
Maybe the formula was just a little too cursed to begin with.
The strength of seasons one and two was that Entourage was harmless and, often, the actions of its stars were harmless, too. Yes, there was a lot of sex. Yes, there was alcohol and marijuana. Yes, they overspent on everything. But, regardless, nobody got hurt.
Of course, a show needs to get a little serious sometimes, and that's always been Entourage's Achilles heel -- how exactly do you get serious with a show that has the headline, "A lifestyle is a terrible thing to waste." At worst, all they can lose is a lifestyle... and, can you really pity them for that? It's a darn good lifestyle.
Nevertheless, we're in the final season and it appears that any problems or grievances I've had don't need to be hashed out. Too late... what good would that do? Instead, some of my thoughts after the first three episodes of the penultimate eighth season:
- Last Sunday's episode ("One Last Shot") was the best 30 minutes of Entourage (and, therefore, perhaps, television) since 2008's "Gotta Look Up To Get Down."
- It's been an absolute pleasure to watch Jeremy Piven for 12 weeks a year. He's always been brilliant when he's been lashing out at his employees, and he's always been too "decent" of a guy for you to actually blame him for his maybe sexist, maybe racist, maybe cruel comments. And, yet, Piven's best moments have been showcasing Ari Gold's more sensitive side. Whether it was saying "goodbye" to Vince at the end of the episode, "Gotta Look Up To Get Down," pleading Lizzie Grant to not release the tapes of him in "Tequila and Coke," or seeing him fumble and bumble his way through a surprisingly successful date and post-date in last Sunday's "One Last Shot," Piven has been everything the show needed -- and in every way.
- As much as I will be excited to see a movie version of Entourage (which is apparently in the works), I can't help but feel like it's unnecessary. The only way to make a movie seem alluring (from a plot standpoint) is to end the eighth season with a giant cliffhanger which, in reality, can't work because then the studio (what studio would handle an HBO film? HBO Films? That makes sense, actually) is basically forced into producing the movie to satisfy the lustful fan base that has followed this show through thick and thin.
- Turtle's character has developed so much that he's unrecognizable -- physically and spiritually. They should just call his character, "Jerry Ferrara."
- Meanwhile, Johnny Drama is the hero of Entourage much in the same way that Professor Snape is the hero of Harry Potter. Who knew that a show about Vincent Chase that was really about Eric Murphy that was really about Ari Gold was actually at its best when Kevin Dillon (who plays none of those three characters) was on screen? Phenomenal job by Bunny from Platoon.
- The plot of last season -- Vince spiraling out of control with a cocaine addiction (which was, by the way, the fastest and most suddenly-developed drug addiction of all-time) -- was an excellent and inevitable direction for the show but it's also taken some of the gas out of this season... Why? Because, not only can these guys not smoke marijuana now but they can't even drink... That's the whole show!
- Eric Murphy's character has probably developed the least of everyone in the show (by everyone I mean the four boys plus Ari) and that's an insanely good thing. Murphy's static and dependable persona has wavered slightly (he almost got an STD and he almost lost Sloan... or, has he lost Sloan?) but, by all accounts, he's still "E" and you could argue that the show has been at its worst when its taken its focus off of him.
- Speaking of which, we need more Eric vs. Ari (the best moments of seasons one and two were their meetings at Koi and their relentless tug-of-war over who was better for Vince's career). In reality, the show used to be solely about the dynamic between these two characters. Everything changes, but it would be nice to see them actually talking about movies and Vince's career rather than whatever else they've been talking about.
- We also need more Turtle and Drama (like the above situation, these two were at their best when on screen with each other, from awkward swordplay to competing for best Vince's second-best friend to being referred to as "the two retards" by Eric, Ari and Vince).
- Other things I miss: Vince being cool, casual clothes (why is everyone so dressed up all of a sudden?), Turtle's formal New York Knicks home gear (so, I guess, casual clothes again), Ari's family life, Drama's stories about his experiences "back in the day," Turtle being chubby, Shauna, Christy (Shauna's assistant), Bob Saget (he's to Entourage what Dennis Duffy is/was to 30 Rock), Adrian Grenier not having to act, the Chateau Marmont, Vince starring in movies, Dennis Hopper (in more ways than just his appearance on the show), Ari and Eric's battles (again)...
Despite what I'm sure sounds like whining from me to this point, this season is set up to be a phenomenal ending to one of the most loved and yet most criticized shows in recent history.
Speaking of the criticisms... you know what, folks? It's not The Sopranos. It's not Mad Men. It's not Breaking Bad or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia or The West Wing. It's a show about four friends living in Hollywood that makes you want to move to Hollywood! Get over it!
I've also heard criticisms that, no matter how bad and bleak it's ever gotten for the show's five main characters, you always knew it was going to work out... I've heard that you couldn't ever feel engaged by the show's plot because you just knew that Vinny was going to come out smelling like roses. Well... it's about Mark Wahlberg, a tremendously successful actor... What did you expect?
Lastly... Carl Ertz isn't dead.
Until next time, keep the champagne on ice.
This "article" was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.