With the HBO series Entourage debuting in syndication on SpikeTV, guest blogger Ryan Hutchins and B&B co-founder Brent Johnson discuss the mega-popular series. Is it a fun, never-ceasing-to-entertain show, or something that has run its course and just become a shallow, sad commentary on life?
Solid (Ari) Gold Entertainment
By Ryan Hutchins
Let’s start things off on the right foot: with honesty.
Entourage isn’t the best show on television. It never has been. Never came close. Best comedy? Nope, try again.
You know what distinction it does get? It’s my favorite show, and that’s been the case since I started watching — circa Season 3. It’s a show with energy and enthusiasm. Sex and pizzazz. Jeremy Piven and a feisty gay guy.
I connect with the characters, and feel like part of their circle. As they have risen through the social hierarchy, I felt like I did, too. They did all the things I would enjoy doing. Most of the characters are semi-complex, at least for a half-hour comedy, and mastered by their actors. The characters are really at the heart of this show.
But Entourage has always had simple plot lines and suffered from a lack of global vision. We could call it the George Bush of television shows — you would have a beer with Entourage, but you wouldn’t want it to be the leader of the free world. Doug Ellin freely admits he never had a plan. He never expected his greatest work to ever be much at all. The pilot clicked. “A season, maybe,” Ellin thought (or at least, based on interviews I’ve read, I would imagine he thought).
But then, it got renewed. Again and again. The crew from Brooklyn, the boys hitting the big time, were hits in real life. Everyone wanted cameos.
There’s a scene in Blow, the story of coke-trafficker George Jun, where he’s asked by a Colombian contemporary how big their business could get.
“Sky’s the limit,” replies Jun, played by Johnny Depp. “If it’s accepted by actors and musicians, everyone else will follow.”
And so was the case with Entourage, an addictive, not-really-good-for-you television show on a network that get’s it. Ellin and Co. pieced together, a little bit a time, an exciting show that everyone loved. Critics even digged it. Now they don’t.
I almost don’t get the point of all my own analysis, let alone that of others. The shows had ups and downs. Great moments, and pointless moments. You either enjoy it, and continue to connect with the characters, or you don’t. Why should I tell you to like something that you no longer enjoy?
Fact of the matter is I haven’t tired of Entourage. So, too, is the case with enough viewers that it continues on. I won’t call on Doug Ellin and executive producer Mark Wahlberg to fight HBO to keep it on the air. But as long as it’s on, and as long as I like it, I’m going to watch it — regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Now let’s hug it out, bitch.
No More (Johnny) Drama
By Brent Johnson
There’s a great quote from the movie Anchorman, where Ron Burgundy, mid-backyard-party, turns to his news crew and says: “We’ve been coming to the same party for 12 years now, and in no way is that depressing.”
The joke could also apply to the crew of Entourage. They’ve been coming to the same party for the last few years — and it’s starting to get boring. Redundant. And yes, a tad depressing.
I declare this as HBO’s Hollywood send-up/Hollywood love-letter is about to enter the world of cable re-runs on Spike. It’s a move that might actually be a good thing.
See: I got into Entourage late — Season 5, in many ways the show’s peak. Its main character, movie-star heartthrob Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), was losing his A-list status, struggling with finding a role that both stretches his range and makes him popular again. I was entranced. It was enticing drama — enhanced, of course, by Jeremy Piven’s sparkling, cock-sure performance as kinetic agent Ari Gold.
Piven was reason alone to tune in. Many guys say they want to be Vince — the sexy-eyed actor who lays his way around town. I’d rather be Ari — a quick-talking genius who knows how to carry a cell phone. He’s a salesman that doesn’t drip sleaze — he bottles it and peddles it as confidence.
After enjoying Season 5, I went back into the archives and watched the series from the beginning. What Entourage does best is fool you into thinking you’re watching a show about how cool and fun it is to be a young star in Hollywood — where you can live in a lavish house with your friends from the old neighborhood in Brooklyn and occasionally make a popcorn movie for a million-dollar salary. But really, you’re watching a show about how quickly that life can demoralize you and how fleeting it all can be. At its best, it’s also a show about how incredibly tough it is in Hollywood to remain relevant and respected.
But then came last season: the sad, lame Season 6. Vince is sitting pretty again — coming off starring in a Scorsese film. The only drama the show can muster is his manager’s silly love triangle and his older brother’s repeated, boring ability to piss away opportunities to enhance his own acting career. This show is at its worst when it has to rely on the fringe characters — i.e. anyone other than Vince and Ari — for its heft.
The rest, we’ve all seen before. We get it: celebrities get to bed attractive women, drive fast cars, meet other celebrities, act all cool and hip.
So I say this to creator Doug Ellin and executive producer Mark Wahlberg (whose own entourage Vince and Co. are based on): It’s time to retire a once gripping, once probing show. Let its glory years live on in cable.