The Softer Side of Entourage

Seven years ago, HBO took their most venerable comedy hit–Sex and the City–swapped its coast, added four pairs of testicles, and called it Entourage. And it was an instant hit. Dudes finally had their own version of Carrie Bradshaw & Co.’s cosmo-fueled gossip sessions and shoe-shopping expeditions–only here they got to drive around in Hummers and Aston Martins, smoke blunts, snap up limited-edition sneakers (I guess shoe shopping is universal) and engage in dozens of sexual encounters of varying physical and emotional gratification.

The conceit of the series was that the main characters–Eric, Drama and Turtle–were being taken for a magic carpet ride on the tailcoats of their pal Vinnie Chase: a passive-to-the-point-of-catatonic actor who accidentally rocketed to the top of Hollywood’s A-list. It had a good run there for a few seasons, particularly as Jeremy Piven found the teeth in his agent character Ari Gold, a part that let him indulge the ugliest aspects of his own, abrasive personality. But the show quickly ran out of ways to make Vinnie and his pals compelling. Nothing much of significance even happened to them (Season 6 devoted a major arc to Vinnie getting a haircut), and every character–save perhaps for Eric, the show’s “conscience”–suffered from an almost stultifying lack of self-awareness. These were, for the most part, stupid people, caught up in a stupid world of stupid surfaces. Entire episodes could pass without a single laugh, and the show would increasingly find itself relying on stunt casting of bona fide weirdos like Gary Busey to make things interesting. Then there was Lloyd–Ari’s sweetly upbeat, openly gay assistant–who added a layer of humanity to the proceedings, and remained loyal to his boss to a fault. But he quickly became the show’s whipping post, there to endure an endless onslaught of Ari’s racist and homophobic insults (i.e. “jokes”). That is what passes for funny on Entourage.

The final season premiered on Sunday night (or Monday night if you're in the UK), and it became immediately clear that they’re going for a kinder, gentler Entourage before the show sets off towards Viking Quest Valhalla. Eric is now in business with that metrosexual midget Scott Lavin (aka Caan, but is there any difference, really?). Sloan wants Eric to get his crap out of the house, which loosely translates to, “Please come over and have ex-sex with me.” Vinnie, meanwhile, is finishing up his stint in a posh Malibu rehab clinic, where he delivers an astonishingly unconvincing speech about having conquered his demons. (Is it unconvincing because Vinnie knows what he’s saying isn’t true? Or because it’s poorly written? Or because a scene like that would never play out that way? Or because Adrian Grenier is a bad actor? It’s only those kinds of blurry areas that that keep Entourage compelling at this point.) Vinnie has one last exchange with a fellow patient (which gives the show an opportunity to squeeze in one more homophobic joke, for good measure) before exiting the facility, where he is mobbed by fans holding giant “get well” signs and cheering his name. Just like in real life!

Turtle, meanwhile, has spent the hiatus not eating carbs, but for some strange reason still dresses like a fat guy. Other major developments: Ari and his wife are separated, and Ari learns that she’s been seeing someone else. Vinnie has his heart set on making his own script–a story about a trapped miner and his dog–which everyone hates. (But will probably be a commercial and artistic triumph and establish his viability once again.) And a big, sober party almost gets exciting when a girl bussed in for the occasion (because women in Entourage are the equivalent of petting-zoo animals) runs through the house screaming, “VINNIE HAS HAD A MASSIVE COKE OVERDOSE,” or something to that effect. Don’t worry, though! Vinnie was lying. He’s just hanging out, being totally chill and whatever in his bedroom. That’s so Vinnie!

Yup, Entourage is back.

What did you think of the premiere?

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