To quote the editor-in-chief of The Verge:
…and, well, it’s true. After eight years, the Mark Wahlberg-produced HBO show about up and coming actor Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) and his titular homies has now rolled to a conclusion. Or stumbled. Or flattened. We’ve certainly seen a lot of drama over the years (as well as Vince’s brother Johnny Drama), agency swaps, the rise and fall (and subsequent rise and fall) of superstar agent Ari Gold, lots and lots of phone calls, and more than a few fictional movies, and a borderline Simpsons quantity of celebrity appearances, but this last season of Entourage was hardly the best way to send the show out.
Kelly got me on this show a few Thanksgivings ago. After dinner, we sat down until two or three in the morning and watched the first two seasons. With the rest of the DVD sets in hand, I finished the rest later. The series is immensely entertaining to me and about as substantial as candy. Here we see what people do with lots of money. We get a colorful, abstracted view of the lives of stars, agents, and movie studios. Also, lots of parties – and why wouldn’t they? All the women in this universe are models. The series is at its worst when trying to be heavy-handed or moralistic (in fact dipping towards misogyny on more than a few occasions) with the seventh season’s sloppy handling of Vinny’s drug addiction. That’s not what you’re here for, you’re here to root for Vinny through his ups and downs and his various relationships and failures.
Along with his brother Johnny Drama (played by an ever-aggravated Kevin Dillon) who was once star of a Hercules-esque series named Viking Quest, his friend/manager E (short for Eric, played by Kevin Connolly), and couch potato/small time entrepreneur Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) fill out the entourage. The trio generally just mooch off Vince, who’s more than happy to oblige to keep his friends happy. His agent Ari Gold (played by Jeremy Piven, who won several Emmys for this role) is perhaps the best reason to even start watching as his volcanic eruptions are hilarious and his put-downs are epic.
The problem with the show is that after posting out the extremes of the narrative over the years, there’s really nowhere to go. Make a new movie? Did that. Financial problems? Did that. We already know that Ari hates his wife’s chosen therapy counselor. We’ve seen them zoom around in fast cars. We’ve seen them all make enough bold-faced, critical lies to hate everyone in that house, yet somehow we still fall for these guys. Well, the few of us that are left, as this last season demonstrated.
Oh, right, we’re talking about the last season of the show… (slight spoilers throughout)
As this final season begins, E has broken up with fiance Sloan (Emmanuelle Chirqui) and partnered with former nemesis Scott Lavin (Scott Caan) to take over their talent agency. Vince is getting out of rehab and writes a script about a man who gives up everything to dig out some miners with his dog, to the chagrin of his friends. Turtle is getting out of his tequila business to start a restaurant and Johnny is working on a new cartoon with Andrew Dice Clay. Ari on the other hand is melting down emotionally in the face of a possible divorce from his wife, ending up with a former flame. The problem with all of these interesting plot threads is that over the course of a super-abbreviated season (only eight episodes) few are satisfied by the finale.
Despite much bally-hoo, Vince’s script goes nowhere, culminating with the suicide of a producer that’s trying to get back into his life after doing him wrong a few seasons ago. The show wastes an entire show over Vince potentially failing a drug test. A mopey Ari, dreading the loss of his wife, is an unentertaining Ari. Andrew Dice Clay, playing himself, decides to go on strike for more money and over the course of most of the season, just repeats his talking points, forcing the story to just loop for a while. Their cartoon, “Johnny’s Bananas” looks incredibly interesting from the brief snippets we see in the show. I’m sure if they had spent the budget and just made one of the episodes a cartoon, they could’ve crammed the rest of the season’s points in the other episodes. Speaking of which…
Despite only having an eight episode run this season, it appears the entire budget has evaporated. There are no elaborate parties, movie sets, explosions, or even many celebrity guests: most of the show happens between Vince’s hotel (after Turtle burns down their house in the premiere), Ari’s office, and a handful of restaurants. All in all, this final season feels like a coda: like all the cool stuff had done before and the producers are just trying to mop up. Except they don’t. The finale is bittersweet and lifted moment for moment almost exactly from previous seasons.
The cast and crew have talked repeatedly about how there will eventually be a movie and that satisfy our thirst for more high-end Entourage entertainment, but in reality, they should’ve just rolled all of this into that and called it a day. I swear, if HBO sends us for two hours of the crew running from hotel room to hotel room having waxy conversations about the ‘industry’ and ‘life in the showbiz’, I will go down and cut a man.