Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jordasch Explains This Week's Entourage: Lose Yourself, and the merciful end


In the grand tradition of Charge-Shot!!! writers reviewing shows they end up hating - or just hating themselves for kinda liking - Jordasch has decided to tackle HBO's Entourage, simultaneously the most satisfying and infuriating show on the network. Because reviewing the show is a largely fruitless effort at this point, he's decided simply to explain it, character by character.

Drama: As any halfway decent finale should do, this week's episode of Entourage brought each of the series' individual plotlines to a head...sort of. They already did that with Drama's plotline on last week's episode, so the only Johnny bits we see (ewww) are a few mentions of how great his monkey cartoon is going to be and shots of him freaking out about "Baby Bro."

Vince: Most of this week's creative reserves - talk about about scarce resources! - this week went towards Vince's drug-induced collapse. And we do get to see Vince legitimately freak out this week, either because the makeup girl actually showed up or Adrian Grenier saves up all his (meager) talent for the last episode of each season. At the end of the fifth season, we got to see him blow up at E for being a bad manager, and this season, we get to see him blow up at E - and several other people - for being a bad friend. This takes place at an intervention the entourage has staged for Vince, which he of course walks out on because he thinks the rest of them are acting like pussies. And then he goes to Eminem's party, and Eminem punches him in the face.  Yes, this was another in a long line of Entourage's braindead, inexplicable celebrity cameos (John Cleese, WTF), but seeing Vince get clocked by Slim Shady was probably one of the most satisfying moments of the season.

Elsewhere, Vince and Sasha broke up over her determination to, you know, be a porn star. Also, the finale's big reveal came in the form of a police officer discovering a bag of coke on Vince after Eminem's bodyguards put him in the hospital. Viewers not suffering from amnesia will recall that this is exactly the same big reveal as last week's episode.

Turtle: Deus ex machina, Entourage-style! Football player, who had previously - and inexplicably - threatened to buy Carlos out of his tequila company, relents and promises to invest the five million dollars needed to expand the factory. But because this is Entourage, a sudden, unmotivated change in plotting must be accompanied by a threat of physical violence. See, a 180 degree turn by a character is totally understandable if that character threatens to beat the shit out of another character should they "fuck them over." Plus, creator Doug Ellin can sleep at night, undisturbed by the realization that he's written a script that would be laughed at in a 100-level drama class. After his fifth bottle of Avion Tequila, that is.

...

Oops.

Ari: It's pretty much the pits for Ari at this point. The whole town thinks he's a douchebag (or now has evidence of it), he's lost his shot at bringing an NFL team to L.A., and now the unflappable Mrs. Ari wants a break. Ari is informed of this last bit of news over the phone as Lady Gaga (oh wait, that's Christina Aguilera) sings in the background for Mrs. Ari's would-be surprise birthday party.

I've wondered essentially since the beginning of the show why Mrs. Ari stays with her husband despite how much she complains about his behavior. I content myself, I guess, with the fact that Ari constantly professes his love for his wife in the sincerest way he can. So I don't find it completely plausible that she would abandon Ari now, when he's at his lowest point. Is she really so shocked by his behavior? The characterization doesn't really make sense, considering Ari has never hidden his homophobic/chauvinist behavior from his wife. But both Perrey Reeves and Jeremy Piven are talented enough performers to pull off this bit of domestic strife. Piven in particular manages to say volumes with a simple incredulous stare. Reeves never gets nearly as much good material as Piven, however, because the show has made it clear that they don't want her character to exist independent of Ari. For God's sake, they don't give her a fucking name! Am I the only one who thinks that's ugly and chauvinistic rather than cute or clever?

Eric: E's dinner with Sloan's father, Terrence (played by the always-unpredictable Malcolm McDowell), takes a turn for the worse when he takes E to task for his seeming laziness at work. Eric, you probably don't remember or care, is an inexplicably successful agent at Sloan's godfather's agency. Sloan's godfather, who was played by veteran actor George Segal in season six, has not appeared in a single episode of season seven, hopefully because Segal's found better work. But dude has been absent this season, leading Scotty Lavin to conclude that the agency is ripe to be taken over. Eric, who initially balked at Lavin's offer to bring him in to the deal, accepts after the dinner. And, of course, we know he's worried about Vince because somebody told him to grow out his facial hair slightly. Good thing he didn't have to act worried.

Departing Words: I haven't mentioned Eric for the last three weeks, and no one who reads this column has noticed. This is either because nobody actually reads my column, which would be my conclusion if not for the few Facebook "Likes" I get each week, or because Eric is such a dreadfully dull character that even in a show with only five main characters, his absence in a plot summary doesn't raise a red flag. Speaking of which, this thoroughly unmemorable character is actually a good jumping off point for my closing thoughts on this, the seventh season of Entourage. As is my idiom, I'll pick out a few characteristics of the show that make it particularly insufferable and explain my rationale in my typical, winningly sarcastic fashion:

  • It's forgettable - It hardly needs to be said, but Entourage is almost absurdly unmemorable. At its best, Entourage shows a bunch of pretty people having more fun than you. But even then, I've always been at a loss when trying to recall the specifics of what happened on an episode, or even across a whole season. The plotlines on Entourage are so hackneyed and forgettable, in fact, that resorting or reusing them has never aroused the ire of the show's dedicated fan base of bros. It's like the stock market, as we watch the fortunes of Entourage's cast rise and fall: Turtle's cool, Turtle's a loser; Vince is successful, then he's a flop; Drama's got a big show, then he's back to being a failure; Eric is boring, then Eric is more boring.
  • It's ugly and hypocritical: The Entourage writing staff has no problem using "This Character Doesn't Want to be a Pussy" as a dramatic motivator again and again. Now, if we're to believe the Entourage Wikipedia page's section on "Themes" (HA!), this is just an example of the characters' intense "Male Friendship." But it's really an indicator of just how macho and insecure the whole show is. For the most part, Entourage is almost startlingly unaware of how ugly its characters' behavior is. And when it does point out just how poorly Vince and the boys treat the opposite sex, the show just seems hypocritical and preachy. Take this week's episode, when Vince strikes out with a girl at Eminem's party because she thinks he's a womanizing asshole. For purposes of the plot, we're supposed to side with the girl. But would that character have been portrayed as anything but a bitch last season? We, for the most part, are meant to admire Vince's ability to fuck anything that moves. But now, when Vince has actually been in a dedicated relationship since the beginning of the season (with a porn star, granted), we're supposed to wag our fingers at him? Gimme a break, Entourage. If you want to be a satire, you need to at least implicitly critique your characters' behavior.
  • It could be so much better: I've waxed poetic about an Entourage free of Vince and the boys (or at least Vince and Eric). And yes, in its current form, Entourage minus everyone but Ari would be infinitely more tolerable. But imagine, if you will, a Battlestar Galactica-esque reboot of Entourage in, say, thirty years. You dump the original series' dated, smug stupidity (because the early part of this century has been nothing if not smug and stupid) in favor of a real, biting take on the Hollywood nightmare. You replace the noncommittal tone (Is it fun? Is it serious? What popular rap song can we play to convey what the audience should be feeling?) with a sort of consistent ambivalence: Hollywood's fun, Entourage 2.0 would say, but it's a killer. And, best of all, you recast every role because, after all, the original stars of Entourage will have been gathering dust on the bottom shelf of the metaphorical bargain bin for the past couple of decades. That's an Entourage I'd be excited to watch. But this isn't one even I'll be masochistic enough to take up again.