Entourage’s Swan Song

Entourage began it’s 8th and final season this past Sunday night. Some fans of the show are happy to see it go, but some of us wish it wasn’t over. Sure, the novelty of the show has worn off a bit, but it still has it’s positive elements. I re-watched every episode of the first seven seasons because I wondered if the show was as good as I remembered, or if it was horrible in retrospect.

I have been watching Entourage basically since the beginning. I think I started about three episodes in. It was the reason that as soon as I could I paid for HBO. I was drawn to it mostly because of Jeremy Piven, who I knew from movies like The Family Man, Serendipity, Black Hawk Down, Old School and Runaway Jury, all of which we own on DVD. I knew Kevin Connolly from the TV show Unhappily Ever After, which I wasn’t a fan of, and I knew that one of the characters was Matt Dillon’s brother. I also knew the story was loosely based on Mark Wahlberg, whom I love.

When it’s all said and done, this show is a huge male fantasy. A bunch of best friends, hanging out, getting beautiful girl after beautiful girl, having a huge mansion, every toy imaginable and all kinds of expensive cars. At one point, it was easily my favorite show. I would say that the peak of my love for it was part one of season three, when I remember that after each episode ended I couldn’t wait for the next one. We actually dropped HBO after season four, for financial reasons, so I ended up catching seasons five and six on DVD, before restoring HBO before last season.

The one-liners in the first few seasons, especially by Ari, Drama and Turtle were hilarious. Those combined with the endless cameos are what have kept me interesting all these years. I suspect that some of the portrayals of Hollywood are accurate, but at this stage I would assume that some of the show is an exaggeration. Speaking of cameos, my favorite actors playing “themselves” were, Bob Saget, James Woods, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Brady. Saget has been absolute gold in the five or so episodes he has shown up in. I would say the four cameos of actors not playing themselves that I have enjoyed the most were, Rainn Wilson, Steven Tobolowsky, Giovanni Ribisi and William Fichtner (who has been in quite a few episodes at this point, so maybe that isn’t a cameo).

A lot of the arguments made against Entourage center around the fact that “everything always works out in the end.” This is a somewhat true statement, but this show is supposed to be fun, not serious. I wouldn’t imagine you can find a lot of comedies where it doesn’t always work out in the end. It’s possible you could make an argument there are some elements of drama at work here, and the show is more linear than other typical comedies, but if Vince was no longer a star, would anyone want to watch the show? The reason I watch this show is to live vicariously through these guys. I am sure I could be a failed actor if I wanted to. That’s not what I want to watch someone do. For that same reason, I don’t watch this show for realism or riveting drama. I watch it for the entertainment value, and to see what happens to these guys I grew up with.

The show has had it’s lows, and it did seem to repeat the general plot for the first few seasons. The horrible Dom arc in season three was a low point, but the ironically titled “reDOMption” in season five kind of rectified that. I grew tired of Billy Walsh, but his own redemption in season 7 has made me like him again. I probably could have done without the Seth Green and Anna Faris story lines, but so be it.

There are so many great moments in this show that I couldn’t begin to list them all. In season three, I loved the episode where Aquaman opens in theaters and the boys go see it. I also loved the Bob Ryan episode at the end of season three, with the all-time great line “Does that sound like something you might be interested in?”. The short part two of season three with Carla Gugino as Vince’s new agent had some good moments, and the scene at the Grand Canyon where Drama yells “VICTORY!” before the credits roll is one of my favorite scenes of the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed the “making of” Medellin documentary to kick off season four, but the rest of the season wasn’t great. Season five had it’s ups and downs, but the last episode where Vince lands the Martin Scorsese movie makes it all worth it. I did enjoy Gary Cole and Jamie-Lynn Sigler being involved in season six, but it was probably my least favorite season. Season seven definitely went off the rails with Vince getting involved with Sasha Grey and dabbling with cocaine. It was interesting to see Vince end up there after so long, but when you think about his near-death experience, his peak of success, endless money and his ever-drifting friendships, it’s not that far-fetched.

88 episodes in, the show certainly has it’s highs and lows. But Piven has won multiple Emmys for his role and the show has been nominated for directing and comedy series multiple times, so somebody must think it’s good. I honestly don’t think the show get’s enough credit considering the composition of the cast. Connolly was “done” acting before he ended up on this show. Kevin Dillon’s claim to fame is his brother. Jerry Ferrara has done nothing but guest spots before and after. And Adrian Grenier, whom I hear is almost as nonchalant as his character, has a few movies to his name, but nothing special. None of these guys had big reputations coming in. It’s unlikely any of them will have big careers going forward, but for seven years they made this show entertaining. It easily cracks my all-time top 10, and I am sure that I will be re-watching the series for years.