The Husband:

No matter what your thoughts are on most of Entourage‘s sixth season, and oh man do I know a lot of people who were threatening to give up on the show this year, I think it ended on a very clear, concise note of an overarching theme that just took too long to get started. No matter what the flaws, the constant deviation away from the life of central character Vinnie Chase and his movie star woes, one remarkably poor casting decision, it wrapped up nicely, and season six came to be about the pros and cons of being impulsive. Everybody except Vince — who pretty much had no arc thanks to him already having a job to go to at the end of the season, shooting Frank Darabont’s Ferrari biopic — completely redefined their lives over the course of what seemed like a very short season, and while it couldn’t get to the heights of some of Entourage‘s best arcs, a lackluster season of this show is still an effortlessly watchable endeavor.

This was the year that we really got into the lives of “the guys,” and for better or worse, I’m glad it was able to dive so deeply. Eric, failing to get his management company off of the ground, takes a job at a bigger firm run by George Segal, gets a sweet-ass receptionist played by Brokeback Mountain‘s Kate Mara (who will definitely present some major opposition to E’s happiness next season) and already establishes himself as a dominate force against douchey Scott Caan. But his love life has become lazy, and his multi-episode back-and-forth with Alexis Dziena didn’t seem to amount to anything other than obnoxious scenes that went nowhere. And yes, Dziena sucked the life out of any scene in which she appeared, even though I can’t remember having a problem with her acting in the past in work such as Invasion and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But she was terribly miscast here, and her presence was only validated when E finished off the season declaring his love for Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Sloan and finally getting engaged. It took a long time to get going, but I’m fine with E’s story overall. His impulsiveness threatened to destroy two of his relationships, but it ended up working in his favor.

Turtle, meanwhile, got the best arc of the season, or at least the most sincere, in exploring his relationship with Jamie-Lynn Sigler after their canoodling last season. For the first time in a while, their relationship seemed to be built with a major dose of reality, and their problems — her jealousy, his wandering eye while studying business at UCLA, the long-distance dating problem that is part of the world of a wanted film and television actor — didn’t feel like the frat raunch fest mode that this show has a tendency to slip into. And upon their final break-up, Turtle’s impulsive decision to hop aboard a plane headed for New Zealand turned into humiliation, and here’s hoping that between this and his education, he can mature further into adulthood.

Drama’s story was the one I dreaded the most this season, because honestly I tend to roll my eyes at nearly everything he does nowadays. I’ve been sick of his shitty decision-making for seasons now, and his comic relief persona hasn’t rubbed me the right way the entire time. It’s one thing for the world to work against you, but it’s another to be the sole cause of all of your problems, whether you were an asshole in the past or an asshole in the present. His impulsive decision, based entirely around the word of somebody who could have easily fucked up his career just for kicks, to drop out of Five Towns (after his physical confrontation with that douche from Eli Stone, of course) only to see his Melrose Place audition nearly cause him a heart attack (no thanks to you, Dean Cain), was going to be the latest straw of self-destructive behavior. But for the most part, this show doesn’t like to keep its characters in hell, and while Drama suffered so much this season that he nearly quit acting, his MP audition got “the network” interested in creating a star vehicle just for him. The soul-searching came too late to really save the arc, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

And, of course, we have the saga of Ari versus Lloyd, whose pairing finally implodes when Ari so terribly tortures his assistant that Lloyd has no choice but to up and quit, moving on over to Malcolm McDowell’s company (and Ari’s former employer). It had been a long time coming, and the only way to break what was starting to become a tedious plot device (Lloyd does something good, Ari berates him, repeat) blossomed into something bigger and better. This led to Ari making some majorly ill-advised impulsive decisions when offered the chance to buy out McDowell and merge their companies, but his final decision to give in to a few ego-bruising demands made it all worthwhile. It’s still a bitch that Ari would even consider using his wife’s television money to make the deal, and that it was originally all for spite, and maybe you shouldn’t go around shooting paintballs at your new employees to indicate that the merger equals them losing their jobs, it was an emotional change for Ari nevertheless. It was also a considerably better story than last year’s moral quandary over whether or not he should have become a studio head.

No one likes you right now.

No one likes you right now.

Yes, some of the episodes didn’t add up, and the stalker mini-story fit into what Ebert would call the Idiot Plot where everything could have easily been solved had everybody not been a complete idiot. I don’t think I hate the golf episode as much as, say, my sister does, but the fact that I barely remember it doesn’t speak volumes for its quality either. It’s a pain in the ass to have Vinnie become a non-character on his own goddamn show, though, and Entourage always works better when he’s struggling for work, but it’s not like I hated anything he was doing.

But admit it, you really liked the episode where Zac Efron and Frank Darabont make some surprising (fake) revelations about themselves, the Aaron-Sorkin-visiting-Gary-Cole-in-jail episode was a better episode than it had any right to be, and Matt Damon outright stole the season finale.

With the show’s evolution comes the fact that we can’t simply see the same stories over and over again, and while showrunner Doug Ellin (who I didn’t realize played the asshole TV director until about an hour ago) doesn’t always know how to structure an episode as well as, say, James L. Brooks could, and he still has a bit of an emotional disconnect from his characters at the oddest times, he’s realized this fact. The stories may not be working at a 100% success fate, but in this day and age, I’ll settle for 75%. Besides, do you remember the first season, where nothing happened? That’s how you should weigh all seasons of Entourage, because it’s not the plot that matters, but the characters. Disagree if you wish, but I always look forward to another summer and another season.

But goddamn it, I wish they would have showed us at least one scene from Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby. We can all agree on that.

The Husband:

I came into Smallville relatively late, and much like The Shield and Scrubs (which both started during the 2001-2002 television season), it was less due to lack of interest than it was that I didn’t actually have a TV that year. (I know, how horrible. But it was my freshman year, and the decision was made in order to help lessen my entertainment distractions so I could focus on my studies.) But also like those shows, I took the time during my first post-university year to Netflix the bejesus out of every one of their available seasons on DVD, and it was Smallville that I watched the quickest. I think I sped through the first four seasons in about a month, which my calculator tells me is 2.83 episodes a day. (I remember the month being March, so that was over 31 days.) While it took me well into the first season, maybe even the second, to really love the show, I figured out fairly quickly that it had a great deal of potential and ambition to rise above my initial reaction, which was to describe it as “basically just The O.C. with superpowers.”

By the time the fourth season rolled around (I had hated much of the beginning of the third season, what with Jonathan temporarily gaining superpowers to save Clark from wasting his life in Metropolis), I was absolutely hooked. I’m aware that this is not an opinion everyone shares, but s4 of Smallville is without question my favorite season of the show, where we not only are introduced to The Flash and Krypto the dog, but Lana gets possessed by her witch ancestor, Lois finally shows up in town (bye Pete), and Clark searches for those crazy-ass knowledge stones that finally allow him access to the Fortress of Solitude. As a matter of fact, the s4 finale, “Commencement,” is still one of my favorite television episodes of all time, what with its epic scope and probably Smallville’s best ever attempt at juggling multiple plots.

Where did this shows quality go?

Where did this show's quality go?

But let’s be honest – season seven sucked. It sucked hard. Everything that was bright and fresh and nostalgic about the show was lost to navel-gazing both figurative (Lex’s final fall into evil as he murdered his innocent child self in a vision) and literal (Laura Vandervoort as Kara/Supergirl, who I will agree is hot but also useless). It went far too deep into its soapy aspects and tried to sustain the Clark-Lana-Lex love triangle, one that had fizzed out seasons earlier, as well as made very awkward Chloe’s transition into a “meteor freak” and Lionel’s final stand before being murdered by Lex. Even James Marsters was wasted as Brainiac, one of the show’s best villains on previous seasons.

But what may have seemed catastrophic to some fans – Lex and Lana both leaving the show right after s7, as well as show creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough – turned out to be what has saved the show from complete boredom and its fall from grace. Now primarily set in Metropolis, the show’s title has unintentionally taken on a new meaning as Clark’s nickname, and somehow losing the show’s creators has revitalized the characters and their personalities. (Besides, Millar and Gough seemed to be barely paying attention, what with their screenwriting career finally taking off.) The show decided to bring back Oliver Queen a.k.a. The Green Arrow, one of the best supporting characters, as well as introduces us to a very strange version of the villain Doomsday, now a paramedic with a blackout problem, a mysterious past and parents of the Zod variety. (While knowing a great deal about comic lore, I am not an avid reader, but I do own The Death Of Superman, which is where Doomsday figures in most heavily in the Superman arc, and I know he is not Zod’s son.)

And god, Lana’s ouster helped the most. I was actually done with Lana right around the middle of s5, and felt that Kristen Kruek’s continued existence on the show was only dragging out every single lame plot bit that didn’t involve her being a French witch. And with Lex gone, we can stop freaking out about the Luthors, as they are all but dead and the crux of the first several seasons – how Clark and Lex went from friends to mortal enemies – had resolved. Now Michael Rosenbaum is free to make Sorority Boys 2: Search For Barry Watson.

This season has finally answered many viewers’ prayers that the show would finally ease its way back into Superman lore, as now Clark and Lois are both working at the Daily Planet and are finally getting us up to speed to the real Supes stories. (Oh, and Chloe’s there too, but she’s too busy getting married to Jimmy Olsen to realize the intense sexual chemistry between Lois and Clark, which is far more potent than it was for several seasons between Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.) Their cases are more or less interesting, and watching Clark having to struggle more and more with his two personalities is getting to be a real hoot.

Yes, the series has lost much of its seriousness that got me hooked in the first place, its real interest in its own storylines, but I appreciate the goofy quality of this season as opposed to the murky despair of the last 1.5 seasons. My third favorite episode (“Instinct”) of the season so far has also been its silliest, where an outer space queen named Maxima follows the crystal’s beacon to Earth in order to mate with Clark and his superpenis, but ends up kissing many a wrong man and either putting them into comas or killing them outright.

Likewise, my second favorite episode was “Identity,” where Clark and Oliver flip the script from a previous episode where Lois seems to be sure of Green Arrow’s identity only to be tricked when Clark pretends to be the Robin Hood-inspired hero, this time having Oliver pose as Superman so Jimmy, who got a flash of a picture of Superman (or he calls him, the Good Samaritan), doesn’t discover that Clark and Supes are the same person. That episode also had the first instance I can remember of Chloe using her Rogue-like powers (taking/giving health) for somewhat nefarious purposes, as she puts a meddling reporter into a coma.

On the flipside, I really did not like the final fall episode, “Bride,” a Cloverfield-inspired episode where we jump into the past to see how the strengthened Doomsday wreaks major havoc at the Chloe/Jimmy wedding and kidnaps dear Chloe.

But the best episode of the season has without question been “Abyss,” one of the show’s best ones in a very long time, where it gets all Eternal Sunshine as we jump inside Chloe’s brain and watch her memories quickly fade away (Brainiac has taken control of her mind, but not if Jor-El has anything to say about it). That episode is re-airing this Thursday, and it’s the first episode of this season that I will actually consider rewatching.

I hope that the show can continue down this more varied path, as it has recaptured my faith in its continued presence. (This is season 8, don’t forget. One further than Buffy.) The program has definitely had its ups and downs, but we’re on a pretty formidable upswing and I’m excited for the first time in a couple years for the next new episode midway through next month.