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.

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The Husband:

All things considered, this was definitely a weak season of Entourage. There’s no way around saying it – the first half of the season was meandering, depressing, unfunny and (worst of all) uninteresting. As I mentioned in my last “checking in on Entourage” post, unemployed Vincent is not really must see TV by any means, as Vinnie has always really just been a catalyst for all the other characters, a straight arrow main character with nary a personality. This is not to see Adrian Grenier is not good as Vinnie Chase. In fact, I think he’s great at playing this kind of aw shucks movie star who can fill movie theatres and draw the attention of many women around Los Angeles and yet proceeds to just…exist…and not much else. It’s a hard role to play and I think people mistake his ability to play nonchalant as an inability to act.

But yes, an unemployed Vinnie is an uninteresting Vinnie, so it was great to see him finally get a job near the end as one of the firefighters in Smokejumpers (a.k.a. Nine Brave Souls). Unfortunately, that production went up in flames when Vinnie clashed with costar Jason Patric and director Werner (Stellan Skarsgard), leading to a fallout between the crazy German director (with his overblown budget) and the studio (who decided to cut their losses and halt production indefinitely).

(No thanks to Entertainment Weekly’s Jessica Shaw for ruining that plot by revealing too much in her TV Watch two issues ago.)

Apply directly to the forehead.

Vinnie Chase: Apply directly to the forehead.

Distraught at an entire television season of failure, Vinnie and the gang return to their native turf of Queens to really take a look at themselves to see where they are at, in their lives, in their careers, as themselves. Vinnie and Eric almost ruin their friendship over trying to get Vinnie an audition for a Gus Van Sant movie currently filming in New York, but make up when they realize that their camaraderie is more important than any Hollywood bullshit. (i.e. the driving force of Entourage, which is its heart and not its excess.)

Since the season comes in at a C+/B-, it would have been a shame to see the show go out on anything other than an extremely high note, so I’m glad that HBO will continue to produce episodes. At the same time, however, this final episode of s5 would have thematically been a great place to wrap up this dramedy. Turtle finally has a steady and loyal girlfriend (Jamie-Lynn Sigler as herself), Drama is now co-owner of a New York City bar, Eric finally lands a mega-deal establishing himself as an agent/manager worth noticing and Vinnie, in the final moments of the episode, is offered the lead in a Scorsese movie (based entirely on the scrapped Smokejumpers dailies). By returning to where it all began and finally giving the characters what they need – in some form or another – is a happy ending for all and not a bad way to go out, storywise.

About that Scorsese movie – it’s apparently a retelling of The Great Gatsby but modernized and set in the Upper West Side, and Vinnie has been tapped to play Nick Carraway. Upon first hearing about the project, a few things put me off until I got over myself and just accepted them. First, the real Great Gatsby is set mere miles from Manhattan and wondered about why the switch, but then I supposed that Long Island really isn’t, for all intents and purposes, as hot socially as it was back in the Roaring ‘20s (save for the Hamptons, which wouldn’t have really fit the story anyway). Then I thought…Vinnie isn’t good enough of an actor to play Carraway, especially in a Scorsese movie, but then realized that, hey, DiCaprio hasn’t been great under Scorsese’s care either (coughgangsofnewyorkcough) and so I just kind of accepted it. Vinnie is a bit of a cipher, and so is Nick Carraway. Vinnie has spent most of his life pretending to be rich and popular as opposed to actually being rich and popular – seriously, how many times has Vinnie been hard up for cash in the entirety of this series? – and was raised in a nonglamorous society, much like Carraway. (Queens isn’t the Midwest, but still, you get my drift.)

So, I decided that he was actually perfect for the role. Gatsby, no, but Carraway, yes. We’ll see how it turns out.

(Yes, I’m weighing the merits of a fake movie. If the show is going to attempt verisimilitude, I have a right to do so, dammit.)

So I simply hope the writers can take a step back and rethink their show for next season. Make us care more. Make it fresh again. Make us actually give a shit about Johnny Drama. But please…no more cousin Dom. He’s a terrible character.

The Husband:

Since the show is in its fifth season and really shows no signs of slowing down, I decided to take a step back with Entourage and only comment when I felt I really needed to, so here I am checking in on Doug Ellin’s HBO comedy about a laid-back movie star and his Hollywood exploits, flanked on all sides by his brother and his best friends.

And boom goes the dynamite . . .

And boom goes the dynamite . . .

After a good opening couple episodes, this season really started to drop for me, but not nearly as much as everyone else online and in other forms of media. People were really hating on it for a good long while, but I still think the nadir of the series is the first few episodes of s3 where they deal with the juggernaut that is Aquaman and its release.

Here, they just seemed to tread water, going all s1 on us and involving the viewers in Vinnie Chase’s dating life, which is never really my favorite. And even when they did this season, it was half-assed. (Hey Entourage, don’t get Leighton Meester to return to the show as a rising pop star, have Vinnie declare his love for her, then only use her for one episode and never have her show up again.) I was also worried about the Giovanni Ribisi/Lukas Haas screenwriter story because in all honesty it was looking like it was going to shape up into another Billy Walsh situation of egomaniacs defending every single one of their wrong decisions.

I did, however, like the “Let’s Go To Joshua Tree And Eat Mushrooms” episode, even though it was at the service of Vinnie deciding whether or not to choose to do a Benji movie, which we knew would never happen.

I must say that after years of defending him and his buffoonish ways, I am finally sick and tired of Johnny Drama’s shenanigans. It’s amusing to see him get himself into tricky predicaments, but somewhere along the line he decided to become Vinnie’s unofficial acting coach and is simply spreading his bad luck everywhere. (The episode where he was on The View and broke down crying after they brought up his recent break-up with the French girl was pretty awful, to boot.) He needs a serious retooling, because otherwise he’s going to drag the show down much, much further.

Three episodes ago, though, it all really started to pick up, because the Entourage I like is the one about moviemaking, plain and simple. Though Vinnie had completely burned his bridges with Warner Bros. after choosing Medellin over Aquaman 2, Ari accidentally gives the studio head a fatal heart attack, and is then asked by the studio’s owner’s conglomerate (for once, Alan Dale shows up not to have a heart attack but to talk about someone else having a heart attack) to take over. The two-episode machination of Ari’s decision was simply great television, a view into the bizarre world of Tinseltown and how hard decisions get made and how quickly one must make them. It was harsh without being nasty as Ari fucked over Carla Gugino’s agent character in her bid for the studio head position and instead showed loyalty to producer and former lover Dana, thus ensuring that he had a trustworthy ally at the studio that could help to make his clients’ dreams come true. (My favorite line of the season is Dana’s response to this good news: “I swear, I’ll rub your cock like it’s 1990.”) Good move, Ari. You’d never survive as a studio chief despite all the money that would be coming your way.

I also appreciate the show when it finds a middle ground between fortune-fucking and adherence to real Hollywood stories, so while Vinnie and E had to make some compromises to get Vinnie into the ensemble for the firefighter film Smokejumpers (the Ribisi/Haas script formerly known as Nine Brave Souls), it launched us as viewers directly into the chaos of filmmaking itself. It’s a roller coaster out there, alright.

I appreciate that we’re getting an extended look at the movie itself being made, because the show has a tendency to avoid such big stories. Queens Boulevard was filmed between s1 and s2, Aquaman between s2 and s3, and Medellin between s3 and s4 (with the first s4 episode giving a fairly good recap of all that happened, but not enough). It’s exciting, to say the least.

Now, the big question is whether or not Vinnie can stand up to Jason Patric for stealing his lines and confront the director (Stellan Skarsgaard being hilarious) over his haphazard and unrehearsed directorial style without getting fired in the process. Unemployed Vinnie Chase is pretty boring, and I would think that Ellin and all of his writers would want to avoid boring us interested viewers.

Three more episodes left in this season, and hopefully it can go out with a bang. Smokejumpers all the way.

The Entourage boys.

Only one of these actors is not from the great state of NY: which one is it?

The Husband:

After a year of waiting for the inevitable, Entourage is back, and the cliffhanger regarding the fate of the latest Vincent Chase/Billie Walsh magnum opus has been paid off.

Medellin is a dud. The three-hour Pablo Escobar biopic film-within-the-show, which we last saw bombing miserably at Cannes, was bought by Harvey Weinberg (get it? He’s supposed to be Harvey Weinstein! How subtle!) for all of $1, and six months later is quietly released straight-to-DVD. Ouch . . .

But not before our dearly departed – departed from the airwaves, that is – television show hosts Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips could rip the vanity project to shreds, an unintentional swan song as their real-life syndicated show – which, of course, was the old home of Siskel & Ebert until death and cancer recovery caught up with them respectively – is no longer on the air and has been replaced by complete pabulum bullshit.

That’s what I like about the show. It finds a certain level of reality, thanks to a great insider’s perspective courtesy of executive producer Mark Wahlberg and an endless supply of industry types playing versions of themselves, and yet can still indulge in a male machismo fantasy. (A Mexican threesome, Vinnie? Really?) It knows more than you can believe about how talent agencies work – I worked at two much lower-level ones in my day – and how multi-million dollar decisions can simply come and go at the drop of a hat, and yet still have a certain fondness for the Los Angeles and the dog-eat-dog film business itself.

Yeah, the dynamic in the group is getting a little old, and I’d love to see someone other than E evolve personality-wise, but the season 5 premiere gives audiences a nice reset button and has the potential to regain some of the show’s former glory, unlike how most of season 3 was merely treading water storywise. (Remember the episode about the launch of the Aquaman roller coaster at Magic Mountain? Yeah, I tried to forget about that one, too.) I love how even though the deal that brought Vinnie out of hiding in Mexico and back into Hollywood – a quick and cheap piece-of-crap horror thriller called “Danger Beach” – was actually just a ploy to use Vinnie to get Emile Hirsch’s agent to lower his asking fee by $2 million, and that it didn’t even phase anybody other than Ari.

It’s just another day in the life of a Hollywood actor whose star is slowly fading away. Will Billy Walsh return? Is Silo even happening? Will Vinnie finally start listening to his manager and best friend in light of his own recent shitbomb decisions over the last two seasons? Can Drama actually maintain a long-distance relationship with his first girlfriend I can recall ever being on the show? Will Mandy Moore ever return?

We’ve got a dozen episodes to find out. Let’s hug it out, bitch.