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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Televangelist: Gearing up for the Final Season of 'Entourage'

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 1:29 PM

This Sunday, "Entourage" says goodbye in its eighth and final season (hosting a mere eight episodes, with rumors of a wrap-up film … yet aren't there always?) But what are we really saying farewell to?

The Boys Are Back In Town

"Entourage" has long been called "the male answer to 'Sex and the City,'" a claim I have never fully embraced. Remember that when "Sex and the City" began, in the late 1990s, it tackled a very touchy but important issue: what are we to make of single, 30-something career women who enjoy casual sex? Do we resort to slut-shaming, or do we embrace this new femininity? Over the years the show (and the *groan* movies) began to focus more strongly on materialism (and to some degree, the importance of fame), which "Entourage" has always encouraged. But whereas those themes signaled the wearing down of the "Sex and the City" franchise, they remain stalwarts of "Entourage's" charm.

"Entourage" is at its best when Vince (Adrien Grenier) is happy, employed and making the big bucks. I don't know who would argue with me that Vince is the least interesting character on the show, but as long as he keeps up his mansion and his cars he is able to allow the fantastic supporting cast - E (Kevin Connolly), Drama (Kevin Dillon), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and of course Ari (Jeremy Piven) - to shine. But in the seventh season, which I consider to be the worst of the series without peer, Vince's downfall became the focus. Unlike the universally bemoaned fifth season where Vince, after the fallout from the mess of a film Medellin, actually goes back to New York to regroup, and is later forced to grovel to anyone who will still listen to him in Hollywood to do whatever necessary to pick up the pieces of his broken career, Season 7 focused on Vince's sudden and unprovoked unraveling into drug abuse and unexplained machismo.

More unfortunately, it was surrounded by a host of utterly uninteresting storylines. Turtle and the tequila company? What was that? Drama and his new show? Yes a potentially entertaining plot (which we will see a lot more of in the upcoming season), but it took the entire season to get him to decide whether he wanted to do it or not. E had very little to work with, and Sasha Grey? Don't make me go there. The only thing holding the show together, as is so often the case, was the charisma and moxie of Ari Gold. Except then ... Ari unraveled, too. He may have lost his marriage - the only stable relationship on the show - and that special "devil may care" spirit we've grown unable to live without.

In Season 5, Vince and the others pulled in closer than ever before, with even Ari choosing friendship over business (the very crux of the show and the only parallel I can really draw between it and "Sex and the City" - that the leads always choose each other over anything else). But in Season 7, the quintet grew farther and farther apart, leaving us to know for certain that the show is greater than the sum of its orbiting parts.

What "Entourage" has really given us, and the reason it will be missed, is its look at Hollywood. It is the best "insider show" on the movie business to potentially ever grace our screens. Those who have brushed shoulders with the Hollywood machine have always said, if you to know what "the business" is like, watch "Entourage." And it is, without doubt, a damning portrayal, but not one that we are altogether unfamiliar with. Though "Entourage" has never taken a "ripped from the headlines" approach, the stories it tells could be seen in TMZ exclusives, or articles from Variety. Except here we get to see a portrayal of the what the real behind-the-scenes might look like, the ones that publishers haven't been able to massage, the ones agents haven't been able to control. And that is what has kept viewers like myself - who are not very interested in Vince's coke binges or Turtle's dizzying ability to pull Victoria Secret-level girls or the excesses of the industry elite - watching for nearly a decade.

I do have to admit though, that according to the extended trailer (available on HBO's Entourage micro site), the final season looks like it might pull a Vince - it's time to get past the rehab and come back guns blazing. I'm willing to hug it out with you, "Entourage" … and I'm hoping for VICTORY!

The final season premieres this Sunday at 10:30pm on HBO, and I will be following it here throughout its run.

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