Entourage used to just be this crazy, fun show loosely based on the exploits of executive producer Mark Wahlberg and his crew. For half an hour each week, you could vicariously live the life of a Hollywood star and his pals. More interesting than the ample doses of sex and debauchery, though, was the insider’s look at the biz itself. But the thing that really held the show together was the idea of the group over the individual. This wasn’t a show about Vince (Adrian Grenier) or Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) or Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) or “E” a.k.a. Eric (Kevin Connolly); it was about these guys as a single unit. Four old friends who came out to the land of opportunity and exploitation knowing that if everything came crashing down on them, they all had each others’ backs. Alexander Dumas would’ve been proud.
Unfortunately, it was probably inevitable that Creator Doug Ellin would shift the focus from the group to the individual, if only to keep the series from becoming repetitive. As a short-term fix, it was very well done, with the excellent fifth season bringing the boys’ personal conflicts to a head in a believable manner. Tensions boiled over and loyalties were broken. But by the end of season five, the story arc had crossed a transom that consequently led to an absolutely abysmal sixth season, which coasted along on fumes before finally breaking down completely into a series of bland subplots.
What’s worse is that the end of season six presented no reason at all for the existence of a seventh—or a promised “seventh and a half” followed by a feature film. Everyone basically got what he wanted. Goals had been achieved. That’s where one either ends a story or begins a new one. Based on the first two episodes of the seventh season, it looks like the producers of Entourage have done neither.
In the season opener, “Stunted,” Vince is back on top, starring in a big-budget action flick for director Nick Cassavettes, who uses some machismo to pressure Vince into doing a dangerous stunt on camera. Being “back on top” can only be a setup for “a great fall” and it seems that the seeds for this are sown when the thrill of performing the stunt suddenly opens up a more dangerous side of Vince. This storyline has potential, but it’s quickly drowned out by more of the same lame subplots that made season six such a mess. They are mildly diverting at best: Turtle’s new car-service business, Ari Gold’s (Jeremy Piven) attempts to expand his agency by representing the NFL, Drama’s desperation in finding work, and Eric’s plan to, well, sit at his desk, I guess. Seems someone forgot to write Eric his own bland subplot. It’s suggested that he will become Drama’s new agent, but this has yet to develop into anything significant and Eric mostly looks bored.
What’s worse is that having Lloyd (Rex Lee) no longer tied to a desk outside Ari’s office limits the amount of times Ari can abuse him, which was an important part of the Ari Gold persona. He still gets a few good digs in here and there, even though Lloyd is no longer the target. In the second episode, “Buzzed,” Ari finally gets Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to agree to a meeting, and when told that his work is impressive, he answers with a characteristic, “Yeah, I’d blow myself if I were more flexible.” The difference here is that his lines are being directed to no one in particular and an Ari Gold without a whipping boy just isn’t the same.
Neither is the series as a whole. With all of the main characters and supporting players involved in more and more peripheral pursuits, there’s little time for the four friends to get together to shoot the breeze, meet some babes, or just have some fun. I suppose it was inevitable, but the Entourage crew seems to have grown up and put on Daddy’s suit and tie. This may be a good idea in the real world but it certainly makes for less entertaining television. Hopefully, they’ll burn those suits by midseason and start tearing up the town again. Together.