By Missak Artinian
“Entourage” is without doubt the best show on television, at least since “Seinfeld” ended its nine-season run in 1998. Those who argue otherwise typically fall under one of two categories: those who have not seen “Entourage” because they don’t have HBO, and those who find more pleasure watching reality television.
My advice to those who fall under the former category: get the seasonal DVDs of “Entourage,” at the very least. To those who fall under the latter category: get better taste, at the very most.
Why “Entourage” is so exceptional is partly due to its cast of distinct and multi-faceted characters, and furthermore, their complex relationships with one another. There’s just something intriguing about a show following the life of a rising star, Vincent Chase, and his entourage of inseparable friends.
There’s Eric Murphy, Vince’s short but fierce manager, for example, who packs a punch stronger than the size of his fist would suggest. Then there’s Johnny Drama, Vince’s half-brother, who happens to be a television star and yet falls under the shadow of his more popular film star brother. And of course there’s Turtle, the amiable driver who serves the all-important purpose of having fun, while making sure his boys come along for the ride.
Jeremy Piven, who plays the character Ari Gold– Vince’s temperamental and compulsive agent– deserves special mention. Piven has already earned three Emmy Awards for his inspired performance as Ari, and is well on his way to win another.
Every character serves their own important function in the show, contributing their own unique persona through their conversations, comebacks and jokes. There are seldom scenes in which the entourage is not together or in touch in some way. They all support Vince when he’s successful, stand by him when times are tough and enjoy all the fruits that come with knowing Vince–the actor who starred in James Cameron’s “Aqua Man,” the highest grossing movie of all time.
The show also shines because of its brilliant writing. Great shows require superb writers. If the writing is poor, it doesn’t matter whether the direction, performances, music, etc. are top notch. The show will undoubtedly fail.
What the writers of “Entourage” have successfully done is create a world that idealizes Hollywood with its excessive sex, late-night parties and occasional drug use, and yet, despite its over-exaggeration, it’s still very believable.
We believe that Vince and his entourage can be real. This is mostly due to references to real players in the film industry and also to their guest appearances. Those who have made an appearance: Scarlett Johansson, Brooke Shields, Mandy Moore, Seth Green, and James Woods, just to name a few.
This believable world is also reinforced by authentic, occasionally witty and always smart dialogue. In one of many memorable exchanges between Eric and Ari, for example, Eric Complains to Ari about Vince’s unhappiness. Ari’s response: “Of course he’s not happy. Nobody’s happy in this town except for the losers. Look at me. I’m miserable. That’s why I’m rich.”
In fact, the dialogue’s quality is so good, I’d go as far as to say that it rivals a lot of character-driven indie films. Plus, because the show is on HBO, the writers are free to write explicit material that further adds to the believability of the world while never going too overboard.
The latest season of the show, season five, is just as compelling and exciting as the four seasons before it. It primarily revolves around the failure of Vince’s latest movie, “Medellin,” which is ripped apart by critics, including Richard Roeper, and goes straight to DVD. This embarrassing failure introduces unexpected challenges for Vince as the conflict escalates and Vince has a tough time finding work.
Evidently, the famous saying in Hollywood is painfully true in Vince’s case: “You’re only as good as your last movie.”
Drama, on the other hand, continues to enjoy the commercial success of his latest show, finally gaining the stardom, or “victory,” as he would say, that he’s yearned for so long.
Turtle also enjoys personal success and makes a surprising connection with Jamie Lynn Sigler from “The Sopranos.” It seems that this relationship may actually last, considering that he reveals his real name to her, to the satisfaction of the show’s fans. Not even his best friends know this titillating information.
And meanwhile, Eric and Ari try vigorously to land Vincent a job. They succeed with a movie called Smoke Jumpers after a whole slew of trials, tribulations and favors, but the film’s director clashes with Vince. The film ultimately goes over-budget and gets cancelled, and Vincent is back to where he started: jobless.
All of these events build up to the season’s finale, which was a highlight in its presentation, but a disappointment in its conclusion.
It was a breath of fresh air to see the boys go back to their hometown, Queens, NY, where we learn some new stuff about each of the characters’ back-stories. It was interesting to finally see the neighborhood that the boys grew up in, reminding us that they’ve been friends since childhood who, despite their glamorous lives in Hollywood, still came from a very modest, if not poor, upbringing.
This fish out of water (or perhaps fish back in the water) situation also provided some much needed comical relief in the midst of Vince’s uncertain and dire circumstances. One scene in the season finale shows Turtle lying on his bed having phone sex with his new girlfriend. Meanwhile, his mother, who’s eavesdropping, unexpectedly barges in on the conversation: “Turtle. Who are you talking to like that in my house? Your father would roll over in his grave!”
The season finale also shows an emotional Vincent at his lowest point. In a fit of rage over his career’s failure, he throws Eric’s cell phone to the wall, a reaction that we’re not accustomed to seeing from Vince. He’s not as carefree as we think he is after all. Vincent, in the most climactic point of the whole season, is forced to fire Eric, his childhood friend turned manager.
The boys separate a bit from each other as Johnny invests in a bar with his old-time pal, Turtle focuses on his relationship with Jamie, and Eric continues without Vince, managing another one of his clients.
However, despite all of this encouraging development, I was a bit disappointed because the conflict was resolved at the end way too quickly. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but let’s just say that season six won’t be as interesting as it could have been if the conflicts weren’t resolved so soon and the entire season had ended somewhere near the point where Vince fired Eric.
Although “Entourage” and “Seinfeld” are two different genres, one a comedic drama, the other a sitcom, both parallel each other with their superb quality of writing and likeability of characters. If Seinfeld was the best show of the 20th century, contenders for best show of the 21st century face some serious competition from “Entourage.”