Season Premiere: Entourage – “Stunted”

“Stunted”

June 27th, 2010

There is a half-finished draft of a post wherein I vowed to give up on Entourage this season sitting on WordPress’ server, written late last week as I wrestled with this decision. I thought that this was going to be the season when I would finally break down and stop watching a show that I’ve unfairly subjected to indepth critical analysis despite the series’ complete lack of interest in any of the qualities which would warrant such indepth critical analysis. There’s a point where I would have to accept that the show I want Entourage to be is never going to exist, and that for better (or, far more likely, for worse), the show will remain as airy as it has ever been without any sense of consequence or real dramatic stakes.

And yet I think the necessary intervention is less about the twenty-two minutes a week I spend watching something so trifling and more about the half hour I sometimes spent analyzing it. While I would never defend the series’ quality, and certainly feel that it has devolved considerably since its initial potential, the show’s seventh season has started off without any pretensions as it relates to what kind of show this is. The show’s problem in the past is that it has contained elements which could be a more interesting series if they were only allowed to play out until their logical (and complicated) conclusions, but “Stunted” has no such elements: it’s quick, it’s simple, and its entire plot can fit comfortably into a cable listings logline.

And so, both because I won’t be alone and because Autumn Reeser personally told me I should continue watching on Twitter, I’m going to keep watching, albeit without taking out my critical frustrations on a show completely disinterested in changing.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Vince as a “successful” movie star (while he was making movies last season, he was all depressed doing it), so it’s almost disarming to see him so comfortable in terms of his general position in life. He’s not bugging Ari to get another project, and he’s not dealing with drama within the Entourage; instead, he’s just a movie star who is afraid of doing his own stunts and who eventually feels like he needs to prove something to the people around him. It’s a very simple little story, but in its simplicity lies its value: it wasn’t funny, or that particularly tense or interesting, but the notion of how doing one’s own stunts affects them is actually something that a show like Entourage is ideally suited to contend with, presuming that we don’t expect a deep psychological investigation. In other words, if the show is a low-stakes look into the life of a big shot actor, then this is precisely the kinds of stories that are downright logical.

Without Vince in peril, the stakes are lower than they’ve ever been, but it actually feels like the scenarios within the show match the low stakes we always tend to see: E’s relationship with Sloan is in great shape, Turtle’s business is doing well outside of one particularly useless but attractive employee, and while Drama is struggling for a job his character is the one character whose struggles never feel like they’re weighed down, as he’s impossible to take seriously and Lloyd as his agent adds another level of earnestness to the scenario. Of course, I’m sure that E’s engagement will go south, and that Turtle’s business will become compromised, and Drama will end up trying to have sex with a producer in an effort to get his way onto a show within his eight-week deadline. But for these brief moments, the show is about people trying to make it, dealing less with their lives spiraling out of control and more with the daily business they call show (or limousine rentals).

One of the ways in which Entourage has changed over time is that it has become numerous different shows: Eric is off in his own world, Turtle has a business, Drama has a stalled career, and Vince is off making movies. Perhaps the biggest problem now is that whenever the whole gang gets together, or when Ari (who apparently runs the biggest agency in the world) has time to deal with their situations personally, it seems forced: it’s like they’re only sticking together, or hanging out this much, because that’s the series they’re stuck in. This is especially the case with Ari, and if I have one critical request of the remainder of the season it’s that Ari get to have his own storylines and that the other characters have to swim on their own for a while. Thankfully, Autumn Reeser’s return should help out a bit on that front, but it’s still something that will forever hold the show back.

Yes, I’m aware that I watch Entourage wrong: I don’t particularly care about guys hanging out, or the attractive women who hang out with them (Emmanuelle Chriqui withstanding), or any of the other elements of what has made the show so successful. At the end of the day, I want this show to live up to the potential found within its premise, and seven seasons in I think an episode like “Stunted” is the best they’re going to be able to do. It’s not particularly funny, and it’s not what I’d call particularly entertaining, but it’s the exact sort of inoffensive episode that makes me appreciate the fun Entourage used to capture and the kind of show that I’m willing to spend twenty minutes a week watching, if not writing about. And so while I’ll likely tweet about future episodes, consider this my final word on Entourage until the point where it does something so objectionable that I can’t resist commenting, or the point that HBO decides to cut the cord and the series’ legacy gets thrown into the harsh light of critical analysis once more.

Cultural Observations

  • Intriguing if largely useless cameo from Nick Cassavetes, although casting directors for cameos who can actually act pretty well is probably a good idea.
  • The more exciting cameo, for me personally, was Top Chef Season Five’s Stefan as the chef checking up on Eric and Sloan’s lunch.
  • …that’s all I’ve got.
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1 Comment

Filed under Entourage

One response to “Season Premiere: Entourage – “Stunted”

  1. Zach

    I’ll be honest, Entourage is not the kind of high quality show that I’m proud of watching, but I enjoy watching the implausibly awesome lives of these characters. Thanks for bothering to review the best piece of escapism on tv. SITC got a lot of acclaim and respect, what exactly sets this show below that one?

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