For Your Consideration: Comedy Series – “Entourage”

[As part of Cultural Learnings’ For Your Consideration Emmy Nominations Preview, the next two weeks will feature 7 Drama Series and 7 Comedy Series worthy of Emmy consideration. Check back daily for a different series, with drama and comedy alternating positions. For all of Cultural Learnings’ Emmy Coverage featuring Supporting and Lead Acting candidates, check out our For Your Consideration Index.]

Outstanding Comedy Series

Entourage (HBO)

The lure of Entourage is something that fans of the series actually have quite a time coming to an agreement on. On the one hand you have those who are watching for an inside look at the lives of Hollywood’s elite. Certainly, this can be seen in the expensive cars, extensive parties, and the general actions that Vince and his cohorts are seen doing within the show. However, there are others who view it less as some sort of Hollywood investigation and more as your standard dramedy. The irony is that while I value the latter more, it is the prior that has led to the show’s awards season popularity as a series. While Jeremy Piven has gained accolades and awards for his work as Ari Gold, the series itself has begun to make its move with Golden Globe and SAG nominations. This year could well be the one where it makes its move on the Oustanding Comedy Series Emmy, and it would perhaps be fitting. The series has developed into a dramedy with not only its Hollywood trappings but also a sense of character. And its third season is one that is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Except here’s the thing: plot-wise, this season was actually fairly weak in a lot of places. The early parts of the season (Airing last summer) were especially bad for this, as Dom (Eric Goldberg) was just annoying and none of it seemed to go anywhere. The interlude with Bob Ryan and the Ramones film was good, but the Aquaman drama with Medellin never really clicked.

Since so many of these storylines are centered on Vince, I really think that his character is the one constantly getting sidelined. He’s never allowed to develop outside of his doe-eyed movie star mode, and that’s a problem. As he remains stagnant, the rest of the show’s characters were actually given a fair amount of dramatic movement.

Eric, although himself somewhat frustrating, became the show’s source of relationship drama in the absence of a relationship for Vince. Sloan is a great character, charming and funny, but this also didn’t really go anywhere. They had a threesome, they fought about how much Vince controls E’s life, it’s all what you’d expect.

But where the show has excelled is within supporting performances, specifically Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). What Entourage has always needed to do was establish supporting characters that could exist outside the realm of the “movie star” storyline to support it during its weaker moments. While that storyline saw some ups and downs all season, Drama and Ari actually came out looking pretty good, and kept the show’s quality high.

Drama was finally given an opportunity to spread his wings, if you will, outside of Vince’s fame. While he still had his usual awkward Drama storylines, he had gained immeasurable confidence by his successful audition for Ed Burns’ pilot. When the show returned from its long mid-season hiatus, Drama was a completely different character: he was still vulnerable, but the ego boost had done wonders. Dillon did great work during this period, and the show is now able to rely on Drama for plot support for the first time. I still find his character a bit tough to watch, like his arguments with Brett Ratner over Rush Hour 3, but the show doesn’t fall apart when it relies on him.

Similarly, the show continued to do fine work for Ari Gold. Perhaps realizing that Piven’s awards success was no fluke, the writers provided him with a strong arc that stood out the most amongst all characters. He goes from down on his luck agent trying to start his own firm, to having his plans to break out big be foiled, and then manages to pull it all together until he hits a wall: Vince fires him as his agent. His subsequent breakdown provided some of the show’s best comedy this year, but it also helped to sustain the show after a rough creative period.

And that’s really what Entourage has done well this season compared to the last few: the plot might have fallen off the rails at points, but the show can now say that it has an ensemble. Even Turtle, for pete’s sake, got a storyline of his own before it was summarily dropped. And the show came into its own in the final parts of the season as Medellin began to come together and Carla Gugino gave a great guest performance as Vince’s new agent.

I think that Entourage is not the most even show on television: some episodes are kind of iffy, and some storylines just never seem to click within the context of the show. However, I think that it still does things with its theme and premise that make it worthy of Emmy consideration. For those fans who enjoy the Hollywood reality aspect of things, the show does delve into some really cool political and social hazards of celebrity. And, for those of us looking for a more standard dramedy, the show is making headway and this through the development of key characters.

And I think there is a place in the Emmy comedy series lineup for a show that is developing and growing, and that hasn’t yet gotten its due. In a year when the comedy series lineup is either new shows or Emmy favourites in the past, I think that Entourage and shows like it deserve a chance to be recognized for their work in developing a series that can sustain themselves through tough times. Watching some episodes of Entourage, you can’t help but feel that the show deserves some level of recognition for someone other than Piven. Considering the buzz surrounding the show, this could well be that year.

Episode Selection: “One Day in the Valley” (Aired June 18th, 2006)

It may have aired over a year ago, but this second episode of the third season was the show’s real season premiere after the fairly weak “Aquamom” that preceded it. With Aquaman’s release pending, the box office record of Spider-Man looms large. As Vince and Co. head out to watch the film amongst the masses, a heat wave hits California and the result is rolling blackouts. And this is not good news for Vince and the gang.

With Ari frantically watching the box office results from the East Coast and with the gang trying to find a way to occupy their time, they end up at a high school party helping out some nerds. As Vince stands on the roof addressing the kids, Ari shows up with the news: Aquaman has broken Spider-Man’s record (Which was then shattered by Dead Man’s Chest a month late in reality).

The episode isn’t my favourite from the season, but I think that it’s the best submission because it is very easy to understand. Movie star is in hit movie, he wants hit movie to be a success, and he agonizes over it. Its conflict is resolved at the end of the episode, Ari has plenty of screen time (And conflict with Mrs. Ari, always good), and it feels like it captures those parts of Entourage that votes will latch onto. It has the Hollywood appeal, the personal charms, and is quite a good point for a first-time viewer to enter the series.

While fans of the series might not feel the episode indicates all of its best qualities, I think that Emmy panelists will like this episode far more than any others.

YouTube“One Day in the Valley”

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Filed under Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Entourage, Television

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