Category Archives: Entourage

Entourage – “Unlike a Virgin”

“Unlike a Virgin”

September 14th, 2008

Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Mad Men, but part of me can’t help but listen to Ari’s big pep talk to Vince about his future and wonder whether there is some type of meta-commentary about the series itself hidden within. His argument is that Vince is a movie star, not an actor: the reasons he has been successful have nothing to do with his abilities, and as a result he needs to get a big studio picture and return to being someone who cares about the machinations of “the game” that is the movie industry.

Of course, the general argument I hear about Entourage is that it’s just supposed to be escapist fun, that it’s supposed to be about the escapades of this actor and his friends he’s brought with him to the big show and not about complicated storylines; in other words, in this parallel, it’s a movie star and not an actor. I think the problem though is that, like Vince, the show stopped caring about it: yes, it went through the motions in its fourth season, occasionally resulting in some decent comedy, but the show stopped caring about itself.

I don’t know if the writers were pointing ahead to their direction for the season, but the episode itself did a wonderful job of reminding us how Entourage works best: tongue-in-cheek guest appearances, Vincent Chase growing as a character in a way that’s actually interesting to watch, Eric stepping outside of Vince’s shadow in a way that brings Carla Gugino back onto our television screens, and letting Turtle and Drama be Turtle and Drama without overplaying them.

The end result is a show that feels like its been around the block once or twice, has learned from its mistakes, and just might be ready to combat my fervent skepticism about the show’s future

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Season Premiere: Entourage Season Five – “Fantasy Island”

“Fantasy Island”

September 7th, 2008

When I was a guest on the /Filmcast After Dark last week, we were previewing the shows to look forward to this fall, and I’ll admit to being somewhat negative about Entourage. Actually, scratch that ‘somewhat’: my exact language was that the fourth season of Entourage was, well “sh*t.” And I’ll stand by that statement: opening and closing with interesting bookends of the Medellin journey, the rest of the season was one long waiting game that never went anywhere new, interesting or funny enough to justify its lack of plot.

Of all of the shows I review here at Cultural Learnings, or elsewhere, Entourage seems to be the most resistant to the very concept of criticism: many have argued with me that it’s just a show about adolescent wish fulfilment, about these characters living the Hollywood dream, and that any attempts to read into its depth or its plot are misguided and, at worst, pointless. I won’t attempt to argue that the show, as a half hour comedy, is not attempting to be equivalent to, say, Mad Men, but the show has demonstrated in the past its ability to bring something more than just juvenile comedy to its characters and its settings.

The thing about “Fantasy Island” is that the show has once again reminded me of how good it can be, seamlessly integrating commentary on the state of the film industry with the type of comedy that’s just guys being guys. Transitioning from Vince’s Mexican sabbatical into his new reality as a Hollywood has-been, the episode touches on E’s transformation into a mini-Ari, deals with the continued fallout of Medellin on Ari, Vince and E’s lives, and includes enough small if insignificant moments for Drama and Turtle to feel like the gang is getting back together in a meaningful fashion.

And unlike last season, where everything was downhill after a strong and witty premiere, I feel like the show is actually moving towards something that feels like a story arc related to its characters. And while there’s every chance that it could fall off in the end, for now I have to admit it: Entourage’s fifth season is not, as of yet, sh*t.

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Liveblogging the 2007 Primetime Emmy Awards

Welcome to Cultural Learnings’ LiveBlog for the 2007 Emmy Awards! We’ve done a week’s worth of coverage leading up to this moment, and now it’s time to see how the awards turn out, starting with the one-hour pre-show and moving into the three-hour broadcast. So stay tuned to see just how much the Academy is going to miss The Sopranos during tonight’s Emmys broadcast.

[With the show now over, Cultural Learnings has posted its Highlights and Lowlights post that summarizes a lot of the feelings within this LiveBlog. Admittedly, there isn’t 7000 words there, so it’s a bit easier to digest. – Myles]

6:57 pm: Everything is set – admittedly, I’m watching on my snowy antenna connection, but it’s more than adequate to be able to tell Ryan Seacrest from Brian Dunkleman.

7:00pm: And we’re here with…Mark Steines! And…Laila Spencer? Someone from The Insider. And it is Ellen Degeneres to open the show, which is perhaps fitting considering her nomination in Individual Performance in a Variety Series. Her prediction: Tony Bennett. I really want Colbert to jump her at this point. However, I do believe she is quite good at this: she called Elaine Stritch beating her a few years back. Doesn’t bode well for Colbert.

7:02pm: Oh, I hate this person! Ugh, poor Kate Walsh, has to deal with this Britney Spears question. She does not deserve this type of idiotic punishment. Are they seriously going to try to milk this entire preview pretending Britney Spears is going to publicly apologize to the ENTIRETY of humankind? Because no.

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Emmys 2007: Much Ado About Scene-Stealers in Supporting Actor (Comedy)

One is a multi-camera comedy series that has a laugh track on CBS. The other is a single-camera comedy series airing on HBO. And yet, both How I Met Your Mother and Entourage share one key factor: outside of their core drama, but related to it, there is a character who becomes the real reason to watch the series. In reality, Jeremy Piven (Entourage) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) are lead actors in the eyes of many viewers, and in the episodes submitted for Emmy consideration they claim ownership to their respective series. And this makes them, in the end, the front-runner and the dark horse in this Emmy race.

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Entourage – “No Cannes Do”

You know, outside of an extremely lazy episode title, last night’s episode of Entourage was actually quite good…okay, that was kind of a lie, I’m ambivalent towards the episode as a whole. But KANYE was there. I’m biased towards Mr. West, and perhaps I’m biased against Entourage recently.

The episode had some decent plot progression, but my general complaint is that I feel as if it will all be rewritten in time. While I like the return of celebrity cameos, I feel like they’re being used as distraction from the fact that we spent yet another episode in pre-Cannes mode. I think that they earned this episode in comparison to the entirely non-Cannes episodes that preceded it, but I still tire of the delays.

But even what happens in the episode just gets erased in the end, or perhaps eventually: Ari and his wife resolved their fight by the end of the episode, the Entourage were off to Cannes without a hitch within hours of the airport closure, and this episode might as well have not happened…except for the apparent resolution of the Anna Faris storyline.

I say apparent because I’m not convinced that it’s over: in order for there to be drama at Cannes, there absolutely needs to be a split of Eric and Vince. It’s inevitable: after ending 3.0 with Ari and Vince breaking up, I think that Season Four (However long it ends up officially being after next year’s episodes) will end in the split between the actor/manager combo.

Which is why I’m unlikely to be saying goodbye to Anna Faris immediately. We have nothing but E’s hear say evidence as to her firing him, or having no chance at a romantic future: unless she suddenly had to go shoot a movie, getting rid of her offscreen like that doesn’t make any sense. I may have a bit of a harsh opinion of the series recently, but my view is that Doug Ellin and company aren’t that stupid.

The show doesn’t have enough drama inherently found within Cannes to survive without any of it. Cannes, like Sundance, represents a place where that drama will be heightened, and it makes sense for it to be E and Vince’s creative differences that are most effected. This is, after all, the film that created the rift if you will. Which is why I’d expect Eric setting off on his own with Anna, following the Cannes premiere.

But that’s just speculation: for now, everything seems rosy for the Entourage as they fly to Cannes. With Kanye.

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Entourage – “Snow Job” Review

Entourage Review

“Snow Job”

August 19th, 2007

I can’t help but feel that tonight’s episode was a personal shoutout to attempt to stymie my cynicism regarding the series. First, the series offers an explanation for my criticism of Drama’s apparent lack of work on his TV series (“The joys of an ensemble cast, two day work week”), and then it name drops Nova Scotia (Where I’m from) as the location where Silo is set at the episode’s conclusion. And, although it could just be a coincidence, I also like a lot of what the episode did.

I’ve always been a fan of Dana Gordon, and seeing Ari be in a more agent-like role was a nice change of pace compared to a few off weeks for his character in terms of relevance. The entire drama regarding Billy writing a script about a group of non-unionized farmers who survive a nuclear apocalypse was very well handled, and it was nice to see it done in a single episode. It allows us to move onto Medellin and Cannes sooner, rather than later.

Plus, I think it was a great opportunity to further extend E’s disconnect from Vince on a lot of key issues: Eric didn’t like Medellin after all, and he probably won’t be too keen on Silo either. Clouds was a project that had some level of clout and prestige, and it’s being replaced by something…very different. And I don’t think that was part of Eric’s vision. It makes me wonder whether we’ll be seeing E and Vince part ways professionally at some point in the near future.

The episode could have been more subtle (Walsh went from about to kill himself to perfectly stable a bit too quickly for my liking), and I have to admit that E dealing with Anna Faris’ dick of a boyfriend was not funny or engaging for a single second. But, considering that was fairly marginalized within the episode, and Eric couldn’t just be stuck out in the Hills for no reason, I’m willing to put up with it when the overall aim of the episode was achieved.

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Entourage – “The Young and the Stoned” Review

Entourage Review

“The Young and the Stoned”

August 12th, 2007

Eric was out spending time searching for another palatial mansion for the entourage to live in when he was rear-ended by Anna Faris [IMDB]. Honestly, I wish that Entourage would get rear-ended. It’s the right kind of accident for the show: it wakes you up from your current state without damaging the internal organs that make you, well, operate.

This episode did a lot of things right, and maybe the series did get rear-ended after all. Anna Faris’ guest appearance was perhaps one of the most seamless of the series recently, and the episode-ending twist was perhaps my favourite of the season thus far. It promises that the series is finally heading in a new direction that creates real drama and real conflict.

It’s unfortunate, though, that the remainder of the episode wasn’t up to the same challenge. Ari as possessive and jealous fits his character, but it doesn’t really do anything new. Also, I know Perrey Reeves was added as a full time cast member, and the Young and the Restless involvement was great, but her character feels really off as of late and I don’t know why. She just seems really shrill and floaty; she always seemed to be above that kind of stuff, but now it’s all she does as if Ari is the sane one in some ways.

Also, unfortunately, there continues to be not a stitch of advancement in either the Clouds script that Walsh is writing or Medellin at Cannes or, well, anything. Vince, Turtle and Drama just sat around and smoked some weed; while not a terrible storyline by any means, it was basically a complete waste of time. While I know Vince is out milking his advance, it wasn’t until sitting with E at the bar at the end of the episode that he actually mattered. It wasn’t a bad filler plotline, but it was nonetheless filler.
Still, the fact that E is becoming Anna Faris’ manager is an ideal situation for the series; it creates tension between the Entourage, it creates tension between Vince and E specifically, and it creates real life drama. Faris’ acting is right on par with the series’ sense of reality, and on the whole things are looking up. I just wish they’d look a little more in the direction of the storylines the series dropped.

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Summer TV Wrapup: Most Disappointing Show – “Entourage”

One of the hazards of being a television critic of sorts (If I am able to call myself that, which seems doubtful) is that some people believe that certain shows aren’t “allowed” to be criticized. They are above criticism, something that is just supposed to be fun or meaningful without being prodded, questioned, or subjected to any form of analysis outside of funny or not funny, good or bad. It’s not that they always love the show, but rather that they believe that things like character development, character consistency and storylines aren’t qualities that make the series what it is.

One of these shows is Entourage, a show that I’ve been quite literally attacked for criticizing at any level above “Meh, that episode was okay, I guess.” And don’t get me wrong: I think that things can be over-analyzed, and I guarantee you I do it quite often. However, I want to make a case that Entourage is not only capable of being criticized, but that it is also deserving of my criticism.

Why? Because Entourage, without a doubt, is the Most Disappointing Show of the 2007 Summer TV Season.

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Entourage – “Gary’s Desk” Review

Entourage Review

“Gary’s Desk”

This is an important step for Entourage, because Eric has been a fairly worthless character for quite some time. He’s been Vince’s lackey instead of being Vince’s manager for pretty well the entire season (Ari’s exact words are that he’s spend the last few years hibernating in Vince’s ass), and now he’s finally trying to break through on his own. The result is a refreshing combination of Eric being uncomfortable and the return of my favourite Entourage cameo actor, Gary Busey.

The writing seemed sharper this week, compared to the last few weeks worth of episodes. I’ll admit it right now, I’m a sucker for the eccentricities of Gary Busey; it’s one of those aspects of the series that made me laugh the first time around. In fact, the episode was chock full of celebrity cameos: Mary J. Blige, Peter Jackson, and of course Busey. Combine it with the return of Debi Mazar, if briefly, and you have quite the episode.

I like that the episode provided some sort of structure to move forward with for E’s character. As a manager, a real manager, he can actually have something to do other than simply walking alongside Vince. The article about Nepotism is Variety is entirely true: Eric has worked hard, but he got where he is entirely based on his relationship with Vince. Now, he has to test that out in new horizons.

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Entourage – “The Day F*ckers” Review

Entourage Review

“The Day F*ckers”

After last week’s episode that was outright distasteful in many ways it would have been nice to return to some strong hollywood satire as we head towards Cannes. And, well, what we got was an oversexed and light-hearted trip into the world of these four friends. However, on the list of directions I wanted Entourage to take, emo relationship drama was not particularly one of them. In fact, it might have been on the bottom of my list.

That’s not to say this was a terrible episode of Entourage; as far as these really light and inconsequential episodes go, this one wasn’t particularly awful. But it just had no purpose: Ari’s storyline has been drawn out and neither funny nor dramatic, Eric’s love life has never been entertaining (Although Sloan remains as hot as ever), and Turtle and Drama’s antics were just as ludicrous as ever. The episode just kind of sat there, not doing anything except advance Eric’s love life that tiny little baby step forward.

But do we really care about what happens next? I mean, did we really need an entire 24 minutes so that Eric could have relationships without being hung up on Sloan? I mean, I’m glad that Vince finally got some for what seems like the first time in ages, but was that really worth an entire episode in the grand scheme of things? I don’t really think so, in any possible way. As much as I think that the show can stop on these story points every now and then, I would at least like to think they’re driving towards something.

Maybe instead of f*cking the day away, they might consider planning for Cannes next week.

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