Category Archives: Entourage

Entourage – “Tree Trippers”

“Tree Trippers”

October 5th, 2008

No show knows how to waste time like Entourage.

“Tree Trippers” is straight out of the Entourage playbook: our group faces an important decision, which leads them on a quest of sorts that really just stretches out one sentence into an entire episode for the sake of being filled with antics, tongue-in-cheek celebrity cameos, and likely some sort of drug-based hallucinations.

Now, admittedly, I like my Entourage episodes to have a bit more plot, and this episode kind of struggled in that regard, but the season remains charming: whereas last year felt like nothing but episodes like this one strung along in a row, this feels like a worthwhile detour in order to recollect on the current situation.

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Entourage – “Fire Sale”

“Fire Sale”

September 28th, 2008

Let’s go through the laundry list of usual complaints labeled at Entourage: episodes are too short, not enough happens in the span of an episode, the show is dangerously cyclical in nature, and its major plot developments can be seen from about a mile away.

Now, as someone who was highly negative about the show’s fourth season for at least some of these reasons, forgive me for not being nearly as negative about the fifth season exhibiting some of the same traits. The difference between “Fire Sale” and some of the episodes I had trouble with last season is that the repetition and cycles were, then, about pointless antics of glorified children prancing around with their petty little lives. Here, meanwhile, the plot is circling around characters without glory, where the feeling of running in place is not just writers’ laziness but an actual reflection of the characters themselves.

Yes, not much happens in the span of the show’s twenty minute run time, but what does happen feels like the show continuing to tread carefully to the series’ grounding in an actor searching for his place in Hollywood. While I might be tiring, as many are, with the writers’ inability to find Drama something interesting to do, watching as E and Vince chart the group’s next path can circle around as long as it wants as long as it keeps Entourage this focused.

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Entourage – “The All Out Fall Out”

“The All Out Fall Out”

September 21st, 2008

From those who had seen screeners of the start of Entourage’s fifth season, it was this episode that in Alan Sepinwall’s words, that “gave [them] some faint hope that “Entourage” might be at least decent again.” A blisteringly paced half hour, it gave us two interesting, funny, and well-balanced storylines that interweaved in numerous recurring characters along with introducing yet more tension into our already complicated situation.

What it represents first and foremost, though, is that Entourage is a show still capable of being complicated without being bogged down by it – seeing as Eric loses sight of the script he’s selling for his new clients, or as Vince plummets further into bankruptcy, doesn’t feel tonally inconsistent with the sheer absurdity of Ari Gold’s feud with Adam Davies which involves human feces and male strippers. The show is at its worst when either of these two elements overpowers the other, but through some shrewd guest casting and some smart touches, “The All Out Fall Out” is, indeed, a harbinger of hope for Entourage.

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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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