Tag Archives: Johnny Drama

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.

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Entourage – “Runnin’ on E”

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“Runnin’ on E”

August 2nd, 2009

When I sat down to watch the latest episode of Entourage, I took some notes. Half of them were less than four words long. The other half were about Autumn Reeser. Such is Season Six of Entourage.

To be honest with you, I think it’s a welcome change of pace: the fifth season had me wanting to rant about the show every week, but right now the show is so consistent in its absolute mediocrity that I really don’t have much to add. Any chance of the show really breaking from formula has been put on hold, with Vince’s movie delayed, Eric’s independence floundering, Turtle’s trip to college pretty tame and Drama’s career in the exact same place you’d normally expect it to be.

And I’m happy with all of it, really – sure, I’m still convinced the show is capable of being more than it is, but in its current mode I find it breezy and light, an ideal summer show instead of a frustrating summer disappointment.

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Season Premiere: Entourage – “Drive”

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“Drive”

July 12th, 2009

This review is going to be hugely hypocritical for anyone who’s followed my…less than friendly relationship with Entourage.

See, I’ve always been of the mind that the show is at its best when it engages with its dramatic elements, and taps into something beyond “four bros hanging out.” It’s not a particularly popular opinion, as nearly everyone seems to disagree with me and lists their main reason for watching the show as “four bros hanging out,” but it’s the way the show works for me. And last season, I just kept getting more and more frustrated: the show had numerous opportunities to really engage with some real disruptions to Vince and E’s relationship, and to shake things up a little bit, and yet they refused to take them, leaving the dynamic intact as Vince’s career skyrockets.

So, on that criteria, I should have been really happy with “Drive,” which returns to the narrative with Vince riding a wave of Gatsby-related success but drifting apart from E, who is becoming successful in his own right and beginning to see the benefit of being more independent. The result is actually a really subtle statement about maturity, coupled with a couple of periphery storylines and a distinct lack of highly manufactured drama. Really, the episode should have been everything I should like in a half hour of Entourage: a little sex, a little drama, and more pathos than 99% of the show’s normal viewers like to see.

But, for a variety of reasons, I found this episode to be shockingly pedestrian in a way that baffles me. There was no zing to the one-liners, no bite to Ari Gold, and a distinct lack of any sort of dynamic between the signature foursome. While I’m actually kind of intrigued to see where they go from here, this half hour is the exact opposite of any of my past experiences: while before I found the plot lacking but enjoyed the show’s broad comedy for what it was, here I found absolutely nothing funny or clever to the point where even a storyline I should have liked did nothing for me.

Call me a hypocrite all you want, but this “Drive” never got out of first gear.

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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 – “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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