After eight seasons, 95 episodes and more than 100 guest appearances, the HBO comedy-drama series “Entourage” came to an end Sunday night. Though the show enjoyed commercial and critical success, receiving 25 Primetime Emmy nominations during its run from 2004-11, it will ultimately go down as a Hollywood fantasy that had more style than substance.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve watched every episode and enjoyed them all – some much more than others. Yet, considering the entirety of the series, it fell far short of greatness.
Four childhood friends from Brooklyn and a mouthy Hollywood agent are what sold this show to its national audience. Each of them brought their own brand of sarcastic banter to the table.
There’s Vincent Chase, the pretty boy movie star played by Adrian Grenier, his C-list actor, half-brother Johnny “Drama,” Chase appropriately played by Matt Dillon’s brother, Kevin, his best friend and manager Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), his lovable mooch of a friend, Turtle, (Jerry Ferrara) and his cutthroat and often hysterically cruel agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Together they make up the posse that has starred in every episode.
None of them had ever played a starring role in film or television before “Entourage.” In fact, aside from Piven, I’d be willing to wager that most fans of the show know them only by their character names. Vince is the only real celebrity on the show, but, as the series goes on, his friends become just as well-known.
In real life, the popularity of the series has propelled each of these previously unheard of actors beyond the “popular-by-association” status of their characters. Want to be famous? Just star in a show all about how famous you are.
The show sent some positive messages about loyalty and the dangers of mixing business and friendship. Most of the interactions among characters involved one of them asking the others for advice while they tease and prod him to no end.
The witty remarks and snappy dialogue sums up half of the show’s appeal – what you would expect from a comedy.
Here’s where it starts to go downhill. The bulk of the story throughout the series centers on Vince as he deals with blockbusters, flops and projects that fall apart. The characters and story are loosely based on the acting career of the show’s producer, Mark Wahlberg. But in season two, Vince’s superhero movie, “Aquaman,” breaks the opening weekend box-office record. Wahlberg’s “Planet of the Apes” was alright, but it made about half of what “Aquaman” fictitiously made.
For this reason, I would consider Entourage the movie star myth – a story that, while entertaining, does not adhere to reality in any way. Creators chose to take a light-hearted approach to the story. Very little goes wrong for the crew, and even things that do go poorly end up being resolved twice over.
Maybe the message was meant to be that, with your best friends at your side, everything works out. If that was their intention, then it was shrouded in materialism, with characters hopping from mansion to mansion in Aston Martins and taking private jet trips on a whim. If one watched the whole series and tallied up the entourage’s expenses, I don’t think even Leonardo DiCaprio could maintain that lifestyle for three additional people at the age of 30.
Somewhere in the middle of the series all of the characters began to get too busy to always be hanging out. In turn, the majority of the later episodes consist mainly of phone conversations. While this might be realistic for busy Hollywood types, it makes for pretty terrible television.
The episodes thus became formulaic: 10 phone calls, plus two sex scenes, plus one pot-smoking scene, plus two celebrity guest stars equals one episode of “Entourage.”
With season eight, “Entourage” faced the near-impossible task of having a good ending. It wasn’t the worst finale, but it did leave many questions for those who care about the characters. This was most likely due to only having eight episodes to finish things off. In the finale, they played the typical cards – pregnancy, marriage and reconciliation. It was happy, but it felt forced and empty.
The cast has kept the buzz alive by mentioning plans to film a movie and leaving an extra scene after the finale credits with Ari receiving a very lucrative job offer. But an “Entourage” movie would only damage how fans remember it.
While the series did have its shortcomings, it was, at the very least, unique. It wasn’t a sitcom because it had ongoing storylines, but it was far too shallow to be considered drama.
In the end, I’d call it simply “fun.” However, in its entirety, “Entourage” hovered slightly above mainstream mediocrity.