After sputtering towards the end of season four, HBO’s once addictively entertaining showbiz comedy “Entourage” returned to DVD shelves last week, with the release of it’s fifth season, where it appears to have pretty much officially run out of gas.
Though I was ready to rip the show for being past its prime, it did do something I didn’t expect it to do — it ended strongly. The show was able to siphon enough energy to help it turn out to be, at the very least, watchable. Enough bad metaphors, it’s review time.
The season begins with Vince (Adrian Grenier) hiding out in Mexico with Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) after the very public tanking of his Pablo Escobar bio-pic “Medellin,” has badly damaged his Hollywood standing. After hearing of a possible role for their un-castable friend, Drama, Eric and Ari make their way down to try to con”vince” (tee-hee) him to return. When the lead turns out to be false, the primary focus of the season is Vince’s attempt to land a role. Any role.
The main problem I had with this season is the show seems to be treading the same water it has been treading throughout its run and things are getting stale. The idea of Vince struggling to work his was back up to respectability was an intriguing one, but it wasn’t handled in a way that differed from his life beforehand. I realize he isn’t working, but other than getting laid less than usual, it feels like we are watching the same episodes we’ve already seen. The desperation of manager Eric and agent Ari to get him work doesn’t make the situation seem any fresher, and the first eight episodes really tried my patients.
While my complaints of everything staying the same are real, the biggest problem was something that was changed. While Jermey Piven (who is excellent) gets all the attention for his role as loud mouth Ari, my favorite performance has always been by Kevin Dillon, playing Vince’s oafish actor older brother Johnny Drama. In the first four seasons, Dillon played the role of buffoon so perfectly and with such unearned swagger that nearly every word that came out of his mouth made me laugh. If he wasn’t TV’s funniest character, he was at least its most underrated.
And what do they do with him? For the first four episodes Drama is a jealous love-struck dope and all of the characters comedic brilliance is completely lobotomized. He eventually returns to form, but he never recovers and I left the season disappointed with his character, and that’s something I never expected to feel when watching “Entourage.”
But as I mentioned above it wasn’t all bad, as to my surprise the final disc of this three disc set was surprisingly strong. All the desperate begging and pleading led to Vince landing the second lead role in a film called “Smoke Jumpers.” At first I found it enjoyable that they were at least breaking from the monotony from the first eight episodes, but I had no anticipation of being surprised with the story’s progression.
But I was. I don’t want to give anything specific away, so I’ll just say “something” happens during the filming of “Smoke Jumpers” and sets Vince on another potentially destructive path. While the season does end in a way you may expect, the way it gets to its conclusion isn’t predictable. It’s a real shame this sort of inspiration wasn’t present for the season’s first two-thirds.
In addition to the drama with Vince there’s also Eric’s management of an upstart comedian played by rapper Bow Wow, but I didn’t find this storyline overly compelling. I did however like a romantic series of events involving Turtle and ex-Sopranos actress Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who plays herself. It is arguably the best storyline Turtle has been a part of and gives his character much needed depth.
Despite my pleasure with the ending, I cannot give this DVD a recommendation, because the bad still outweighs the good two-to-one. I guess the highest praise I would give it is that if you were a fan who gave up on the show half-way through season five, there’s at least a respectable ending and you likely wouldn’t regret going back on good faith and finishing the collection of episodes.
One knock you could always put on “Entourage” is that it’s shallow, misogynistic and doesn’t really contain much substance. While this is true, it has always been very good at being a shallow, misogynistic and substance-free show. For much of its earlier run, it was enthralling and consistently funny. Well, despite a strong final third, those days seem to be coming to an end.
The appeal of “Entourage” to me is that through the first three seasons, it kept getting better and its characters continued to get more interesting. But since an excellent third season (a must-see) the show has gotten progressively less enjoyable. There is an ironic moment where Vince declines a role on a TV show because he doesn’t want to get stuck playing the same character year after year. All the actors on this show are good in their roles, but it’s just grown hard to continue caring about them. Maybe it’s time they follow the advice of their on-air leader and put this show to rest.
- Well acted
- Ends strongly
- First two-thirds are boring and repetitive
- Show is clearly running out of steam
- Seriously, of all the things to fuck with, why Johnny Drama?
Final Score: 6.0/10
Season Five is in stores now. “Entourage” begins its sixth season this Sunday at 10:30 on HBO.