Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wanna Be Your Superhero...

New TV shows are always fun to anticipate: will this be my new favourite place to spend Sunday nights? Or will I hate it in the first 5 minutes and lambast it to all of my friends? Will I discover new writing talent? A new topic to write about? New actors? Or will I wonder how these people ever graduated from school, much less start their own TV shows?

And then there are the shows that we already love that are entering a new season. HBO and Showtime have had a bunch of new shows cropping up -- Nurse Jackie and Hung are the two prominent ones right now -- and because I was finishing my book I barely had time to open the packages much less pop in the DVDs (reviews on at least one coming soon). But when Entourage came to the house, I had to drop everything and watch it.

Entourage is one of those shows you either hate or love. The first time I saw it, I hated it. Immensely. Why would I want to spend my time with a bunch of boys who never left adolescence, who are politically incorrect horndogs who don't care about the famous guy in their midst so much as what they can get out of him? If I cared that much, I'd go and read a biography on Elvis and his Memphis Mafia.

But then I watched the series premiere a second time, and moved to the second episode. And by the third, I wondered where Ari Gold had been all my life.

YES this show is sexist and politically incorrect -- the verbal abuse Ari's "Gaysian" assistant Lloyd takes episode after episode alone is worth a mountain of sexual harassment suits -- but it's the fact that these lines EXPOSE the idiocy of their speakers, and doesn't buoy them up, that redeems them. In the first episode of season 6, when Lloyd threatens to quit if he doesn't get a raise and says he'll go work with his father, Ari counters, "In a dry cleaners?" His father actually owns a business, but that Ari would immediately assume that shows his narrow-mindedness -- and Lloyd's massive eyeroll and quick comeback makes the line hilarious and completely worth it.

The women are typically smarter than the men, despite being completely sexualized in every episode. But this season we move to a new topic: For five seasons we've watched these guys hanging off Vince as he completely carries them financially, giving them a place to live, cars, food. All he asks is that they stay by his side and be there when he needs to talk to them. Turtle is his driver; E is his manager; Drama, his stupid older brother, is the cook.

But what happens when you carry people for so long that you allow them to figure out a way to carve out their own financial -- and emotional -- independence? Turtle is dating Jamie Lynn-Sigler from the Sopranos. Drama has a role in a major NBC show. E not only manages Vince, but other stars. And Vince's star has been fading as of late, even though he's just appeared in a much-touted Scorsese film and has found himself back on top.

But suddenly these guys have other things to do at night. They have other places to be, and in one case, are moving out completely. As Vince wishes them all well in his laid-back, "Sure, no problem" way, the camera pans back to see him playing pool with himself, and you wonder, what does major Hollywood star do when the emotional net he's built for himself has a huge gaping hole in the middle of it? He can't just go out and find new friends or girlfriends -- he's a huge celebrity, and everyone will take advantage of him. And yet he can't expect his buddies to be hangers-on for the rest of his life. There's a telling scene where one of the guys goes out with a girl, and mentions she has a really cute friend, and Vince, who was settling in for a night with his TV, jumps up and says he'll come along. And then appears to be almost begging the girl to pay attention to him.

Season 6 has the same wit and craziness that it always did, but it's going to ask a new question: Who has become the focus, and who is now the entourage?


Unknown said...

I'm so glad that you are reviewing Entourage. I've loved this show from the beginning, but that last season or so has felt off to me and very slow moving. Though the season premier had some forced story lines, it seems to be getting back to it's roots with the humor and individual story lines, which is why I love it so much!

Loretta said...

I'm actually surprised that you're still loyal to Entourage... I found the first three or so seasons funny and entertaining--never great TV, but still worth the half hour--and have slowly come to grow bored with the same old tired plots. And since the plots have gotten old, and the characters were never what kept me around, I'm pretty sure the time has come for me to stop watching.

I didn't watch on Sunday (though that has more to do with me studying for the bar than with affirmatively deciding not to) but once I have more time again in a few weeks, I'm not really sure that I'll actually head to the On Demand channel and catch up.

Jeff Heimbuch said...

Despite all its ups and downs, I love Entourage.
I'm glad that they are changing it up this season, though, and throwing it all out of whack. Definitely some changes that the show needs to feel fresh again.