REVIEW: Entourage Series Finale (and addressing the haters)

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Because this was the finale to one of my favorite shows EVAR, I’ll do this review in the same style I do my full-length movie reviews.

Entourage struck me immediately when it debuted in 2004, because I love shows and movies that give you a peek behind-the-scenes at an industry or field I’m interested in, and Entourage, though slightly exaggerated because it’s primarily a comedy, is widely regarded and respected as the most accurate reflection of what modern Hollywood and “life at the top” in Los Angeles is actually like today. As someone who wants to work in this industry, it’s something that gripped my interest right away. Not only have I enjoyed these stories and these characters, but I’ve actually learned a lot of useful information about ‘the biz’.

My first impression of the finale? I liked it. I didn’t love it. That’s been my opinion of most of this final season. Season 8 was only 8 episodes long (which I do NOT approve of), and while every episode had some great moments, none of the episodes were great in their entirety. Also, this season was much more serious than normal. Calling season 8 of Entourage pure comedy is flat out false advertising. I think at 35 minutes, the finale was definitely too short. They should’ve gone 45 minutes to an hour, especially given how many characters they had to squeeze in for one last goodbye, and how many storylines they needed to wrap up. This is also evident in the cut scene during the end credits, which clearly is a tease for the oft-rumored, probably-will-never-be Entourage movie. I like the scene. It’s perfectly executed and it introduces a new potential conflict, but it didn’t add anything to this particular episode. All it was in essence was a giant teasing slap in the face to the fans of the show. In general, I’m sick to death of TV shows’ series finales ending with cliffhangers. Is it too much to ask for some FINALITY in a series FINALE?

As much as I’d love to see the show come back, I do feel that it’s ending at the right time. I still love these characters, but from what we saw this summer, there don’t seem to be a whole lot of places this show can go from here, and better to say goodbye in that situation than to drag things out unnecessarily and taint the good things you’ve already done. This final season was far from the best of the series, so I guess expecting a grand masterpiece of a finale would have been unrealistic in the first place.

WHAT I LIKED

The characters stayed true to the end. I love that even though their circumstances and station within the world have changed dramatically over the years, the essence of Vincent Chase, Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase, Turtle, and Eric Murphy have never changed. They’ve all gone through life changes, but their personalities, and the way they treat and think of each other has remained constant, and it was so through the very last moments of this finale. One of the appealing things about the show for most of its fans, aside from getting a fun glimpse inside Hollywood, is that these guys are friends first, and you feel that friendship during any conflict the show threw at them. Sure, playing a movie star who gets all the girls probably isn’t the greatest challenge in the world for an actor, but Adrian Grenier has never gotten enough credit for how good he’s been throughout the show. Vince has character traits that anyone can admire, notably his loyalty and the fact that he’s a highly principled person. I always loved that about the character. Here is a famous person who chose to hang out with his childhood friends instead of other celebrities. I think we all wish we would do the same if we had fame and fortune. And don’t forget Grenier did have a lot of good acting moments in season 7 when they had Vince date a porn star and get addicted to cocaine. That was a fantastic angle, and it completely reinvigorated the show last year. I love how in this season, the loyalty of Vince’s buddies is equally strong when it’s they who convince the girl of his dreams to give him a chance, after her repeated rebukes to Vince’s advances. They seal the deal on the one girl Vince could never get just by being Vincent Chase, movie star. That’s called symmetry, friendos.

Kevin Dillon‘s Johnny Drama is the loudest and proudest of the main characters, and also functions as the clown of the group. I just love the idea of the older brother to a movie star who struggles time and time again to get his own career off the ground. Of the 4 main guys, Dillon has probably had the most to do from a character standpoint over the years. He gets put in the most awkward (and funny) situations, and after Jeremy Piven, he gets all the best one-liners. But at the same time, he’s just as loyal as his little brother, and you’re always rooting for him to succeed, even though he never quite gets there. Hollywood success is as difficult for Johnny to get as it is easy for Vince.

Jerry Ferrara‘s Turtle probably made the most progress as a person through the show’s run. He started out as a kid just trying to leech girls off of his friend’s success, and ends the show having just become a millionaire in his own right (which sounds goofy, but if you’ve watched the show throughout, it’s completely plausible the way it unfolded). Entourage brings stark light to the one advantage I believe television has over movies, which is the ability to spend time developing secondary characters. If Entourage had only been a movie, Turtle would have been completely shafted and gotten the least screen time of the 4 characters. Instead, he’s a character we’ve come to know and love, who’s had his own relationships and subplots that most movies just don’t have time to get into. I know who my Turtle would be (I’m looking at you, Mr. Clark).

Kevin Connolly‘s “E” is probably the least likable character in the group, but he’s similar to Vince in his deep loyalties, so I never actively disliked him. He always had Vince’s best interests in mind, and was never afraid to tell people what he thought, which I like. I like that the “little man” in the group was the one who was the most feisty and hard-headed during confrontations. I think the reason he’s the least likable is simply because he’s the straight man in the group, and generated the fewest laughs of the 4 by far. I wasn’t a fan of the fact that these were New York guys, and even though the show was loosely based on Boston boy Mark Wahlberg‘s early experiences with his entourage, the show was run and creatively controlled for the most part by writer/executive producer Doug Ellin, a New York guy. That said, they remained New Yorkers who happened to live and operate in L.A. They never became L.A./Hollywood divas. There were constant reminders throughout the show of where they were from, and I can at least appreciate that.

The Ari Gold stuff. The best character on the show got a nice final story arc, and I’m happy it ended the way it did. A lot of stupid people don’t like that Ari “softened” over the years (he really didn’t), and this season he was certainly at his most vulnerable, but I think Jeremy Piven should get another Supporting Actor Emmy nomination for his work this year. The gorgeous and talented Perrey Reeves also did a great job during the Ari-Mrs. Ari separation. We even finally got to learn her character’s name (Melissa) in the second-to-last episode. I liked that even though we see Ari’s daughter in the finale (played by Cassidy Lerhman), we aren’t forced to endure Doug Ellin’s son Lucas playing Ari’s son Jonah again. I’ve said it before, this is the worst kind of Hollywood nepotism. The kid is not an actor, but nobody had the balls or clout to tell Ellin that, and he allowed his son to appear in key scenes in 12 different episodes over the years. We saw him twice earlier this season, and that was twice too many times.

I for one appreciate that Ari came to have some depth under the tough exterior that made him such a force. I’m no expert on TV history, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Ari Gold is one of the most compelling characters ever created for the medium. Above all else going forward, it’s Jeremy Piven playing Ari Gold I’ll miss the most. Speaking of Mrs. Ari, can I throw a quick OH HAI to the beautiful Perrey Reeves?

O, HAI!

Ladies, you can still look this good at 41. Just sayin. Something to aim for.

-I like that the end credits are set to Led Zeppelin‘s “Going to California.” One of the best aspects of Entourage over the years has been the fantastic music selection. I’ve looked up and downloaded many a new song based solely on hearing it on an episode of Entourage (HBO.com/Entourage lists every track used in every episode for easy reference). It’s how I discovered TV on the Radio‘s “Staring at the Sun” (now one of my all-time favorite songs) and many other great tracks from artists I previously knew little or nothing about. I love that the show’s soundtrack went out with a bang, even if the show itself didn’t. They truly pulled out all the stops on this episode from a budgetary standpoint. The reason you rarely hear Zeppelin tracks in movies or on TV is because 1) they just don’t like giving permission to use their catalogue, and 2) they charge a TON of cash to license their songs (from what I understand it’s $100,000-$250,000 minimum, which is a huge amount for any TV show, let alone a half-hour comedy). Well-played, whoever’s idea it was, not only to use Zeppelin, but the song selection was also perfect.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

-The show finishes with a total of 96 episodes. Why they couldn’t make 4 more for an even 100 I’ll never know (I’m very nitpicky about things like that, if you haven’t noticed), but given the manner in which things wrapped up, perhaps it was time to go. I’ve thought for a long time that once a good show is so out of ideas that they need to bring in The Pregnancy or The Wedding angles, that’s when it’s time for the show to go, no ifs ands or buts about it. In the final two episodes of Entourage, they introduced both angles. So maybe it was time to end it, before things got even more out of hand and they made Drama a serial killer or some shit like that.

-I’m not a fan of how they wrapped up the Vince/Sophia courtship at the beginning of the episode. Actually, “not a fan” is an understatement. I hated it. Sophia is the Vanity Fair writer (a wonderfully written part played beautifully by Alice Eve) who wrote a cover story on Vince, but steadfastly spurned his repeated romantic approaches, insisting she never dates her subjects, especially if they’re celebrities. For the first time, Vince had to really work to get a girl, and seemed humbled by her. I liked that, and I liked this new character a lot, but based on what we’ve been shown, there’s no reason at all to believe this woman would agree to a quickie marriage, especially a quickie marriage to a celebrity, AFTER ONE DATE. So I hated that, and as we just discussed, whenever a show introduces the wedding angle, that’s a Red Alert for the creativity police. Even more, we don’t even get to see this supposedly amazing date that Vince and Sophia go on which we’re told led not only to sex, but to Vince proposing to her and her agreeing to fly to Paris the NEXT DAY to marry him. That’s a lot of important stuff they DIDN’T show us. That date could possibly have opened this episode, and it was an amazing opportunity for some great writing. I wanted to see how Vince changed her mind, where they went on this date, what Alice Eve looks like in a state of undress (did I say that out loud?), etc. But of course, you couldn’t see how Vince changed her mind, because it wouldn’t have happened! And where was the epic bachelor party scene?! After appearing in some great scenes in the past 3 episodes, Sophia shows up at the very end of the finale, just so we can see her hop on the plane with Vince. It was a shitty, unrealistic conclusion to a promising final story arc for the show’s main character.

-I could have also done without the Eric/Sloan relationship taking center stage for the 459th time. These two were starting to feel like Ronnie & Sam on Jersey Shore; every time they’re arguing, or every time there’s a scene where their friends have to slap some sense into them, I just wanna cut my wrists and dive into a shark tank. At the same time, I find it hard to complain too much when the absolutely stunning Emmanuelle Chriqui is on the screen.

#Winning

I guess that’s all that really bugged me about the finale. Like I said, I thought it was pretty good, not great, as an individual episode, and only average as a series finale. It didn’t lessen my opinion at all on the series in general, because it was on par with the so-so quality of the rest of this particular season.

THE BIG PICTURE/THE MOVIE?

I don’t know exactly where Entourage fits amongst my all-time favorite TV shows, but I’m pretty confident that if I were to sit down and do a favorite TV shows list, it’d be in the top 10, maybe even top 5. For the record, the reason I haven’t made such a list, like I have with movies, is because there are about a dozen shows I still need to see that would potentially end up somewhere on that list (i.e. The Wire, The Sopranos, Lost, Seinfeld, The Office, Breaking Bad), so I don’t want to make the list then have to completely reorder it a year later.

Do I want an Entourage movie? I think I’m lukewarm at best on that whole idea. Of course I’d see it, but is there really that strong a story waiting to be told? I’d rather not have a movie than have one that’s disappointing that was probably only made as a money grab. Regardless, the odds of it actually happening in the next 5 years are somewhere between slim and none, primarily because the show’s creators are already involved in other projects (Doug Ellin just signed up with HBO to create a show with Spike Lee and Mike Tyson about a boxer [CHECK IT OUT], which is being labeled as ‘Entourage meets The Wire‘). Hollywood loves making shitty movies out of old TV shows, but when it comes to making movies out of recently finished shows, it almost never happens, mostly because the key creative people have moved on, and can’t/won’t take the time to go back and revisit something they just said goodbye to. Actually, you can hardly blame anyone for that. And when it did happen recently, it was 2 Sex and the City movies. Just ask the fans of Arrested Development how their movie is coming along. There are probably a half-dozen recent shows that the creative people say they’d love to see as movies. I’ll piss myself when the 24 movie becomes reality, but I’m not counting on it. I don’t see an Entourage movie happening anytime soon, whether we want it or not, just like I’ll believe this new Friday Night Lights movie exists when I see it. I’m not getting my hopes up. How long did it take for The Simpsons Movie to finally happen? At least a decade, and the results were mixed at best.

Until I see the official announcement that the movie has a script and a green light, Entourage is over for me, and I’m thankful for the 7 years and 8 seasons I spent with it. My HBO love takes a week-long break, but rolls on next Sunday, when Boardwalk Empire‘s second season gets underway.

For today’s Recommended Listening, we’ll go out as Entourage went out, to Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”:

The Hollywood Reporter did a great retrospective piece with quotes from the show’s stars and creators. [Secrets from the Boys of Summer]

-And let’s not forget one of the most appealing parts of watching this show on a weekly basis; the amazing and varied cameos. Here is a place where Entourage will never be topped. [20 Unforgettable Hollywood Cameos]

POURING OUT THE HATERADE

Since the show is now over, let me turn my attention for a moment to all the Entourage haters out there. You know who you are. Many of you are my personal friends. For those unaware, for several years, Entourage has been one of those entertainment “things” that’s cool/popular/trendy to hate on (though with 25 Emmy nominations and 6 wins over the years, thankfully the industry and most critics didn’t jump on that bandwagon). Like, people can’t wait for an opportunity to make some smartass remark about the show. Every time I make a positive comment about the show on Facebook, or anytime I say I’m excited to watch it, I can count on one of 4 or 5 people to say something negative or make some kind of snarky comment. It never fails.

What I find strange is that a lot of Entourage haters are people who don’t even watch the show, which immediately allows me to dismiss their criticism, if only because it’s so ignorant of the facts. But for the sake of argument, and for my intellectual curiosity, let’s break it down further.

The most common complaint I see about the show is something to the effect of, “These guys always get everything they want.” What I see there is people complaining about happy endings, which is strange, because you don’t really see that very often with regards to other TV shows or movies. I’m sorry, I forgot Entourage was the first piece of entertainment with happy endings for the main characters. This is entirely new ground we’re covering here. Wait, no, it isn’t.

I’m wondering, haters, what would you have happen to these characters that would be satisfactory? Is it the type of success these characters enjoy that rubs people the wrong way? “Oh, this one ends with Vince getting paid $10 million to star in a Scorsese movie. What a shocker.” This is the type of shit you hear from the haters, as if that one-liner description encompasses the entirety of what that episode or season was about. People don’t wanna see a movie star character succeed? Is that it? Does it boil down to envy? Or is it more that a lot of people find these characters unlikable, and of course you’re not gonna feel good about people you find unappealing having things go their way. That logic I can sort of understand, but if you don’t like the characters, why are you watching the show? Well, most of the haters don’t watch the show, so I’m assuming the reason you see that one criticism over and over again is because that’s what the internet is saying is wrong with the show, so if the internet says it, the haters don’t have to watch the show to think they’ve got it nailed. My friends, that’s a pathetic way to form an opinion.

The appeal of Entourage isn’t finding out whether or not Ari can get Vince the lead role in a big new movie, or about what kind of cars he’s gonna buy his friends with that money or how much fun they’re gonna have in Vegas. No, it’s how they get there that’s funny or dramatic or surprising. It’s the journey. Just like almost EVERY MOVIE or EVERY TV SHOW or EVERY BOOK, where you go in pretty much knowing how it will end. Guy will get the girl, team will win the big game, aliens will be defeated, whatever. You know what the end result will be, but we still show up. Why? To find out HOW THEY GET THERE. Most movies and TV shows don’t end with the bad guy winning or the good guy not getting what he wanted. So why should the Entourage characters not get what they were after? I don’t hear this complaint about the 9 trillion episodes of the various Law & Order or C.S.I. series. I’ve never heard someone say, “Lemme guess, they arrest the criminal in the end.” So again, why is it so cliché or boring that episodes of Entourage have a happy ending for the protagonists? ANYONE?

In fact, that assumption is actually flat out wrong a lot of the time. I’d bet at least half of the show’s episodes ended on a cliffhanger or with some or all of the characters in various forms of trouble or conflict. And in truth, Vince is the only one who consistently saw success, but even that stereotype was shattered in season 7. Also, a great deal of season 5 hinged primarily on how Vince’s passion project absolutely tanked, and how he was left with almost no money and no clout afterwards. I guess the haters forget that. Or they never knew it, because they don’t watch the fuckin show.

I’ve made a conscious effort in recent years not to criticize anything I don’t know much about. And if I do criticize a show or movie I haven’t seen or don’t watch (True Blood, for instance), I make a point to say that I don’t have things in context. For example, instead of saying, “I just watched 15 minutes of True Blood and saw a gay black vampire turn into a werewolf. This show is insanely stupid!”, I’ll say, “I haven’t watched a single full episode of True Blood, but based on how fucking weird what I just saw was, I don’t understand how the show has such a cult following” or “I refuse to watch Hung because of stupid it looks every time I see 5 minutes of it. It’s not funny, it’s not dramatic. What am I missing? How does a show with seemingly no fan base and mediocre ratings continue to get renewed by HBO?” It’s all in your choice of words. I wish more people would make a similar effort, because I’m willing to bet if half of these people saw every episode of Entourage, especially the really good ones, they’d change their tune. Entourage is well acted, smartly written, skillfully directed, and is shot almost entirely on location, an incredible rarity for any TV show, let alone a comedy. If you watch the show regularly and still don’t like it, that’s fine (though why would you continue watching it if that’s the case?), but if your criticism is based solely on the fact that it’s popular on the internet to hate the show, then that’s sad. I took a bunch of ignorant jabs at 24 over the years before I finally started watching it on DVD from the beginning, and now I’ve seen every episode and it’s my third favorite TV show ever. Lesson learned. Ignorant/trendy hate; it’s no good, kids. That’s the moral of the story.

For those like me who proudly love Entourage, enjoy:

speak of the devil…

This Sunday also saw the season finale of the 8th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m ashamed to admit this is the first Curb season I watched from start to finish. It’s one of those shows I’ve wanted to get into for years, but never made the commitment. After watching some great stuff last year with the Seinfeld reunion subplot, I decided to finally go all-in this season, and I have not been disappointed. These last two episodes in particular were probably the funniest things I’ve seen this year, in movies or on TV. Larry David has been in top form, the gimmicks/jokes have been off the charts hilarious, and the guest appearances were fantastic (Michael J. Foxwas excellent in the finale). I have to single out a couple scenes from the finale, which thank god have been put on YouTube already. In this first one, Larry is dating this new woman, and in the finale, he meets her 7-year old son. This video is a compilation of the 3 scenes the kid appears in. Prepare to LOL:


“Get a life, Jews!”

The kid with the genius comedic chops is 8-year old Eddie Schweighardt. That’s a kid to keep your eye on going forward, no doubt about it. When the mother acts shocked that Larry thinks he’s gonna be gay, he ends up calling the kid “pre-gay”, which is equally hilarious. I also love his description of Hitler, who Larry says thought Jews were “a bit much.” I’m laughing just typing that. Here’s another quick scene from the finale that I loved:

Larry David has not yet committed to a season 9 of Curb, but if this was the end, good lord did it end with style. I for one am praying for more, and will definitely start catching up on the earlier seasons as soon as I get the chance.

I have a bunch of movie reviews I need to get to (The Help, The Debt, Contagion), but Lord knows if I’ll find the time. I’ll just say that all 3 were very good, and before the end-of-year Oscar bait starts coming out, I can strongly recommend all 3 of those films. It’s looks like 2011 is gonna close really strong. Get excited, movie peeps.

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