With the succes of The Sopranos in the early 2000’s HBO was hitting its stride with quality television, with other shows like The Wire, Sex in the City, and Six Feet Under. And amongst this group was a seemingly out of place comedy called Entourage, following the career and lifestyle of a rising Hollywood movie star. Entourage would rise to prominence amongst its HBO family and continue for eight full seasons. And why? Because its a lot of fun.
The show gained its footing by introducing the fame and fortune lifestyle to regular TV viewers and giving us some great characters to enjoy, the most recognizable of which are Ari Gold the hot-tempered agent and Johnny Drama the desperate washed up actor. But the other main characters Vince, Eric and Turtle were also likable enough and game the series a good core group.
And while the show started with the lifestyle, it started to also show us the backdoor politics of how movies are made and cast. And this is the stuff I really like. Seeing how Ari tries to fight for his client Vince, while the studios have their own stuff going on, its all a lot of fun. And for a movie fan like myself, its that much more exciting to see James Cameron plan his fake Aquaman movie or to see Vince try to make a low-budget indie film despite the pressures to be in a blockbuster.
As the series goes on, the characters themselves go through a lot of changes while still retaining their personalities. The changes are mainly superficial though and the characters themselves don’t show a whole lot of growth (other than Ari). Its for this reason perhaps that the shows quality began to dip as the series stretched on.
As it is, Entourage remains a show about these five main characters, their adventures in the rich and famous lifestyle, and their loyalty to each other. Its hard not to like these guys and cheer for them, even though their problems are usually superficial at best. There’s a lot of celebrity cameos to keep things interesting and quite a bit that movie fans can latch on to.
Here’s a look at all eight seasons of the show.
Season 1 – The first season was only eight episodes and took a couple of those to really hit its stride, but it ended up doing a great job of introducing us to these characters and to the tone of the show. We see Vince as a rising star with his first starring role film premiering and struggling with the decision to do a big blockbuster next or a small indie film called Queen’s Boulevard. The season only gets better as it progresses with the season finale being the strongest. The first season is notable for really getting across the thrills and frivolity of the celebrity lifestyle. We see rooftop parties, movie premieres, late night talk shows, beach parties, etc. Fun stuff.
Season 2 – Season 2 is the strongest of the series as we see Vince and the boys back from New York and trying to decide what his next film will be, mostly centered around the pre-production politics of the Aquaman movie. This season has the best the show has to offer; the Hollywood backdoor politics is great (with Ari in full form), the characters have a lots of fun, but also find themselves in a lot of drama (most ivolving Mandy Moore) near the end of the season. The highlight of the season is the midway Sundance Kids with a great cameo from James Cameron as they go to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The penultimate episode Exodus is also great.
Season 3 – Season 3 was annoyingly split into two parts (and even more annoyingly, both those parts were released separately on DVD). The first half was pretty strong as the boys live off of the massive success of Aquaman and Eric tries to find Vince’s next movie. There’s a multi-episode arc involving their ex-con friend Dom which falls flat, but otherwise its pretty solid. There’s some drama in the halfway finale as the boys end up firing Ari. But of course the second half of the season sees Ari eventually get back as their manager, mostly by getting Vince his passion project Medillion.
The real problem with the second half is Ari’s character transformation. We start to see him become a lot softer and a lot less like the foul-mouthed hard ass we’ve come to love. Looking back, this was an important step in the evolution in the character, but it still felt unnatural at the time. Highlights of this season are A Day in the Valley (one of the series’ strongest) and Sorry Ari.
Season 4 – This was where Entourage’s quality began to dip slightly. The rich and famous lifestyle aspect began to subside to the point where we started to forget Vince was a mega celebrity. The season begins with a mockumentary about the making of Medillion, and then doesn’t have a heck of a lot for notable storylines. Eric tries to branch out and manage new clients, which isn’t particularly interesting, and Drama and Turtle seem to be running out of small adventures. The season did end on an interesting note, since Vince’s movie actually wasn’t a success this time around and he ends the season without another movie to make. The highlight of this season is No Cannes Do and The Cannes Kids.
Season 5 – After a quality decline in season 4, season 5 saw the show climb back up the ladder again. It was refreshing to finally see Vince NOT at the top of his game. It was really interesting to see how he and his boys struggled after the box office bomb of Medillion and compromising his superstar status in order to get work. There’s a neat storyline with the Smokejumpers film and their difficulties on that film and Ari’s struggle to get him meaningful work. And it ends on a strong note.
Honestly, if this had turned out to be the final season of the show, I would have been very pleased. It was a natural stopping point and really book-ended the series. However, it didn’t…
Season 6 – The opener to the season was a strong indicator that the tone of the show was changing. Vince starts to see the group growing further apart and Turtle has a new celebrity girlfriend, Drama has success on his own TV show, and Eric branches out into managing other clients and begins to get more serious with on-again off-again girlfriend Sloane. And Ari’s storylines get hijacked by the boring character Andrew Klein who is now with him at the agency. What results is that the carefree celeb lifestyle starts to disappear from the show. This would be okay if it was replaced by deeper character studies, which is starts to do but never goes full boar with. A rather lackadaisical season.
Season 7 – If the shows quality starts to decline after the fifth season, this is the small blip in the radar which shows some progress upwards. Its certainly the strongest of the last three seasons. We see all four of the main guys trying to become more successful; Vince with his new Ferrari movie, Eric with his new management business, Turtle with a venture in tequila, and Drama trying to find a new show. And as the season progresses Vince ends up with a very common problem among young celebrities; drug abuse. It may seem a little out of place, but it is interesting to watch his downward spiral nonetheless.
Season 8 – And finally, Season 8, the last of the series. And boy was it terrible. Remember all that stuff with Vince and his drug problem last season? Well, this season pretty much goes on like it never happened. Actually, nothing really does happen this season but a bunch of stupid storylines no one cares about. The worst is Drama’s storyline where he tries to make a new animated series with Andrew Dice Clay. No one cares about Dice Clay! Why is he in the show so much?? It was so annoying!
A lot of people like to rag on the series finale as well. In my opinion, the last episode was the only bright spot in this dreary season. The premise was stupid; Vince is getting married in what is destined to be a short-lived celebrity marriage. But around that I thought they were able to make a pretty solid farewell for all the characters, especially Ari. A good finale to end off a terrible season.
Ranking of the Seasons:
Favourite Character – No original choice here, but I’m going with Ari as my favourite character. He’s a foul-mouthed agent with a heart. And he’s just so much fun to watch. I love how Ari is able to make things happen for his clients because he knows the industry, the people in it, and what buttons of their to push. He also has some great relationships in the show with his assistant Lloyd, his wife, and of course with Eric. Hug it out, bitch.
Final Thoughts – Entourage isn’t a truly great show, I will admit. But it does do what it sets out to do and that’s to give the audience a peek into the celebrity lifestyle and have a lot of fun with it along the way. The great characters the show gives us is the reason for its long eight year run, however the show really should have stopped after the fifth season since we didn’t really get much quality storytelling after that. The behind the scenes of the movie business aspect as well as the relationships between all five of the main characters, especially in the early years, makes this one of my favourite shows.