To kick off our new Movie/Television section, aptly named "Freak La Critique", I thought I would kick things off with one of my favorite television series. Entourage was an HBO series that ran from 2004 through 2011. Why would I pick something that has been out of production for so long? Simple, despite being one of my favorite shows, I'm surprised how many of my friends haven't watched it, or even haven't heard of it... bleedy freakin' cavemen! And with the recent release of the movie I'm just finishing up a marathon of my BluRay box set so that I can (re)watch the movie afterward.
Runtime: 30 min. (average)
Episode Count: 96
Cast: Adrian Grenier: Vincent "Vince" Chase
Kevin Connely: Eric "E" Murphy
Kevin Dillon: Johnny "Drama" Chase
Jerry Ferrara: Turtle
Jeremy Piven: Ari Gold
Let me start off by saying that this show isn't going to appeal to everybody. As much as I like it, it's definitely a "guys show". A large part of the appeal is the constant "ball-breaking" that constantly goes on between the characters. There's also a very misogynistic undertone to the whole show, from the constant using of women for sex, to some of the derogatory terms used to describe them (Drama's coinage of the term "Hozey" sticks out, a combination of the term "Hoe" and "Floozy").
That being said, it's also a large part of the appeal of this show. Every guy has that one group of friends where they are constantly cracking jokes at one another's expense, and this show takes that to the next level. I can still remember first time I seen the show. I was channel surfing, and just happened to stop on HBO for a second (this was well before we had become a cord-cutting family). Without any warning I heard a woman ask "How are you doing?", and (without missing a beat) the male character replied "I'm fine darling, but this guy likes to jerk off with a belt around his neck." This of course turned out to be Turtle replying to a dancer in the strip club they were in, referring to Drama (both as a slight to his friend, and as a reference to an earlier conversation they had). I of course didn't know any of this at this point, but needless to say, I was hooked; the whitey banter continued through the rest of the episode, and throughout the entire series.
The show itself chronicles the "behind the scenes" experiences of actor Vincent Chase (played by Adrien Grenier), and the rest of his entourage, as they learn how to navigate the waters of Hollywood, along with Vince's agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Through the course of the show you follow Vince's career as a up-and-coming actor, to his eventual fall, and return to the limelight. There is nothing intricate about the story lines, and you're never left with any doubt that "things will work out", because "they always do". Where this show shines is with its constant back-and-forth between the characters, and cast that gives you every indication that they are just as comfortable with each other off the set as they are when the camera is running; it takes a special repartee to resist flinching when someone threatens to "beat you to death with a dildo" that cannot be easily faked.
Produced by Mark Walhberg, the show was conceptualized as being based on Walhberg's own life, and acclimation to Hollywood. Some of the more gritty parts of his life were left out in order to keep the show more "light-hearted", but it is still interesting to see, and even more interesting to try to figure out what parts are true, and not. There are definite similarities between how I perceive Donnie Walhberg, and how Johnny is portrayed in the show; most notably that Johnny was the first one to "make it big", only to have his brother follow suit and become the bigger star. The constant butt of everybody's jokes, Drama continues to milk his former fame as the star of a fictional show called "Viking Quest" throughout most of the series; similar to the way Donnie was most notably known as "That guy from New Kids On The Block". Similarly Johnny Drama's return to fame starts with him being cast in another show called "Five Towns", and Donnie Wahlberg being cast in a show called "Blue Bloods"; both based in New York and its Five Burrows. Coincidence?
Jeremy Piven, as Vince's agent Ari Gold, is a definite highlight of the show. He delivers insult after insult in an over-the-top way that leaves you with the impression that he may just be this character in real life. Regardless to how racially insensitive, sexually demeaning, or just outright mean-spirited his quips may be, the fellas and I find ourselves hurling them back and forth between each other whenever one of us watches the show. I must confess I've found myself wielding the term "rusty cunt bucket" in frustration on more than one occasion.
Another major draw to this show is its abundance of cameos. Everyone from Hollywood's elite to the long forgotten make appearances, sometimes playing fictional character, but more often portraying their "off-screen" selves. Some of the highlights are James Cameron, Ralf Macchio, Jessica Alba, and David Faustino. I cannot think of an episode where there wasn't at least one cameo, but my all-time favorite is in the very first episode when Vince and his crew are walking into a meeting, and have an exchange Mark Wahlberg and (presumably) their real-life counterparts.
Non-genera specific, the soundtrack is an absolute asset. Riddled with everything from classic hip hop, to modern rock, it never fails to set the tone for whatever is going on in the scene. Among the highlights are a live (all be it short) performance by U2, where Bono wishes Drama a happy birthday in front of a sold out crowd, and I cannot forget the childlike joy that I felt when Playground by Another Bad Creation started playing during an episode in season four. There's a little something for everybody, and while the show was still on the air I constantly found myself Googling episode soundtracks to find out who some of the artists were; especially for some of the international artist like Yelle.
You've all heard of so-called "chick flicks", and there's nothing wrong with them (I quite enjoy more of them than I like to admit), but if you're looking for something a bit more "guy-centric" to pass the time I cannot recommend this enough. Rather you want something to remind you of your younger days "hanging with the guys", you're looking for some insane zingers to throw at your buddies, or just want to see what it's (supposedly) like behind the scenes in Hollywood, this has something right up your ally. For myself part of the attraction is that each character seems to have a counterpart within my own close group of friends, with myself (and my natural ability to offend people) defaulting to being Ari Gold. (Sorry Swage, you ended up being Drama.)