A lot of my friends love Entourage. In fact, they swear by it. I personally hate it. Okay, maybe I don’t hate it (I reserve that honor for Yes, Dear), but I certainly have great disdain for the show. With the exception of Jeremy Piven and occasionally Debi Mazar and Jerry Ferrara, the series is largely humorless, substituting the word “bitch” and “f–k” for actual wit and comedy. To its credit, many douchebags in Hollywood actually speak like these vacuous characters, but realism doesn’t always equate to comedy, especially when the story arcs lack the imagination or cleverness that elevates other sitcoms such as Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or even Scrubs.The problem is that Entourage carries a self-satisfied air; a deluded belief that just because it captures the sound and rhythms of the Hollywood glitteratti, it therefore is funny. At its core, the humor, the sensibilities, and the subject matter of the series seems to be written by the very characters lampooned in Entourage. It’s a show made by Hollywood insiders for Hollywood insiders (and hipsters who dare to dream of such lofty social heights). As a result, we get a muddled, wannabe satire that often shares the shortcomings it tries so hard to send up. There seems to be no point of view, no perspective on the Hollywood way of life. For better or worse, the characters simply float along, occasionally facing minor dilemmas or stumbling into bizarro comic situations (Val Kilmer anyone?). The show often eschews satire for hipster name-dropping, and sidesteps the pitfalls of fame (or having a friend who’s famous) in favor of, well, more hipster name-dropping. As a result, we get a semi-satirical, semi-revelatory comedy that never takes off. Like a trendy ironist who knows to add just the right amount of self-deprecation to seem cool, the show seems to mock Los Angeles entertainment culture and at other times revel in its superficial perks. Of course, anyone who’s ever lived in the city will confess that L.A. does inspire such dual reactions, but this paradoxical view of Los Angeles should play out with the characters, not the uneven tonality.
This is a show that quietly thumbs its nose at fame, fame-seekers, and social climbers and yet will go out of its way to validate its existence through extensive cameos, name-dropping, and movie lingo. Like the insecure cool kid we all know and love, Entourage never shies away from mentioning an industry name or a local fixture (glitzy supermarket Gelson’s, for example). The producers will claim this is merely for authenticity, but it only feels like masturbatory self-awareness.
It’s a shame that Entourage spends so much time jerking itself off because in reality, the show has a great premise and a largely talented ensemble. Many people love Kevin Dillon who plays the washed up, lesser-known brother (Drama) to Adrien Grenier’s Vincent, but I think he overacts painfully. Still, several viewers excuse this because they’re so enthralled with the clever parallels to Kevin and his real-life brother, Matt Dillon — a bit of stunt casting that reinforces the self-satisfied insider aura of the series. As for Grenier, he’s completely miscast as the hot, young actor taking over Hollywood. I don’t believe for a second that this waifish guy could ever be the next Jake Gyllenhaal or Tobey Maguire. After all, this is an actor whose previous claim to fame was starring with Melissa Joan Hart in Drive Me Crazy. Also not helping out the ensemble department is Kevin Connolly whose bland character infiltrates nearly every scene.
Unfortunately, despite it’s great premise, the series simply fails to live up to its satirical potential. Granted, it does have it’s moments, and last night’s season premiere featured a few gems with Amanda Peet and later with Drama’s baby agent. Unfortunately, these admittedly sharp flickers of comedy are few and far between, and the only thing that sustains us is the hope that Jeremy Piven’s character will burst onto the screen to deliver another Emmy-worthy tirade about Hilary Swank and her vagina.
Ultimately, the same self-absorption that dominates the characters also bogs down the show. Maybe that’s it’s postmodern point: the line between fake and real no longer exists. After all, the people who laugh at Jeremy Piven saying “Hug it out, bitch” are the same people who then turn to their friends and now say, “Hug it out, bitch.” Hmmm… Maybe that’s what I should do: hug it out, bitch.
What do you think about Entourage? Am I crazy? Start the hate mail now…