TV Review: HBO’s ‘Entourage’ Starts Final Season on Down Note

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CHICAGO – I remember when “Entourage” first took off back in 2004 wondering how Doug Ellin and his talented cast could possibly keep this concept fresh for the length of a series. Wouldn’t we get tired of watching Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) try to make it big? Or worse, would these guys turn into the preening celebrities that the show at least somewhat skewered at the start? Could they keep it fresh? Even the most diehard fans of the HBO hit would admit they’ve struggled to do so but things were looking up regarding a solid final arc after last season, one that actually injected a bit of edge into the program by allowing Vince to deal with addiction. The show still wasn’t up to the standard of the first 3-4 seasons but it wasn’t as bad as season six. TV Rating: 2.0/5.0
TV Rating: 2.0/5.0

So, where does that leave us? Does “Entourage” go out on an inspired, daring note? It sure doesn’t seem like it. The season premiere is a whiny mess with little understanding of what worked about the program in the first place. Remember the time when you wanted Vinnie Chase’s life? Or wanted to be one of his loyal friends? I understand taking a character through ups and downs but Vincent Chase isn’t a guy I’d really want to hang out with now much less be. And that’s the biggest problem with late “Entourage.” In its prime, these four (five if you count Ari) guys were like friends you got to see once a week. That sense of fun, playful friendship is gone.

Entourage: Season Eight
Entourage: Season Eight
Photo credit: Claudette Barius/HBO

Sober is sexy.” As Vince leaves rehab with his sobriety intact the writers are faced with the challenge of turning the notorious party boy (many of the most memorable scenes in the history of the show have taken place at parties) into something else. Instead of embracing that challenge, they really don’t change Vince much at all. He’s a bit more even-keeled and supportive but he still demands a party and goes through the motions with his friends. More interestingly, Johnny Drama (a series-best Kevin Dillon) looks like he’ll finally be on the verge of the stardom that has so long eluded him with his animated series (co-starring Andrew Dice Clay in a fantastic supporting arc for a few episodes) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) wrestles with a model girlfriend who seems to be ignoring him.

Entourage: Season Eight
Entourage: Season Eight
Photo credit: Claudette Barius/HBO

Worst of all, Eric (Kevin Connolly) deals with his break-up with Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui). While I’m happy to see the Yoko Ono of “Entourage” on her way out (no offense to the lovely Chriqui but did anyone EVER care about this whiny couple?), it still takes up way too much time. Similarly, while Piven continues to do good work, I’ve just grown tired of Ari, even if his struggle to keep his marriage together (to the always-underrated Perrey Reeves) gives the actors more diverse opportunities.

The writing on the season premiere of “Entourage” is just weak with Piven spouting lines like “Don’t go crazier on us Drama or we’ll leave YOU here for treatment” with all the believability of an Ari Gold impersonator. And his verbal barbs with Lloyd (Rex Lee) grew tired years ago. It’s as if the writers can’t come up with anything new or genuine for these people to say. They just don’t feel real.

It’s interesting that the supporting players — Rex Lee, Scott Caan, Andrew Dice Clay — have become far more entertaining and enjoyable than Vince and Eric, the dynamic duo that used to drive this once-great program. In the premiere, Vince is off on another project that we know will probably not work out and Eric is whining over the loss of his friend (who still holds a grudge against him) and his girl. There’s little reason to care. On the other hand, Lee, Caan, and even Clay display the energy that’s too often missing from the main actors, a group that seem bored with their own show. It’s hard to blame them.

If you want to know how we got here, the seventh (and not as bad as this season premiere) season of “Entourage” was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO Home Video. The set is pretty impressive with typical HBO quality HD (above average) and a nice selection of bonus material. Often, a show in its seventh season has started to run out of people willing doing commentaries and have lost interest in special features. This is a pretty cool collection with “Inside the Hollywood Highlife,” “The Shades of Sasha Grey,” and 3 audio commentaries with Ellin, Executive Producer Ally Musika, Piven, Connolly, Ferrara, and Grenier.

“Entourage” returns with its eighth-season premiere on HBO on Sunday, July 24th, 2011 at 9pm CST. The seventh season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 12th, 2011. Both star Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, and Scott Caan. content director Brian Tallerico

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