There are so many TV shows that, especially if you don’t have pay cable, it’s tough to keep up. Somehow I’ve managed to miss “Entourage,” the HBO series that’s loosely based on the early Hollywood years of executive producer Mark Wahlberg.
One Movie Met reviewer gave the comedy-drama series a 7/10 for Seasons 5 and 6, calling the show “entertaining from beginning to end.” But that same reviewer gave the seventh season a 6/10 because “the series appears to slow down in season seven.”
I’ve not seen any of the previous seasons, and that usually spells disaster for a reviewer. But Season 8 works even if you haven’t seen the show before, and it’s as entertaining as the earlier seasons that David Van Der Haeghen praised. You may not know the back stories of what happened to these guys, but because the season starts with film star Vince Chase getting out of rehab and him talking about a new beginning, it feels like a starting point for the audience as well.
We quickly sense that Vince (Adrian Grenier) is the center of this universe and that his “entourage” is composed of best buddies who’ve partied with him over the years and who now are trying to make sure he doesn’t backslide after he was forced to go to rehab to avoid jail time.
Among them is his agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who now runs a worldwide talent management agency; Vince’s brother Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon), who is in the midst of pitching a pilot for an adult animated comedy that he and guest star Andrew Dice Clay are doing the voices for; Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), a clean-cut guy who’s Vince’s manager; Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), who’s invested in a liquor company and previously served as Vince’s driver.
In a way, it’s a Hollywood version of “Seinfeld,” because it’s a group of friends in a show about nothing . . . well, except a suicide, a separation, a firing, a marital fling, and a guy who’s looking to take out Bobby Flay because the chef is “porking” his wife (Perrey Reeves). But the bulk of the show—the banter, the funny stuff—is mostly guys talking.
The writing is solid and so is the acting. Piven won several Emmys for his performance, and I can see why. My wife (who watches entertainment shows as much as I do sporting events) tells me the character is based on Wahlberg’s real-life agent, Chicago major Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari. But the character who pretty much steals every scene is Drama, with Kevin Dillon obviously having a lot of fun in every episode.
When the show isn’t about nothing, it’s about Drama pushing his “Johnny Bananas” show and dealing with a difficult Dice Clay, who wants to strike before the first episode even airs; it’s about Ari learning that his separated wife is seeing someone else, and not exactly dealing with it well; it’s about Turtle stewing about an Avión liquor deal that’s gone sour; it’s about Eric pining over his ex-girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who’s also seeing someone else, much to Eric’s distress; and it’s only peripherally about Vince, who attends AA meetings and tries to make amends with a Vanity Fair writer after he blows off the interview by not taking her seriously and flirting with her instead.
Mostly, though? It’s about nothing . . . or at least that’s the way 80 percent of the dialogue feels. Yet it’s funny and fresh and the kind of thing you don’t mind watching week after week—at least this eighth season.
The video presentation is a mixed bag. Though the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer is a good one, with no artifacts, the backgrounds on medium shots are often excessively grainy from one camera angle, then back to normal in another. That back-and-forth can get annoying. Thankfully it only happens in isolated instances. When the grain subsides, the colors—especially in party scenes—are bright as Hollywood, and the flesh tones are what passes for flesh in California, with lots of spray-tan looking bodies. “Entourage” is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, “enhanced” for 16×9 television monitors.
The series has a real-time feel to it, and partly that’s because the camera and microphones keep moving with the people. It’s almost like guerilla or documentary-style filmmaking. That means that the sound shifts with the location, and sometimes dramatically. When the background music takes center stage, though, you really realize how effective the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is. When the music rocks, it’s fairly immersive. Otherwise, there’s a pleasing amount of ambient sound coming from the effects speakers, and the center-speaker dialogue, as I said, varies with the scene.
Additional audio options are French and Spanish DTS 5.1 Surround, with subtitles in English SDH, French, Latin Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish.
Apparently the eighth season is the last for “Entourage,” as the lone bonus feature is a half-hour extra on “Hollywood Sunset: A Farewell to Entourage,” in which cast members and Wahlberg and other filmmakers share their thoughts about the show, with the usual liberal dose of behind-the-scenes footage intercut with talking heads. But also included are audition tapes for some of the cast.
So other than an upcoming film version, this looks like the end of the trail for Vince and his buddies.
“Entourage” goes out with a respectable eighth season that’s an engaging blend of comedy and drama. Mostly comedy. And, like “Seinfeld,” it’s mostly a show about nothing—Hollywood style