Once breezy, bouncy and mindless fun, “Entourage’s” last and latest seasons have sought to dig deeper to achieve more depth, and come up empty. Becoming darker feels outside the show’s strike zone, inasmuch as the gang’s women troubles don’t resonate because none of the female characters possess more dimension than its trademark bikini-clad extras. Although the series undeniably embodied a certain place and time for a showbiz-savvy contingent of the HBO audience, the show’s best days are behind it, and the eighth-and-final-season curtain appears to be coming down none too soon.
A former colleague described the original “Entourage” ethos as, “No hangovers, no sleepovers,” speaking to the easy conquests and suckling off Hollywood’s opulent teat that characterized the lives of rising star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his posse, Eric (Kevin Connolly), Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).
More recently, however, the program has reached to expose the costs associated with fame and celebrity, from Vince’s abuse of drugs to the relationship troubles besetting both Eric and super-agent Ari (Jeremy Piven), whose unwavering commitment to his wife (Perrey Reeves) and children had been the one thing humanizing his walking-id persona.
To its credit, the new season knowingly tackles the media excess surrounding celebs. When Vince exits rehab, it’s amid a true TMZ-like, hovering-news-chopper circus, leaving his friends confused regarding how to behave around him. And come to think of it, where does one find appropriate bimbos to attend a “dry” party?
Still, the arc of the three previewed episodes has a bitterness about them that doesn’t bode well for the finish, despite the usual assortment of celebrity cameos, including a rather pathetic Andrew Dice Clay, who’s recruited to do voiceover work on Drama’s animated series.
Ultimately, “Entourage’s” foundation has been the friendship and camaraderie among its central quartet, a bond that’s consistently proved stronger than the entanglements and temptations associated with Hollywood. Everything else, frankly, has been clever window dressing, dropping just enough names (“Call Les Moonves!”) and references to make those fluent in media feel like privileged, behind-the-velvet-ropes club-goers.
Whether the series can find its way back to that in the five remaining episodes and pay off its finale in style remains to be seen. But for a show about male bonding, it looks like “Entourage” hasn’t figured out how to quit us.