“Look, you got what you wanted, I’m officially out of control.”
Based loosely on (Executive Producer) Mark Walberg’s meteoric rise to fame, Entourage has always been a male bonding fantasy; it plays like a boys-will-be-boys version of Sex in the City. Following Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his posse’s misadventures through the decadent lifestyles of the hyper-rich and fabulously famous carried with it a certain insider’s credibility and made for fun, if not slightly debauched TV voyeurism. HBO sweetened the deal by liberally mixing in hard body nudity with jaw-dropping self-satirizations from a slew of Hollywood cameos the like not seen since The Larry Sanders Show.
Drama (Kevin Dillon), Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) crash the coolest parties, smoke the finest weed, drive the best cars and bed the hottest women, even if they are only snatching up Vince’s scraps and sloppy seconds. Yet they still somehow stay true to each other and their Queens homeboy roots. No matter how bad the situation grew, if Vince’s effortless cool couldn’t save them, Ari Gold’s (Jeremy Piven) shark-frenzy instincts and brutal wit would.
Season Six ended with Vince bouncing back on top of the movie star game, Eric happily engaged to Slone (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Drama still trying to resurrect his television career, Turtle discovering the joys of self-sufficiency by branching out into his own business, and Ari now running the largest talent agency on earth. All was well in Hollywierd.
Season Seven decides to shake things up for the boys by having the power players Vince and Ari begin a severe, if not clichéd, downward spiral. In Vince’s case, it stems from attempting his own stunts after some on set bullying from his director, a convincingly intimidating Nick Cassavetes. After a near on set disaster shooting a car stunt, Vince is somehow turned into a thrill seeker, which leads to heavy drug use and a porn-star girlfriend (Sasha Grey playing herself). Ari’s quest for absolute power corrupts him absolutely, destroying his marriage and polarizing him from his business partners, employees and clients alike.
The whole season is a bit of a downer, kind of like an after-school special for the spoiled residents of 90210. There are some great bits, like the Ping Pong subplot involving Drama and John Stamos and the love/hate rivalry between Eric and co-worker agent Scott Lavin (Scott Caan), but for each one of those we have the dull-as-paint-drying scenes of Turtle the business man, Drama’s endless bitching and Eric’s too perfect home life with Slone. Jeremy Piven is once again the series MVP, but his character has basically hit a glass ceiling, giving him little or nowhere to go other than awkwardly dodging his karma and watching him slow burn while swallowing his pride over and over again.
Let’s face it, and this is from a fan of the series, Vincent Chase was always a fairly dull pretty boy you ultimately you rooted for because he was a good guy who didn’t forget where he came from and looked after his own. Take that away by making Vince a selfish little egotist, dodging responsibility and casting blame, you just might find yourself wondering why you care. I found it amusing that it’s OK for Vince to smoke premium chronic and drink booze 24/7, but it takes cocaine use before he’s considered to have an addiction problem.
As always there are the star-studded and insider-rich cameos, including Stan Lee, Maria Menounos, John Cleese, Jonathan Kletz, Jessica Simpson, John Stamos, Bob Saget, Aaron Sorkin, Eminem, Mike Tyson, Mark Cuban, Bob Odenkirk, Minka Kelly, Autumn Reeser, Christina Aguilera, Kevin Love, Jordan Farmar, Ryan Howard and, of course, porn star turned mainstream actress Sasha Grey.
Ms. Grey is obviously not shy. She looks like a beautiful girl next door who revels in full frontal nudity and talks dirty, but (and the fanboys will hate me for saying this) she is the weakest link of the season. Her perpetually dead-staring stoner eyes and flat delivery betray her to be a not-quite-ready-for-prime time porn star. I found myself wondering what would attract Vince to her, since he seemingly has the pick of the litter when it comes to Hollywood hotties. One would think that the concept of anal sex wouldn’t seem as novel to Vince and the boys as the show presents it, even at one point segueing into an awkward sexual experiment between Eric and Slone, but that seems to be the writer’s way of getting to the bottom of Vince’s “perilous” attraction to Sasha Grey. I realize this all sounds much better on paper and will undoubtedly do more to recommend this season to men than intended.
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season looks much better on this 1.78:1 AVC/MPEG-4 1080p Blu-ray release than it did over its 1080i broadcasts. The AVC codex’s bit-rate fluctuates a lot from just under 25 Mbps to almost 35, but most of the time comes in at about 30 Mpbs. Whites are balanced, blacks stable, flesh tones natural and the colors pop, especially during the sunny exterior shots around southern California. There is a good deal of grain from its natural 35mm source, giving the images a course and a little bit rough-edged look. The lighting is bland, not as bad as sitcoms, but never really enhancing the theme or mood of any individual scene.
All the guys’ grab-ass insults and liberal profanity shine through on the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Clean recordings of upfront dialog are complemented by a little bit of atmosphere filling in the surrounds. Overall, the soundtrack mix doesn’t aggressively engage the listener except during the many nightclub or party scenes when the subwoofers kick out the bass and the surround panning becomes more immersive. Creator, show runner and head writer Doug Ellin invigorates the series’ with engaging and thematically perfect music selections, including Taddy Porter’s King Louie, Sheer K’s Life, Dirty Money’s Last Night, Aqua’s Junebug and Eminem’s Going Through Changes.
- Audio Commentaries: (Episodes 6, 9, 10) The commentators include creator/executive producer Doug Ellin, executive producer Ally Musika, and actors Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier (phoning in his few comments offsite), Jeremy Piven and Jerry Ferrara. These guys do a lot of ass kissing and back slapping, complain about a truncated Season Eight, share the occasional on-set anecdotes, and offer up their opinions on the possibility of an Entourage movie (they’re all for it). Just about every time Sasha is on screen the best they can say is she “looks great.”
- Inside the Hollywood Highlife: (13:40) HD Little more than an extended Electronic Press Kit about the season. It features the standard interviews intercut with clips and behind the scenes footage. Worth watching maybe if you are a diehard fan.
- The Shades of Sasha Grey: (5.47) HD Feels like a demo reel without the good stuff. If you want to hear Sasha drone on about Sasha the actress versus Sasha the porn star, you will love it. The least they could have done was give us a clip reel of her porn hits. I realized watching this that the only thing more boring than Sasha Grey the character was Sasha Grey the person.
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season suffered from too many individual storylines (I’m looking at you, Turtle) and gave us too little of the joy of the entourage itself. Even Ari’s plotline seemed restrained and frustrating. Rex Lee’s wonderful gay assistant, Loyd, felt wasted, regulated to walk-ons calming down Ari or Drama. The season lacked the sheer cathartic joy of overstimulation and relegated the boys’ endless party to a grim cautionary tale I fear will be resolved far too easily in the Eighth Season. Overall, it was a moderately enjoyable season with characters we’ve grown to love and proved as comfortable of a guilty pleasure as a “happy ending” at a roadside massage parlor.
“I know you all need me, but I’ll call you if I need any of you.”