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Entourage

Entourage is a half hour long comedy-drama about young movie star Vincent Chase and his best friend and manager Eric Murphy. Filling out the entourage are high school friend Turtle and Vince's brother Johnny "Drama" Chase. High powered, ambitious and foul mouthed agent Ari Gold also helps to manage Vince's career. HBO 2004-11

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Episode 12 - Return To Queens Blvd

29 March 2012

Synopsis: The guys are back in New York and partying every night. Vince’s mum tells him about the new Gus Van Sant movie which needs a leading man. Eric chases him down and offers to show him Vince’s scenes from Smoke Jumpers. He doesn’t offer Vince the role but does send the scenes to Martin Scorsese who is interested and offers Vince the lead in his new movie. In the meantime though Vince finally snaps and fires Eric. Eric returns to L.A. to help Charlie land his new television series. Meanwhile Turtle has phone sex with Jamie and Johnny buys the guys old hang out and names it Johnny Drama’s.

The Good: So close, so close. Up until the final five minutes this was more excellent stuff from Entourage. How you see the final five minutes rather depends on how you like your television.

It’s good to see the guys in New York. Of course some shows don’t have the budget but Entourage is one of the best shows for seeing an authentic looking world. The sheer variety of L.A. locations is exploited really well. To see the guys in New York really does feel like a different world for them to inhabit. The production is excellent as we visit a barbeque in Queens, underground clubs and dark looking bars. It’s a nice touch to have people shouting “hi” to the Chase brothers in the street and indeed someone (Michael Phelps) bumping into Eric to emphasise these aren’t the open side walks of L.A.

It all adds to the feeling that Vince has gone back to basics because his career wasn’t going so well and the need to audition for Gus is the literal demonstration of that. Eric’s career meanwhile is on the rise. His dedication is impressive as he waits for hours in Gus’ office all for the vague possibility that he can get Vince into the movie.

When Vince doesn’t get the part we see his anger for the first time in five seasons. His immediate apology is a really nice touch. It’s such an unusual emotion for him to display that he immediately has to try and wipe it away from those who saw it. He then admits to Eric how he is really feeling when he says “Now I’ve got a house full of people who can really see what a failure I’ve turned into.” It’s a terrific line and gets to the root of Vince as a character. He has always been laid back in the extreme and has always claimed things will work out. Now he has begun to fail he has come to realise what his self worth is based on. He has lived his whole life being seen as a success. His own mother says during this episode that she worried about Johnny but not about Vince. But now he is facing the prospect that she will see him as a failure and he can’t take it. So he lashes out at Eric.

And he has a convincing case. Again, a key line: “maybe that’s what I needed, someone looking out for my career and not my personal interests.” It’s a pretty outrageous thing for him to say but it happens to be true. In season two he insisted that he wanted to be in Medellin (201) even when Ari advised against it, then he quit Aquaman 2 (305) because of how he was treated by the studio. Then he was willing to piss off Eric by taking part in another Billy Walsh movie (410). Throughout the show he has done whatever he felt like at the time and Eric has backed him every step of the way. And yet despite Eric’s good behaviour, now we see that maybe Vince would have been happier deep down (by being seen as a success) if he had let Ari put him in crappy studio movies.

Eric walking out was a great moment for the show. The show has always been more about Eric than Vince. He heads back to L.A. and confidently strides into meetings with Charlie, showing he can survive without Vince now. In fact he looks just like Ari when he walks into the meeting, black suit, blackberry clutched in his hand and a confident swagger. It all suggested a really intriguing season six where Vince would be taken under Ari’s wing and Eric would have to navigate the Hollywood waters without Vince’s reputation to prop him up. But that’s not what happened.

Elsewhere it is nice to see the same actresses playing Mrs Chase and Turtle’s mother (from 301). They both act like mothers do which is good to see and in one case is really funny (see Comic Highlight). We also get to see Ronnie back (from 406) which is consistent and helps build a credible looking world. The way he sells Johnny on buying the bar makes perfect sense too. Just like falling for Jacqueline because she saw him as a celebrity (412), Johnny makes a clearly shaky investment because he wants his name on the front of the bar. That fame gives him the self esteem he craves. In a really nice touch, when everyone is nervous for Vince awaiting Gus’ call, Johnny is the only one who is excited. And why not? He lives for the fame and has lived through the rejections before. To him this doesn’t feel like the edge of a cliff as it does for Vince, but an opportunity to rise. From his perspective of multiple failures, this call doesn’t represent what it does for Vince. That is good writing.

Another good joke about Eric’s height comes in when he pops up from behind a vase of flowers in Gus’ office.

The Bad: First off we have the issue that now everyone thinks Vince’s work on Smoke Jumpers was good. One of the key strengths of the previous episode was that Vince did not look good in the short takes we saw. It gave Verner such a real justification for his actions and brought into question how good Vince really is.

But now it would seem everyone liked him in the part. So much in fact that Martin Scorsese steps in to offer Vince the lead in his new movie. Queue Eric comes back as Vince’s manager and everyone lives happily ever after.

Can I complain about that? It’s not as if I didn’t know that Entourage would ultimately have a happy ending. I’m not even opposed to that. But this comes out of the blue as the answer to all Vince’s problems. It’s the magic wand, the deus ex machine, it’s the thing which makes this look like a television show more than real life. Now I’m not pretending that Entourage looks like real life but for a moment it seemed like Vince’s inevitable triumph was going to be delayed and more frustrations were going to test his character and make him into a different more rounded person. Instead Scorsese ensures that the group dynamic will remain the same for next season and all the negative consequences of Smoke Jumpers have been washed away.

Comic Highlight: It’s good to see Jamie-Lynn Sigler again, following up on her romance with Turtle. They are having phone sex and Turtle says the line “That’s where my big cock likes to be” immediately followed by the sound of his mother saying “Turtle? Who are you talking to like that in my house? Your father would roll over in his grave!” Jamie giggles and Turtle dashes to the door to prevent his mother walking in on him.

Victory?: We started this season with Vince’s career at a low point. He and Ari battered their way onto Smoke Jumpers only for Vince to blow it or at least not get on with the director. It was the last thing he needed and he retreated to his home in Queens. This episode presented a man on the edge, all his success and pride was draining away while Eric’s dedication and professionalism meant he had outgrown Vince. But instead of letting us see the fascinating twists which their break-up could have led to all is back to normal by the end of the season.

No matter how good this season has been (and it has shown impressive improvement as it has gone on) I can’t help but see this finale as a letdown. It’s still really enjoyable television but the producers have looked real character development in the face and chosen to back off. They would prefer everything to go back to normal. They have chosen the comfortable over the interesting.

For that decision I can only criticise. But for what they are, I still have plenty of good things to say.

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