I swear I’m not trying to write about everything Ezra Klein says, but I’ve been having some thoughts about Entourage and want to use this as a starting point:
I don’t know how many “Entourage” fans we have on this blog, but last night’s episode was really the ne plus ultra of the show’s peculiar fantasy world: One of the problems that the characters had to resolve was that too many people were giving Turtle free Ferraris for his birthday.
I can’t decide if Entourage is the perfect show for the recession or a totally doomed enterprise.
So for “Entourage” to remain interesting for 40 episodes instead of 10, everything rides on E’s character. We need to see him evolve. We need to see him adjust from Queens to Hollywood, get burned by the business a few times, question his one-sided relationship with Vince, fight off his controlling ex-girlfriend, slowly become jaded by the Hollywood experience, and eventually grow apart from the other sidekicks as they start to resent him. We need to see him drink the Hollywood kool-aid, become polluted by every hideous character-changer out here (and believe me, it’s an extensive list).
[…]Hence, the biggest problem with “Entourage”: Because of the casting mistakes, it’s an entertaining show with a built-in ceiling. It can be good, never great. Once the creators (begrudgingly) accept E’s limitations, I worry that the show will evolve like “Sex and the City” did, with the characters becoming more and more one-dimensional, the dialogue more and more forced, the situations more and more ludicrous. Eventually it could become a parody of itself, like the way “Sex and the City” ended up — four spent characters racing to beat each other to the next overwritten punchline.[…]
There’s definitely something to this. Simmons blames much of it on Kevin Connelly’s complete lack of acting ability, but I think the bigger problem is that sustained success just isn’t a very compelling story. If Connelly were somehow a better actor, it’s hard to see how “E” would exude more pathos. I mean, here’s a guy who hits the jackpot, ascends the Hollywood ranks to fortune and local fame, and without really sacrificing anything at all gets to a point where he can complain about girls throwing themselves at him. Would better acting change any of that?
More problematically — and this is a bit circular, I realize — since the characters lack any semblance of personal dynamism (maybe with the exception of Ari), all the entertainment was derived from the situations in which the characters found themselves. Prior to this season, these were at least somewhat accessible. If not in the specific, at least most people understand what it’s like to fail, what it’s like to be granted redemption, and what it’s like to be an underdog. These are common features of the human experience. But, to borrow Ezra’s example, most people are pretty unfamiliar with what it’s like to be given too many cars as a birthday present, and that’s the direction this season seems to be heading. What’s more, the writers can only call wolf so many times. At a certain point, Vince’s teetering on the edge of success and taking one step backwards for every step forwards will simply stop, if it hasn’t already, being believable.
So, with characters who are not only boring but also poorly acted, diminishing returns on absurd situations, and an inability to create believable drama, the show has been reduced to a flashy music video channeling pure male id. Still watchable, but it’s pretty spent.
UPDATE: If I were Bill Simmons and I read this post, I’d argue that that I (me, not Bill Simmons) was making his argument for him. He would say that the show’s trajectory I described was a result of Connelly’s inability to act. That may or may not be true — I think it’s certainly fair to theorize — but I’d still argue the problem was that the show was built on a fundamentally inaccessible premise. Despite my glossing over of E’s character history, the fact is they basically tried to do some of things Simmons outlines and it just didn’t work — not because Connelly and the other didn’t have the chops — but because you could never buy it in the first place.