Turtle, E and Johnny Drama. Absent: Vinnie Chase and Ari Gold. Photo: HBO
The greatest moment of Entourage season seven occurs in the closing minutes of the final episode: Vinnie mouths off one too many times to the wrong person – Eminem – and gets hooked straight in the jaw. It's a sweet pay off. I've always liked Vinnie, empathised with his character and enjoyed his successes; but last series, for the first time, I began to see what it was that every girl I ever debate Entourage with seems to see: the guy errs on the side of self-involved jerkdom all too often. It ends with him in hospital, bloodied up, angry and pointing the finger at anyone who'll listen: Sasha Grey, Johnny Drama and Ari, but most of all, at E. The deus ex machina arrives in the form of a police officer holding a bag of cocaine, and it's rehab time for Mr Chase. Season eight's promo promised plenty of action for one and all – E and Sloan broken up; Ari and Mrs Ari on the brink of divorce; Johnny Drama eclipsed on his own show by hooligan comedian Andrew Dice Clay; and Vinnie's last dash attempt at the big time. If you haven't yet seen the first episode, I suggest you stop reading now.
First things first: Jerry Ferrara lost 50 pounds in the last year and is literally a svelte shadow of his former self, but it's never mentioned on the show. They couldn't have thrown in a little, 'I can bench press more than you can bench press,' dialogue between Turtle and Drama?
The episode opens with Sloan telling E she wants his stuff out of her house, then, a healthy-looking Vince telling a narcotics anonymous group how he's been sober for 90 days. When he's done, he spurns the advances of an attractive (albeit addicted) girl, telling her "Sober is sexy," and shakes hands with Branden Williams (one of Seth Green's homeboys in Can't Hardly Wait), saying that he'll keep in touch regarding his movie idea. All of this is delivered with the vanilla warmth of a door-knocking Mormon, which I'm seriously hoping is not Adrian Grenier's chosen acting style for the rest of the season.
In quick succession we find out that Vinnie is still dark on E, that Turtle is no longer allowed to smoke weed in the house; that Drama is still the greatest OTT comedy character of all time; that E and Scott have usurped power at the management company; that Johnny Galecki of Big Bang Theory fame is not the spineless nerd we know and love him for; and that Ari is still kicked out of home.
The only moment in the entire episode with any real emotional depth occurs when Ari comes home to try to talk Mrs Ari into taking him back. He speaks with all the self-assurance of a naughty kid who knows his mother will let him off the hook after a good scolding, until Mrs Ari delivers the knock out line: "I've been seeing someone." Guts for Ari – this is what it sounds like when thugs cry.
Therein lies the problem with the first episode: we've been waiting an entire year for our Entourage fix; we've been told that the only way an Entourage film is going to be green-lit is if this season has a hugely positive response; and there are still a million unanswered questions from season seven – like what's the deal with Johnny and E's assistant? When will E finally knock Scott the f out? Is Turtle a made man? The season promo revealed more in 60 seconds than this episode did in 28 minutes. Give us something to go on!
Needless to say, I'm expecting a lot from episode two.
Bonus: I just read online that Johnny's Bananas (which was drawn for Entourage by animators from The Simpsons and Family Guy) is actually going to be shopped as a spin-off series once Entourage finishes. Kevin Dillon may prove to have the most successful post-Entourage career of them all. Wouldn't that be ironic?
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