Editor's note: Salon staff writers Matt Zoller Seitz and Drew Grant will be recapping the eighth and final season of "Entourage" as a team. Matt has been watching the HBO series regularly since it debuted; Drew is a newbie. Complications ensue.
Drew: So this episode starts off at a very expensive hotel where the gang is all living since their house burned down due to an errant joint, right?
Matt: Is that a hotel? I thought it was heaven.
Drew: Ha ha. Heaven doesn't have Drama in an Ed Hardy shirt.
Matt: I like Drama insisting on the shirt's heterosexual cred. If you have to insist that your shirt makes you look straight, there's a problem.
Drew: It's like insisting you are famous -- another one of Drama's personality quirks. But my first question is: If a famous movie star gets out of rehab and then his house burns down because of a pot-related accident, is there nobody -- not the paparazzi, a parole officer, a sponsor -- who would maybe try to take Vincent Chase away from these guys? No one who, at the very least, would point to the incident as a sign of a possible relapse?
Matt: Yeah, there would be fallout from that in real life. But this isn't real life. It's "Entourage."
It goes back to what we were talking about last week. This show is hip to the way most young men -- and older men with young men's mentalities -- fantasize. The messy, ugly parts get skipped. It sounds kind of strange to say, but in this sense "Entourage" is weirdly prim and conservative. It'll show us tit implants and guys doing drugs, but the really, truly hardcore stuff -- the moments where people really have to struggle with pain and doubt -- that stuff, it goes out of its way to avoid. So in that sense the show is truly escapist, in a way that "Sex and the City" never was.
Drew: I was thinking of the "Sex and the City" comparison earlier -- about how the women on that show used each other for emotional crutches, where this show appears to be about four guys (give or take) who just seem to be thrown together to party all the time. They are only "there" for each other in the most simplistic sense. So Vince, who's fresh out of rehab, stays up all night to write a screenplay, and that worries no one? And then we learn that he's basically illiterate? I feel like real friends might be concerned. And in the context of the reality of the show, I wonder how Vince ever read his scripts.
Matt: "Sex and the City" put its characters through the wringer regularly. It was an outlet for women to fantasize about living a wealthy lifestyle and having great, loyal friends, but it wasn't totally full of shit when it came to relationships. It was tethered to reality. There was a core of dissatisfaction and anxiety to the portrait of the relationships between men and women. Nothing was easy. And the friendships were complicated, too. You're totally right -- "Entourage" is so shallow, and so terrified of complexity of any kind, that it makes "Sex and the City" look like Edith Wharton.
Drew: I'm imagining Carrie Bradshaw, fresh from rehab, telling Miranda she stayed up all night to write a book because she was just so wired, and Miranda not reacting to that.
Matt: The only things that are consistently interesting about "Entourage" are the portrait of a bunch of working-class guys importing their values into a wealthy environment, and almost any of the scenes involving Ari. Whenever Jeremy Piven is on-screen, the show comes alive, and develops an edge that it almost never has when it's with Vince and the gang.
Drew: That's true. Although I wonder how a guy as busy as Ari has time to spend all day ruining a waiter's life after he thinks his wife is sleeping with him.
And to tell you the truth, Ari's jokes at Lloyd's expense feel horrifyingly homophobic to me. I'm amazed they still let his character get away with that.
Matt: Yeah, the gay-baiting humor has always been irritating. It's not the language or behavior that offends, though -- straight male actors, agents, producers often put on the Neanderthal macho-man shtick, just like stockbrokers and lawyers, because deep down they are ashamed of themselves for doing "soft" jobs instead of something that requires them to work with their hands and get dirty. So they overcompensate by swaggering around as if they all have gigantic muscles, cursing like sailors, talking trash about women, and gay-baiting one another and actual gay people. "Entourage," like "The Larry Sanders Show" before it, gets that part totally right. The main characters on "Larry Sanders" were all soft-bellied older men in thousand-dollar suits who ate in posh restaurants and got manicures, but they cursed like Marines and were constantly accusing each other of being fags.
At the same time, though -- and this is the unfortunate part -- "Entourage" also validates the guys' worldviews by having every woman on the show be a soft and compliant knockout or some kind of bitch or tramp or horrible mind-fucker. And all the gay men on the show are circa-1970s sitcom-style gays, lisping and wearing bright colors. Ari is a lout for constantly insulting Lloyd, and we're supposed to see him as a lout, but the way the show depicts Lloyd, he is laughable. We're supposed to find Lloyd pathetic, a toady. Once in a while the writers throw Lloyd a snappy comeback or give him a shred of dignity, but not often. It's the show that's putting forth this view of women and gays, and not just the characters. At its worst it feels as if the series is validating the regressive points-of-view of guys like Ari, Drama and Turtle. In that scene where Ari goes to the restaurant to investigate whether his wife is sleeping with somebody else, that stereotypically bitchy headwaiter is actually limp-wristed!
Drew: Is Lloyd the Varys of "Entourage"?
Matt: I wish. Varys is a great "Game of Thrones" character, a fully developed human being with complexities and depths. Lloyd is just a punching bag.
Drew: I mean, is Lloyd's purpose in the story the same as that of Varys? He brings little pieces of information to Ari. "I saw your wife at Bobby Flay's restaurant this morning" suggests that he has too much free time on his hands. Shouldn't he be, you know, working? Instead of stalking his boss' separated wife? But that might be a rhetorical question.
Matt: It probably is. Lloyd is a combination slur and exposition machine.
Drew: As far as the show being a hyper-masculine fantasy, adding Andrew Dice Clay to the cast in the final season seems like the natural end point of that.
Matt: Yeah, it makes sense that they would give him a prodigal son's -- or prodigal father's? -- welcome.
Drew: Right. Like when Scott Caan's character is able to recite Dice's infamous "Hickory Dickory Dock" routine from memory. I'm surprised the other characters didn't bow to kiss Dice's ring.
Matt: That was almost touching, in a sick way. Dice is one of the key influences on these guys' identities as men. It was nearly impossible to be alive and American circa 1990 or so and not hear Dice's routines played and recited at parties.
Drew: But we also see this other side: that hyper-macho guys like Clay are "washed up" and living with sick cats. And that they are very vulnerable. That Clay actually needs a guy like E to represent him is sort of ... sad. Like we're supposed to believe that Andrew Dice Clay is so desperate for representation that he's just walking around Los Angeles, asking his new friend Drama to make an appointment today with E?
Matt: I did appreciate the way the show makes Dice obnoxious and pathetic, and very much the author of his own irrelevance. And I like that Dice the actor was on board with the idea of playing himself on "Entourage" as an arrogant, clueless loser. But then, it's not as though he's at the top of his game and has a ton of negotiating power. What else could he have said to the producers except "yes"?
Drew, is there anything on this show that speaks to you? Do you feel like there's any insight or truth that's being communicated -- that it's telling you anything about the male mind that you didn't already know?
Drew: The idea of painting Dice as Drama's mentor -- and ultimately, someone that Drama wants to be, and doesn't want to be -- is interesting. So is the suggestion that living a misogynistic fantasy, even within the world of "Entourage," does end up putting a person in a lonely place. That speaks to me.
Also -- and I should preface this by saying I've never been to L.A., and that maybe this is true for women as well as men -- it seems like the show's portrayal of all these "fake" people that the guys have to deal with in Hollywood is true to how the scene really is. What is unbelievable, though, is that these guys -- for all their faults, greed and what have you -- have never succumbed to that, in a way that made them "sell out" their buddies.
But really, this whole episode could have really been called "Bros before hos." We have Sloane reuniting with E, only to tell him she's moving to New York City. We have Turtle trying to find Alex -- who is Alex, by the way? -- and Ari trying to discover who is wife is sleeping with.
Matt: Alex is Turtle's girlfriend, who started out working for a car service company that Turtle started last season, and is now helping him promote Avion tequila.
You're right about the sellout thing. The four main characters have all been tempted, at various points, to sell out one of the others, for money or for a chance at getting laid or for whatever reason, and they have consistently refused. There might have been instances where they succumbed, but I can't think of any right now, and if there were incidents like that, obviously the guys got past them and managed to be friends again. They are staunchly loyal to each other no matter what. Maybe that's the real fantasy.