When we last saw Vincent Chase and his Entourage, things weren't looking so good: A bidding war for Medellin turned to dust when the film finally played at Cannes–sending all those Hollywood hopes and dreams (Oscars, endless money) down the toilet. More importantly, general consensus in the outside world was that Entourage was turning into a similar pile of overblown nothingness, with the same characters running through the same routines. I actually don't think the drop has been that precipitous; then again, I never thought the show was particularly amazing. I still think it's funny and worth watching, and I'd like to think/hope–as I'm sure most viewers would–that it's fairly true to the fairytale world of Hollywood.
Season five catches us up with the main characters about six months after the Cannes disaster: Vincent Chase (complete with "I'm incognito" beard) is in Mexico with Turtle, drowning his sorrows in jet skis and lots of vagina. Eric is still trying to get his management firm off the ground, but can't get his only other client (a new character played by the artist formerly known as Lil' Bow Wow) any jobs. Drama is still on Five Towns and now has a long-distance webcam relationship with the girl he met (and spent hours fucking on the beach) at Cannes. (She was a Viking Quest fan, you see.) And then there's Ari, same old Ari, yelling at people, throwing things, and generally embodying the Hollywood that seems far-fetched, but everyone swears is real.
Ari gets to act out almost immediately, as we get a TV review–by At The Movies' Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips in a funny real-life cameo–of Medellin, which slams the film and lets us know that it went direct to DVD. It's these types of moments that make Entourage worth watching, I think: Roeper gets a funny line about how Chase's make-up looks like a cross between Jiminy Glick and a box of Twinkies. (Perhaps it should be noted here, in case you didn't know, that Roeper is no longer associated with At The Movies--he'll supposedly be launching his own show soon.) Anyway, Ari goes crazy in his office, bans anyone from using the words "Richard Roeper" ever again, and throws shit around. Until he gets a phone call from a producer, who wants to pay the ice-cold Vinny his full fee for starring in an upcoming movie called Danger Beach. (Pretty great, that title.)
A good chunk of the episode is taken up by the chase to find Chase, though a lame subplot about Johnny refusing to have his right side photographed is thrown in, too. Speaking of Johnny Drama–isn't he way funnier when he's completely pathetic? I realize we're supposed to see him going through a Hollywood cycle, but right now he's working, he's in love with a French girl that "gets him," and he's just not that funny. Sure, he's still vain and pretty dumb, but I'd rather see him begging Vince for $10k to get calf implants.
So the boys fly–in a plane supplied by Ari–to Vince's Mexican paradise to retrieve him. He makes noise about not wanting to return, so Eric–who it's not at all subtly implied is becoming part of the Hollywood machine–begs him to return. Eric doesn't want his friend to go out on the bottom, he claims, but really he just needs the cash. (The only secretary he can afford is–horror!–like 50-years-old.) With little struggle, Vince agrees to fly back and meet a sleazy producer for lunch. He shaves the beard, takes lunch, and all looks hunky-dory. It isn't, of course: The producer was using Chase to squeeze Emile Hirsch into doing the role for $2 million less than his asking price. But Vince doesn't care–he's back in L.A. and ready to work. And thus the cycle begins again.
But I've got hope that this season of Entourage will bring some solid laughs. An upcoming episode supposedly features Johnny Drama falling from grace, including a meltdown on The View, and the season will likely be packed with at least vaguely notable cameos. (Fran Drescher! Mark Wahlberg! Eric Roberts!) No, it's not the greatest, most biting show around, but it still offers a solid laugh ratio (the inverse of laughs divided by the running time, multiplied by pi). I'll keep watching.
-- Show creator Doug Ellin said that Roeper and Phillips made up their review of Medellin, which is pretty impressive considering they delivered some of the funniest lines in the show.
-- Drama running to Vince's side right in the middle of a shoot–and after being approached by his network's chairman–seemed a little far-fetched and tacked-on.