-

Entourage: "Fore"

Josh's HBO is out, and his cable company is being insufficiently concerned about the matter (as cable companies are wont to do), so I'll be checking out Entourage tonight.  - TV

I don’t want to start a thing, but if Entourage is looking for a new way to promote itself to people who are generally skeptical of it (such as myself), it could do worse than Entourage: Not Actively Terrible for Three or Four Episodes Now. It’s not that the show is good, exactly, but it seems to have developed a sense of humor about itself and all of the things it entails that it was lacking in the past few seasons, when it seemed to be trying to get us to take the travails of, say, Vince trying to be seen as an artist seriously. It also hurt that the show was an HBO flagship, really. Now that it’s just a show that closes out a really enjoyable HBO Sunday night lineup, it’s easier to not take the show seriously. Or, it would be, if it didn’t keep getting nominated for awards. It’s one thing to say that Vince is such a smug asshole, but it’s another thing to show that you kind of know this and have him spend much of an episode hanging out with a dog.

“Fore” continued the general agreeability of the season. It’s not good enough to be must-see, but it’s not bad enough to make you hurl your remote at the TV in disgust. In case you couldn’t guess, the episode was centered on a celebrity golf tournament. Unlike a lot of episodes that try to split the central foursome up into a bunch of storylines and then toss Ari into his own storyline, everything that happened in “Fore” happened at the golf course, outside of a few short scenes before the tournament and a few short scenes after. The celebrity cameos were enjoyable, there were some good comedy bits, and the interpersonal stuff that drags the show down was mostly kept to a minimum. So let’s take the guys one- by-one and see what they’re up to.

Eric: After a few seasons of the show being mostly about Vince with an Eric plot or two tossed in to give Kevin Connolly something to do, the series has surprised all of us by getting back to its roots and mostly making season six all about Eric. This is too bad because, where the Eric vs. Ari parts of the show were my favorite things about it in the first two seasons, this season’s Eric plotline is the most boring thing in the show at present. Is Sloane the girl Eric should be with? Is it the new girl, whom I can only think of as William Fichtner’s daughter from Invasion? I doubt there’s an Entourage fan out there who really cares about all of these developments. Eric is interesting insofar as he’s able to make Vince a salable commodity within Hollywood. Therefore, what’s interesting about him are the business plotlines, not the relationship plotlines. At first, it seemed like tonight’s story about Eric hanging out with George Segal, playing an older manager named Bernie, would be one of those, but, instead, it devolved into Eric being too proud to take a job from the guy because Sloane had set it up. Oh, and then he called Ashley Sloane. Yawn.

Vince: All Vince had to do in this episode was stand around and have a competition with Tom Brady to see who could seem like a smugger asshole without speaking very much while playing 18 holes of golf. After a tight, tight race, Vince won the game by saying at the end that he had been paid $4 million to do the voice of a dog. (If it turns out that Vince and the dog were hanging out last week so he could do research for his part, I will forgive all of this.)

Johnny Drama:
With Vince and Brady standing back and smiling tightly in the face of the gleaming sun, it was up to Johnny to make this plotline less worthless than the Eric plotline. Somehow, surprisingly, he accomplished this. I’m a little bored by Kevin Dillon’s Emmy-nominated thing as Johnny, but he can be funny when used as a physical comedian, and seeing Johnny get increasingly frustrated with how bad he was at golf was actually pretty funny. It also helped that Dillon played well off of Brady and the other special guest star, series producer Mark Wahlberg, who mostly seemed to show up to make fun of Johnny and his 15 handicap. This wasn’t a great plotline, but I like when the show goes for broke on something big and physical.

Turtle: Turtle is somehow turning into the second most important non-Ari character on the show after Eric, simply by virtue of still having stuff to do. For all intents and purposes, Vince and Johnny’s character arcs ended a long time ago, so at this point, they’re pretty much just like the hometown hero who sticks out a few more seasons in right field because it wouldn’t be the same without him. Turtle, on the other hand, was virtually an undeveloped character until last season. I don’t know that the development they’re sending him through (sending him off to college, etc.) is preferable to his undeveloped state, but I am getting a kick out of some of the metaness of his relationship with Jami Lynn Sigler. That said, having him race across the golf course to tell off Tom Brady because he was a Giants fan and then immediately back down in the face of Brady inviting him to dinner with him and Gisele was such a Turtle season four plot.

Ari: As always, the Ari stuff was where the magic happened, though in this case, it had almost nothing to do with Jeremy Piven, who was his usual irascible self while racing around the course and yelling at Lloyd. What made this all work was guest star Jeffrey Tambor, who was excellent and made all of that awkward, way-too-sly Entourage dialogue sound like it consisted of actual jokes as his fight with Ari and attempts to impress his kids went way, way over the top. It’s just too bad that the joke about Tambor’s golf game had to be virtually identical to the joke about Johnny’s golf game, simply because Tambor’s bad golfing was so much funnier than Dillon’s by virtue of him being, well, Jeffrey Tambor. Was him responding to his foul-mouthed kids with equal foul-mouthedness easy to see coming? Yes. But it was Jeffrey Tambor! He makes everything sing.

All in all, not bad. I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next new episode, but I’m glad the show has found a groove where it’s at least a semi-pleasant way to close out your Sunday night.

Grade: Should be a C+, but I like Jeffrey Tambor, so let’s make it a B-

Stray observations:

  • Favorite sequence: Tambor taking aim with a shot that seems like it will run right into a tree and then having that shot … hit the tree. Great laugh.
  • OK, I don't buy it. I can buy that lackadaisical Vince is a popular actor in his world. I can buy that he's even somewhat respected in certain circles. But getting hired to do voice-over work? Can't buy that at all.
  • Let’s see … auto racing … golf … at what point does Entourage turn into HBO’s strained attempt to do its own version of Hanna Barbera’s Laff-a-Lympics?
  • “Are you guys laughing at Ari? You know he's the devil?”

More TV Club