Entourage came to an end this year with its eighth and final series. The show revolves around up and coming Hollywood heart-throb Vince and his motley crew. There’s his best friend and manager E, his less successful actor brother Drama (played by Kevin Dillon, the less successful actor brother of Matt), his friend and gofer Turtle, and his agent Ari, and his wife, assistant and various love interests.
It’s Mark Wahlberg’s baby, and all of the characters are based unashamedly and far from loosely on his own real life cast of characters. It could easily have been insufferable, like watching one of those never-ending in-jokes that Sinatra and his rat pack used to make in Las Vegas and release as a movie. As with drugs, fun to do, oh so tedious to watch.
But thanks to its clever plotting, gentle banter and pitch-perfect performances it managed instead to be irrepressibly effervescent. Basically 30 Rock for boys, it was impossible not to be charmed. Or at least it was for its first few series’.
American TV series are written in the spirit of un-diluted capitalism. Once a show has got beyond its pilot and graduated into its first and second series, its numbers are relentlessly poured over. And the writers are called back in and told which of their storylines have and have not worked, and which elements of the show need to be dialed up and which ones quietly shelved.
So that frequently, later episodes in a series have been completely re-imagined in response to how the audience reacted to the different storylines in the first few episodes.
Unsurprisingly, this can sometimes be disastrous. Series 2 of Twin Peaks, and much of the latter half of Lost being obvious examples. But here it has to be admitted the system has undeniably worked.
What had been so endearing about the troupe initially was that, despite all the outward appearances of living the wet dream in an endless reel of uninhibited debauchery and unrestrained hedonism, all of their lives sucked. Every one of their relationships was a complete disaster.
But by the time we get to series 5, and especially 6 and 7, they have each become so garishly successful, that everything else about their lives has been drowned out. You’d have episodes in which one character gives the other a Maserati, and then later they race one another at the traffic lights.
Nobody minds seeing success, in fact we love watching pretty young things living the dream, so long as they are all profoundly and visibly unhappy. Thankfully, the homework was done, and the writers duly responded. And accordingly, come series 8 absolutely everything is going wrong for each and every one of them, and in every conceivable way. It’s great.
There’s talk at the moment of a movie follow-up. Let’s hope they hurry up and script it. They’re back on a roll.
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