Here’s what I think: eight seasons, countless send-ups, and infinite snark. Tonight HBO’s Entourage ended with soap opera schmaltz but also a Hollywood cliffhanger surrounding our fave Ari Gold that obviously sets up the movie which Doug Ellin keeps wanting to write. We loved this show, we hated this show, we watched a lot, and then we watched a lot less. With the High Holy Days coming for Jews everywhere, I’m reminded of my favorite Entourage episode ever that had Ari doing business in the temple aisles during Yom Kippur services. (‘The Return Of The King’ was written by Brian Burns and Ellin.) I’m also grateful to Ellin et al for helping put Deadline Hollywood on the map. He asked me several times to appear on the show, including the finale, and each time I turned him down. But Carrie Fisher filmed a guest shot as a reporter working for ‘Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood’. And during Season 6, agent Terence did utter that infamous line to Ari Gold, “I’ll fuck Nikki Finke before I let her affect my business decisions” – which was pretty damn funny.
I’ve been mixed in my assessment of Ellin’s HBO series over the years, alternately castigating it for not showing the down and dirty Hollywood, and occasionally praising it for less predictability and more realism. But I always thought those early episodes were best because they showed ‘Plantation Hollywood’ and life among the wannabes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: go to any Urth Caffe or outdoor patio in this city that sells decent coffee, any line for an overhyped party or club where photographers are lurking, any power gym or yoga class that puts its name on tank tops for sale, and you’ll find them: Vince, Turtle, E, and of course Drama. The would-be actors thinking they’re just one showcase away from quitting their day jobs to star in the movie reeling in their heads. The would-be screenwriters who’ve finished 11 pages but can already recite the recent prices paid for spec scripts. The would-be managers suggesting ways to fix Gwynnie’s flameout before phoning the trainee program for an interview. The would-be producers dreaming of making their generation’s Pulp Fiction before scoring a part-time gig as a reader. All are the wannabes, sui generis to entertainment, and specifically to Los Angeles. Hopped up on hope. Drowning in dreams. Yet showbiz depends on their survival. Otherwise, the myth of Hollywood would seem a lot less elitist and glamorous. That club exists only as long as it won’t accept civilians like them as members. Sure, it was easy to wince at Vince’s, Turtle’s, E’s, and Drama’s naivete and enthusiasm. But their cluelessness also allowed them to put up with all the screaming, rejection, and slave wages that characterize the Industry. At their best, they were like adorable pets who continuously bestow unconditional love upon Hollywood even though they get mistreated over and over. At their worst, they were those masochistic plebes in Animal House bending over in their underwear and begging to be whacked on the ass: “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” It was this modern-day reality behind the Hollywood fable that Entourage introduced to America. What it’s like coming out here from with little money and no contacts waiting for stardom, success, or succor because it wouldn’t be as sweet without the sacrifice.
What they never do is give up and go back home. And that’s why we really loved and admired Vince, Turtle, E, and Drama and their never-quiet lives of desperation because their stick-to-itiveness constituted the Best of Hollywood. Spontaneously generated, thriving without benefit of nurturing, unstoppable as well as unfathomable, the wannabes are always around to remind us of the serendipitous nature of life here. I hope the coming R-rated movie captures this. Entourage creator/executive producer Mark Wahlberg has said that, “even if I have to finance it myself, I would do it. The question is when and how quickly.” Judging from the finale’s scene after the credits, it now looks like Wahlberg and Ellin have the germ of an idea to make it happen.
Remember that this show was based on Wahlberg and formed out of the dynamic of him as a young star who came to Hollywood with his buddies from home, and signed with agent Ari Emanuel. Of course, Ari’s doppelganger Ari Gold has been immortalized by Jeremy Piven and is the real reason Hollywood became addicted to Entourage. Recently, at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual trade show in Chicago, new mayor Rahm Emanuel was introduced by Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav who said that “in our industry he’s known as Ari’s brother”. Rahm then offered a mock apology on behalf of his family. “You know him as an agent,” he said. “We know him as a brother. We thought we got the worse end of the deal.” Rahm also noted that when HBO first put Entourage on the air, Ari wanted to know what Rahm thought. “I like Ari Gold more than I like you,” Rahm replied.
After landing Emmy nominations in the top comedy category for three years running, the HBO series stopped making the cut. TV Academy voters moved on from the aging series that returned for its shortened 8th and final season starting July 24th. It didn’t help when news leaked out in May that HBO had pulled it from broadcast syndication by Warner Bros Domestic TV. Yes, we all agree that the show jumped the shark. But it also had its moments. As well as the abundance of broads and boobs, the preponderance of real Hollywood players self-amused. Aaron Sorkin was unexpected and that episode hilarious. George Segal did a superb Bernie Brillstein imitation (complete with ugly yellow sweater). One show had a sotto voce line about buying guns at John Milius’ garage sale that made me laugh out loud. Fox mogul Tom Rothman and NBC mogul about to go-go Ben Silverman appeared in cameos as well as ABC’s The View and film critics Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips. But then just when you thought these Hollywood players had a sense of humor about their portrayals, actor Maury Chaykin played “Harvey Weingard” in a way to imply that the real Harvey Weinstein was a terrifying tyrant. At one Camp Allen mogulfest in Sun Valley, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes asked the real Harvey to do a walk-on for the show. Weinstein replied, ”Fuck you.” As l was told at the time, “And it was a serious fuck you.”
Goodbye Entourage as a TV series. Now just don’t come back as an embarrassingly lame movie.