“Entourage” wraps up after eight seasons

By Kevin Romani

“Entourage” was one of the most successful comedy series of the 2000s.

Almost overnight, the Hollywood-inspired show became a pop culture phenomenon, as it was quoted regularly by fans and referenced in several other forms of entertainment.

It was one of many programs that reaffirmed HBO as a dominant force in the television medium.

One of television’s greatest characters, Ari Gold, was born thanks to “Entourage.”

Recently, “Entourage” aired its series finale – appropriately titled “The End” – after eight seasons. The finale stood alone as a strong episode, but the series itself did not showcase the same quality during its final two seasons as it had in previous years.

Like many other programs before it, “Entourage” ran well past its prime, and may have provided further proof that the television system of fewer seasons with fewer episodes is the direction all successful series should adopt.

The concept of “Entourage” seems simple enough on the surface: a hot, young actor tries to make his way through Hollywood with his best friend and manager, half-brother – who is himself a struggling actor – and a hapless fourth member who serves as the group’s driver.

The actor, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), struggles to maintain a balance between acting in quality films while building his resume as a major star, which is what his super-agent Gold (Jeremy Piven) is pushing for him.

The casting of the series, however, proved to make this simple sounding idea quite the challenge to produce. While the casting of Chase’s three best friends who made up his entourage were easy (the role of Eric Murphy, Chase’s best friend, was specifically written for actor Kevin Connolly), casting for the character of Chase proved to be incredibly difficult for the producers.

The best options to play a Hollywood star would be a Hollywood star. The producers needed a no-name actor who was both attractive and talented in order for the audience to buy the character.

Initially, the search was so unsuccessful that HBO wanted the character to only appear in a few scenes with just the feet of the actor shown on screen. Luckily, the producers finally found Grenier at the last minute and avoided this potentially disastrous suggestion.

Gold’s character was based off of real life agent Ari Emanuel, and series creator Doug Ellin instantly saw Piven in the role. Piven was skeptical at first, as he had worked on many series prior to “Entourage” and was uninterested in returning to the small screen. Emanuel demanded Piven play him, and if he did not, Emanuel would not allow his name to be used for the show. Eventually, Piven fell in love with the character and took on the role.

Fans of the series are beyond grateful that Piven changed his mind. Gold is an unforgettable character that stole every scene he was in. Piven’s relentless energy and the writers’ creativity made Gold an explosive, unpredictable character that the audience could not get enough of. The abrasive super-agent was capable of anything, and just when viewers thought they had seen Gold reach his apex of anger, he bested it in the following week. Piven won three Best Supporting Actor, Comedy Emmy Awards in a row from 2006 to 2008 for his outstanding work. The absence of Gold from television screens is the worst aspect of “Entourage” no longer being on the air.

The first six seasons of “Entourage” were full of fun. The adventures of Chase, Murphy, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) were hilarious and often emotionally impacting at the same time. The series became known for its excellent usage of celebrity cameos, such as Gary Busey playing a slightly more bizarre version of himself and Jeffrey Tambor constantly stalking Gold’s office looking for a new job. Most importantly, the series always felt fresh. Audiences were not bored from a week to week basis, and were still genuinely interested in the story. By season seven, however, this was no longer the case.

The final two seasons of the show’s eight-season run (technically nine, as season three was split into two parts that were each a season long) were dull, repetitive and humorless. Several story lines from earlier seasons were used again, and with little change.

Murphy and his longtime on again, off again girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) were again apart from each other, even though it was obvious to the audience they would end up together by series end. This exact plot was the major focus of season six, which aired just two years prior. The writing was lazy, as it appeared the writers were already thinking ahead towards their next projects as opposed to finishing the one they were already working on properly.

Like “24” a few years ago, and “The Office” just recently, “Entourage” ended later than it should have. There is nothing wrong with admitting you are flat out of material, which these series all clearly are or were.

Viewers of “Entourage” were left with a bad taste in their mouths after the poor quality of the finale few seasons, and almost had a sense of relief when the series ended. Those fans – and potential newcomers of the series – should do the smart thing: review the series on DVD. Relive all of the crew’s misadventures and study all of Gold’s quotes so that they can be recited at a whim.

Do not be afraid, however, to stop at season six.

Kevin Romani can be reached at [email protected]