Though Vinnie Chase (Grenier) is back to A-list status, he’s left bored at home when his upcoming film is delayed. Elsewhere, Eric (Connolly), Turtle (Ferrara) and Drama (Dillon) pursue their own careers, whilst Ari (Piven) faces trouble at the Miller-Gold Agency on a few fronts…
Right from the opening episode’s climax, you get the feeling that there’s going to be something different about Entourage‘s sixth season. As Vince returns to the gang’s unusually empty mansion and finds himself alone (while The Verve’s Lucky Man strums poignantly in the background), the penny drops as to what it is. After five very enjoyable years of girls, parties, booze and more girls, it’s time for the gang to grow up.
With a shooting delay leaving Adrian Grenier’s chiselled superstar shagger with nothing to do but boff hotties and ‘hang’, the focus shifts from everyone revolving around his career, to finding Tinseltown paths of their own. Turtle decides to better himself at college (seriously) while dating The Sopranos‘ Jamie-Lynn Sigler (playing herself). E nabs himself a lush new pad, a promising new agency job and even a crazy new girlfriend (Alexis Dziena,), while occasionally reminiscing about ex Sloan (the smouldering Emmanuelle Chriqui). Hell, even Rex Lee’s ‘gaysian’ assistant Lloyd attempts to bag himself a long overdue promotion which, needless to say, doesn’t go down too well with Ari…
As for the shouty, sarcastic, phone-wielding head of Miller-Gold, he continues the trend of recent seasons by having progressively less to do with Vinnie (is he even still his agent?) and the boys, save a few obligatory calls. But while a lesser actor would feel irrelevant in this position, Jeremy Piven remains an endlessly-watchable sparkplug presence in each and every one of his subplots – whether stranded on the couch by Mrs Ari (Perrey Reeves) or playing golf with a cheating, bitter Jeffrey Tambor (also playing himself). Best is the thread which sees his old buddy and thriving co-worker Andrew Klein (the hugely-likeable Gary Cole) meltdown after an affair with a younger agent (The OC’s Autumn Reeser) while trying to sign Aaron Sorkin. Yes, that Aaron Sorkin.
Don’t worry though, Johnny Drama’s still largely the same self-aggrandising bluster-merchant we all know and love, despite now actually enjoying ‘success’ with Five Towns. That said, in what is arguably Drama’s most satisfying character moment of the entire series, he also gets to show his true colours by committing career suicide to defend Turtle’s honour. Awww. As for the audition panic attack after seeing that Dean Cain’s also trying out (“He’s testing too? I thought it was just me… Fucking Superman”), it’s pure Entourage: funny, real and just genius.
Certainly, fans will note that by departing from the usual group dynamics, season six feels like a transition of sorts. By side-lining the usually-central character in order to focus on individual plot arcs, creatively it’s definitely a risky move – but thankfully not quite a shark-jumping one. At times, sure, the plotting feels like it’s treading water (such as the Vince’s stalker storyline), but the vibe is still contagious in that addictive I’ll-just-watch-one-more-episode kinda way.
That said, there’s definitely less at stake this year. In the darker, polarising fifth season (which this writer preferred), the throughline of Vinnie’s flat-lining career offered surprisingly compelling viewing, so here the breezier antics seems less important by comparison. If last year was the downs of the industry, this is back to the ups. And, while both Scott Caan and William Fichtner are welcome as industry players (confusingly not playing themselves), there’s hardly any on-set time. We attend the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby and a costume fitting for Frank Darabont’s Enzo Ferrari biopic, but frustratingly there’s very little actual filmmaking.
Honestly, by now it’s clear that this is a show which will soon date badly (it’s hard to imagine our kids getting a gag about Christian Bale executing a cinematographer), but the cameos remain gloriously on the money. While both Zac Efron and David Schwimmer gamely poke fun at their pubic personas (the former fed up with MILFs and appearing on lunch-boxes, the latter fed up with playing neurotic), the best is saved till last with Matt Damon. Relentlessly demanding that Vince donate big bucks to charity, he’s an intimidating and intensely-serious hoot (see the fantastic who-are-you? look he gives Drama). Just check out the post-credits phone call. Outstanding.
Season six might be a transitional one which places its main character on the periphery, but Entourage still has it.