With Vinnie Chase (Grenier) busy at work, the rest of the gang are living their own lives. E (Connolly) is happily engaged and content at the agency, Turtle (Ferrara) becomes involved in a new Tequila company and Drama (Dillon) is desperately seeking work before his holding deal runs out. Ari (Piven) meanwhile, is now established as Hollywood’s most powerful agent, attempting to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles and dealing with a former employee’s law suit. However, after Vinnie’s persuaded to perform a dangerous stunt, he begins thrill-seeking, develops substance abuse problems and starts spiralling out of control…
Shorter, less volume, an overdue change of style to last year… but enough about Adrian Grenier’s new buzz-cut. What about the seventh instalment of Entourage? Well, as fans know by now, each seasonal chapter of the show loosely sees the boys either cruising on an upswing (enjoying the town, girls and glamourous lifestyle) or facing a testing downturn (where it all threatens to fall apart). And, since season seven is unquestionably the latter, your take will depend on whether your preferences veer towards the latter or not.
Though similar to the polarising, up-swinging sixth season given that the boys continue to do their own thing, this is a much darker affair with the least humour and breezy coasting we’ve seen thus far. Of course, for Gatsby and the funky bunch – as producer / series inspiration Mark Wahlberg coined them last year – growing up and pursuing separate careers was inevitable. After all, they can’t be the same party-hard, Vince-dependant slackers forever. But while the show is now caught in that tricksy place between evolving and staying true to what it was, some of the individual storylines work as well as Eric’s attempt at anal sex (yes, you read that correctly).
Chief among these is Turtle’s foray into the Tequila business which, despite fitting nicely with Vince’s growing substance abuse problem and offering a nice Wall Street gag, rarely feels worth caring about. In fairness, it furthers his character progression from free-loading chubster to slimmed-down independent, but at times this is more transformation than evolution. Previously nabbing Jamie-Lynn Sigler (yes, they dated in real life, blah blah), now landing another out-of-his-league hottie in the form of Dana Ramirez’ driver Alex. Is this really the same loveable schmuck who begged girls to make out with him? Beginning college last year (actually, what happened with that?), then starting the season running a high-class limo service, by the time he moves to the Tequilla venture you start to get the idea that the writers can’t find a place for him outwith the group.
While the same isn’t true of Eric Connoly’s E, easily the most content of the bunch to move forward, his arc is limited to settling down into happy-couple-dom with Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui, definitely worth settling down for). That said, his love-to-hate-you bickering with Scott Caan’s returning slick-haired agent Scott Lavin is a highlight of this new, more mature Entourage (Caan has a gift for snappy, sarcy, comic delivery), while their rivalry over ‘possession’ of Vince highlights an interesting dilemma. Having committed to Sloan, Eric can’t always roll with Vince and keep him out of trouble, but knows that replacement roller Scott, who’s only too happy to indulge the movie star’s burgeoning wild side, is a bad influence. Whether diving out of planes (which Grenier actually did), procuring coke or purchasing dinosaur skulls.
By having Chase Jr’s increasingly self-destructive path front and centre, showrunner Doug Ellin and his crew right a major wrong from season six, where the big-haired star existed unsatisfyingly on the periphery. Beginning with a dangerous stunt on the set of a cool-looking sci-fi movie during the opening episode (which also rectifies last time’s utter lack of movie-making production), Vinnie’s journey towards the dark side evolves believably over the course of the season. Developing a drug habit and literally riding the choppy waters that come with dating a porn star (played by real-life porn star Sasha Grey, now also a ‘real’ actress), by the cleverly titled, Eminem-starring finale Lose Yourself, our boy has well and truly lost himself.
Being critical, the prospect of Vince falling from fame doesn’t feel as potentially fatal or consequential as previous occasions – like the near abortion of Aquaman or the desperate, post-Medellin career flatline - given how self-sufficient the gang are now. But yet, it’s gives us a clear focus that’s been lacking and Adrian Grenier, who’s often unfairly singled out for his character being blander than the rest (which, is a sly dig at the industry), a chance to shine. And it’s easily his best work in the series, making the change from easy-going charmer to irresponsible loose-canon both credible and worrying. At the risk of entering slight spoiler territory, there’s no neat ending in store. No save-all call from Martin Scorsese.
Of all the ‘rage, Johnny Drama’s slide back into unemployment should be the most regressive – but it’s not. So desperate that at times he’s almost too whiny, deluded and ungrateful – even for Drama – Kevin Dillon constantly reminds us why we, and the guys, love him dearly. One minute sympathetically bickering with the likes of Bob Saget or John Stamos, the next taking a beating for baby bro without hesitation, in many ways he’s the heartbeat of the whole shebang. Or as he put it previously, “I am the fucking game pal”.
Ari might start and end the season by Vince’s side, but like recent years he’s essentially off performing a spin-off show. As we know, Piven’s too magnetic in the role to let any such distance affect him, whether dealing with the damaging collateral damage of overdue staff lawsuits or facing the breaking point of his marriage to Mrs Ari (Perrey Reeves). While the latter leads to Ari’s darkest hour too, the former leaves us with plenty of his usual, vitriol-spewing gold. ”I don’t want to talk to anybody. Was I not clear? Nobody. I don’t care if Justin Bieber calls and wants me to negotiate the rights to his virginity – I don’t wanna talk to him! NOBODY.”
By now you could wonder who’s left to cameo, but with the likes of Stan Lee, John Cleese, Mike Tyson (pitching himself for a black Brady Bunch movie) and a host of others providing brilliant self-spoofery, it seems the well isn’t nearly dry yet. But while the famous faces remain both spot-on and fun, it’s the returning bit-players that satisfying most, like Carla Gugino’s busty bosswoman Amanda Daniels or Debi Mazar’s mouthy publicist Shauna. Gary Cole’s Andrew Klein might only feature in one brief rehab scene (which includes a genius, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Tom Sizemore cameo), but Rhys Coiro makes a welcome return as a cleaned-up and reformed Billy Walsh. Which, when you think about it, lends irony to Vinnie heading the other way…
Arguably the darkest and least humourous instalment yet, It won’t please those who prefer the sunnier likes of season six, but Entourage remains addictive, brilliant guy viewing. Now, let’s finish things in style boys…