Entourage wrapped up its run on HBO Sunday night with a final episode that saw big changes, and none at all. By which I mean, right to the very post-credits moment, the series remained what it was from the start: a fantasy of wealth, success, love, and arrested development.
The saga of Vincent Chase, young actor on the make as a movie star, was never meant to be anything more than a lighter-than-air sitcom, with HBO freedom to show more of the skin available to a star like Vinnie and allow Ari Gold to scream more explicitly than he could on most other sitcoms. Early on in its life, Entourage did a pretty good job of making you care whether Vince could retain his sense of integrity while being the star of an Aquaman hit and the auteur of the flop Medellin. After a while, however, we came to realize that Vince had slowly, steadily lost any sense of the division between idealism and success. In this, the series mirrored what was going on in the pop culture, the politics, and the economy of America over the years in which Entourage existed.
Entourage remained one of HBO’s most popular shows, with a loyal fan base, not because it remained funny – sometimes whole seasons passed without a real laugh-out-loud moment – but because its audience had really bought into the brotherhood of Vince, Eric, Johnny, and Turtle. The real attraction of Entourage wasn’t its jokes or its guest-star cameos, but its suggestion that a group of buddies could come up from nothing and become little kings of their worlds. It was like Scarface, without the chainsaw and blood: Every week, we said hello to these leetle friends.
If fans identified with and fantasized through Vince and his pals, they vented vicariously through Ari, the venal, foul-mouthed agent who made millions for himself and others, and almost never let an enemy slip away without the mortal wounds of profane insults. The other actors had to remain likable; Jeremy Piven had the toughest job: He had to render Ari over-the-top cruel, realistically cynical, and likable. No wonder he’s the one who won the awards.
I’m guessing that if you remained a regular viewer of Entourage, there were probably very few surprises in the finale. You just knew these guys were going to remain loyal bros to the very end. You could have guessed the series would want to marry off Vince – what could complete the show’s fantasy of the man who had it all more than a beautiful blonde to whom he could give a $1.4 million dollar ring and fly off to marry in Paris? You just knew E was going to win over Sloan. Really, the only person who experienced real change was Turtle, and that was only because Jerry Ferrara lost some weight.
One thing that kept Entourage from being a great show – aside from its highly uneven quality from season to season – was that it never really made up its mind who its central character was, Vince or Ari. Creator Doug Ellin, who wrote the final episode, settled that question once and for all on Sunday night, by giving the final scene to Ari. The whole is-Ari-going-to-divorce plot this season was a waste of time: You just knew he and Melissa would reconcile. But after promising the wife a full year in Italy, the cliffhanger of whether he’ll take over the offer of running his own studio seems like a no-brainer. No matter how fetching that long, lingering shot of Perry Reeves’ bathing-suited backside was meant to be, we just know what Ari’s decision is going to be, don’t we?
What’s next in the Entourage universe? Probably a feature film, as the show follows in the footsteps of its HBO sister-show, Sex and the City. I can’t say I’m looking forward to paying money at the box office to see an actor as flyweight as Adrian Grenier try to actually be what Vince supposedly was – a movie star – or watch Ari scream while running a movie studio. But I’ll bet there’ll be enough Entourage junkies itching for a fix of brotherhood ‘n’ fame to give it a big opening weekend. It may not turn out to be an Aquaman, but it probably won’t be a Medellin, either.