Season Three, Part Two
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All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hile many may not realize that the debut season of “Entourage” consisted of a measly eight episodes, it probably has something to do with the progressively larger seasons that followed. Convinced of the series’ staying power after the success of its first year, HBO extended the second season order to 14, and when word rained down that the show’s junior year would continue the trend by featuring 20 episodes, it wasn’t so much a surprise as it was a natural (and well-deserved) promotion. It was a win-win situation for both parties. Fans of the series were jazzed about adding more “Entourage” to their TV diet, and the show’s writers would be able to develop more complex storylines. That is, until we learned that it would be split into two parts.
Still, there’s something to be said for the fact that the second half was delayed to coincide with the final season of “The Sopranos.” It seemed “Entourage” was finally a big enough success to be partnered with the network’s most popular show, and when both seasons ended in late June, it served as a symbolic passing of the torch from one program saying its goodbyes to another just beginning to hit its groove.
To call the second half of season three a necessary continuation of the ongoing story, however, would be pushing it. Consisting mostly of filler material meant to stave off the real drama until season four, the eight episodes that make up this leg of the show’s journey amount to one thing and one thing only: the return of Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). After sacking his top-flight agent for losing The Ramones biopic at the end of the first half of the season, rising star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) has moved on. His new agent Amanda (Carla Gugino) is not only more cutthroat than Ari, but she’s a helluva lot prettier too, and her first order of business is landing Vince a quality role. But when Ari returns to tease his former client with the chance to finally make “Medellin," Vince can’t help but chase his dream project. And in doing so, he chases away Amanda as well, both emotionally and professionally.
Unfortunately, while the mini story arc provided some great moments for Piven and Grenier, the rest of the cast (and their characters) suffer because of it. Kevin Connolly’s Eric plays lapdog to girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) for a majority of the season; Kevin Dillon’s Drama is further transformed into the show’s jester; and Jerry Ferrara’s Turtle remains the most unappreciated member of the crew. It was still nice to see Ari out of his element for a few episodes, (especially “Maniac Monday,” which has him running to his marriage counselor for advice on Vince), because in the long run, it helped develop him into a more complete character.
And as a result of this change, we also saw Perrey Reeves get an upgrade of her own. Previously shrouded in the “Also Starring” shadows each and every week, Reeves takes over the series regular spot that Debi Mazar abandoned at the end of season two. It certainly makes sense for these eight episodes (since Ari spends a lot more time at home than at the office), but her contributions to the show go much farther than simply playing the missus. Reeves is not only one of the sexiest cougars on TV, but she’s got the comic prowess to match Piven’s best moments.
The guest stars also remain an integral part of the “Entourage” formula, but while guys like Chuck Liddell and Brett Ratner continue the tradition of playing caricatures of their real-life selves, others like Adam Goldberg and Artie Lange yield better results in their roles as fictional characters. The collection of guest stars isn’t as impressive as past seasons, but it’s just one of many disappointments that make the second half of season three difficult to love. While not as bad as the most recent fourth season of the show, it does represent the beginning of a downhill slope that, if not remedied soon, could cause some serious trouble at HBO. For the time being, however, “Entourage” remains King of the Hill on the premium channel, and while its future may be a little shaky, it’s nice to know that there’s still one in sight.
Special Features: HBO never puts a whole lot of effort into their DVDs, so go ahead and holster any expectations you might have about this two-disc set being better than previous releases. In fact, you pretty much get the same extras that appeared on Part One. Three commentaries with creator Doug Ellin and stars Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara are entertaining, but not entirely informative, while the making-of featurette “Anatomy of Entourage” focuses on filming the season finale. If there’s anything to consider above and beyond what you’d normally find on one of these sets, it’s the 50-minute Museum of Television & Radio panel with Ellin and the cast.