Complete Fifth Season
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All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ost people would probably agree that the fifth season of “Entourage” wasn’t the show’s best year, and some would even go as far as to say that it was the worst. Go ahead and file me under the latter category, because while the series remains an entertaining half-hour of television, it no longer has the swagger that made it so fun in the first place. While the writing was certainly more courageous than in years past, “Entourage” has always been about the rise of movie star Vincent Chase. And by letting him fall for too long, it only made us question whether the writers were genuinely trying to develop the character, or just bored with the direction that he was headed.
The new season picks up several months after the Cannes Film Festival debacle, with “Medellin” proving to be both a critical and commercial failure, and Vince (Adrian Grenier) running away to hide out in Mexico with Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). When he finally does return to Hollywood rejuvenated and looking to get back to work, Vince discovers that no one around town is interested. Slumming it in public appearances and fashion shoots while he waits for a real job, Vince gets his shot at redemption when Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Ari (Jeremy Piven) help cast him in a firefighter drama called “Smokejumpers.” But when Vince butts heads with the film’s authoritarian director (Stellan Skarsgård), the future of his career is serious threatened.
There’s a lot more to Season Five, but Vince’s story dominates so much of it that you really have to love what they’re doing with the character to consider it a success. Unfortunately, the fourth season focused so much on setting up Vince’s fall from grace that by the time he actually started dealing with the consequences, I was ready for him to be a star again. Perhaps worse than having to sit through an entire season of Vince’s dwindling career, however, is the leisurely pace at which it’s restored. Thankfully, there are some great subplots scattered throughout the season, like the expansion of Eric’s management company (including new clients Charlie, played by Bow Wow, and the screenwriting duo of Nick and L.B., played by Giovanni Ribisi and Lukas Haas) and Turtle’s incredibly lucky run-in with Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Meanwhile, Drama (Kevin Dillon) continues to ruin his life by acting like an idiot (which is too bad, because he had a lot going for him at the end of Season Four – like a hit NBC drama and a hot girlfriend), and Ari is forced to make a decision that could change his life (and Vince's) forever.
It goes without saying that Jeremy Piven continues to make the show worth watching, but while his bigger-than-life super agent scores the biggest laughs (especially in episodes like “The All Out Fall Out,” where he gets into a prank war with fellow agent Adam Davies), it’s Kevin Connelly who comes out on top as the most interesting of the group. Though “Entourage” wouldn’t get to display the glitz and glamour of Hollywood without guys like Vince and Ari on the show, Eric’s everyman journey from pizza boy to Hollywood manager is without a doubt the one thing that keeps me tuning each and every week. The show’s ability to lure big name guest appearances also helps in keeping the show fresh, and Season Five has more than its share, including Mark Wahlberg, Eric Roberts, Jason Isaacs, Frank Darabont, Gus Van Sant and Martin Scorsese. Gary Cole is especially memorable in a three-episode arc as Ari’s friend, Andrew Klein, and it would be great to see him return as a series regular next season.
For as bad as the fifth season may sound, however, it’s really more hit-and-miss than a flat-out train wreck. Sure, there are a couple of episodes that could easily be described as a waste of time (like “Tree Trippers,” where the gang drives out to Joshua Tree to get high on ‘shrooms, or “ReDOMption,” an episode dedicated to one of the least favorite characters in the history of the show), but more often than not, the stories are simply unsatisfying. A few exceptions exist – like the return of Eric’s celebrity nemesis in “Seth Green Day” or the awesome season finale that finds the guys returning to their old stomping grounds – but it’s hard to not come away from this batch of episodes feeling let down. That’s not to say that you should bail from “Entourage” just yet, but it’s going to have a hard time climbing its way back to the top. The ball is in your court, gentlemen.
Special Features: The three-disc box set isn’t any better or worse than previous years, but rather exactly what we’ve all come to expect. Recaps for the first four seasons appear on each disc, while audio commentaries with creator Doug Ellin and stars Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly and Jerry Ferrara appear on “Tree Trippers,” “Play’n with Fire” and “Return to Queens Blvd.” The only other extra is a short featurette called “The Celebrity Factor” that takes a look at the guests that dropped by for Season Five.