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All Hugged Out, B*tch

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 21, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 21, 2009 |

True story: My junior year of college was one of the very best years of my life. I had an incredibly low-maintenance girlfriend, and five close friends who spent every single night at the apartment of my roommate and me. We did nothing nearly every goddamn night except to play video games, drink occasionally, and shoot the shit, occasionally breaking up the week by going to the movies. We never locked our apartment door, so our friends would be in and out all hours of the day. We provided the off-campus bathroom, the junk food, and the video game console, and they provided hours of banter. The only drama we ever really had was in trying to keep the quiet, smelly friend away from the apartment, though even that gave us something to talk about while we were waiting our turn on the Nintendo. It was easy, comfortable living and, by the end of the year, I’d managed to get my minesweeper time down to something like five seconds.

It was so perfect, in fact, that the next year, we all decided to move into the same apartment complex together. But it wouldn’t be the same again. I ended up with a new girlfriend that my friends loathed. We got bored with video games. And the conversations each night were increasingly repetitive. We couldn’t get the magic back, and two months into the fall semester, I moved out.

“Entourage,” now beginning its sixth season, would’ve been wise to quit midway through its second year, too. It’d become stale by its third season, and now the characters are not only going through the motions, but repeating themselves. After five seasons — after the rise and fall of Vincent Chase’s movie career; after the occasionally, if only brief, falling out between Eric and Vinnie; after Turtle’s once promising music producer career fizzled out; after Johnny Drama’s return to television; and after Ari Gold’s rise from very successful agent to incredibly successful agent with his own agency — the characters still haven’t managed to mature much. The entire show is still, essentially, back where it began; only now they are six years older, and ten times more pathetic. There’s no zip to the banter — it’s just meaningless chatter peppered with the occasional reference to another Hollywood celebrity. If “Seinfeld” was a show about nothing, then “Entourage” has taken it to a new level — it’s nothing squared. Worse, it’s the same episode on a loop, and the writers seem content to keep it that way, afraid — I suppose — of ruining what was once chemistry between the foursome.

The sixth season opens essentially on equal footing with the first season. After flirting with the end of his movie career, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) has finished work on Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby, and his movie career is poised to take off again. Still, he’s banging everything in sight, happy never to settle down despite his fear of loneliness. Eric (Kevin Connolly) is still his manager, though the big movement this season is that E has decided to move out of the house (no matter; Johnny Drama moved out last year, and yet he still spends nearly as much time at Vincent’s place as before). Eric, as usual, is in love, and hoping to get into a committed relationship with Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who are on and off again as much as Vincent’s career. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still as much a hanger-on as ever, though the muscle shirts, false bravado, and hook-ups with younger women feel even more creepy now that he’s over 45. Sadly, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) — the best thing about this show — has even lost his edge. Now at the top of his profession, the only drama propelling his arc is trying to get his wife to be friends with his new agent’s (Gary Cole) wife (Jamie Gertz), although the agent his having an affair with a younger woman (and Cole, so far, is being completely wasted). And, as if to remind us all that “Entourage” hasn’t move at all, Rex Lee’s Lloyd is still trying to to get promoted from Ari’s assistant to agent.

His career is still at a standstill, Turtle is the only one that has matured, though even that movement is slight — he’s thinned down, muscled up, and now involved with Jamie-Lynn Sigler (playing herself),although there’s no clever meta-feel to the relationship, since Sigler hasn’t really done anything else since “The Sopranos.” She feels more like another staid character instead of an actress playing herself in a fictional show about the mundanity of celebrity. And that’s really what this show is about — in the beginning, it was fun to get a glimpse into the banalities of celebrity life, even if it was fictional. But in revealing that facileness, the mystique has evaporated, and we see these characters’ lives for what they really are: Duller than our own.

Indeed, there’s nothing left to that once amiable chemistry between the characters. It’s as though the show were stuck on first base for six seasons — where there was once a certain thrill to making out, the characters have only threatened to steal second and cop a feel. But they keep returning to the safety of first base, content to allow their lips to chap and peel, until they are so numb to the sensation that they don’t even realize their mouths have filled with saliva. A few more episodes of this stasis, and we’re all liable to drown in the spit.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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