You want to know how I know this?
A few years ago now I went with a similarly misanthropic friend on a road trip to Las Vegas. We hadn't talked in a while and we were catching up on everything. Near the end of our journey to the land of bright light good times and post-party poverty and depression, she asked me: "By the way, how much do you hate Entourage?". I quickly responded, "You know, I want to talk about that, but we're already over the Nevada border. We're going to be in Las Vegas in under and hour and that's not possibly enough time to say all we have to say about how horrible that show is. Let's wait until we're heading back, ok?'. She begrudgingly agreed.
Two days later, having had our fill of booze, buffets and Basketball (We were there for the NBA Summer League) we headed home. Las Vegas was still in our rearview when I turned to her and said, "So... Entourage". The conversation took us all the way to Arcadia, CA. Two hundred and fifty miles and over four hours about how a single TV show is making our universe a worse place. That's what we're talking about here.
If you told me that "Entourage" is causing every modern problem our society faces, from climate change to muscular dystrophy, I would not at all be surprised. It would make a shocking amount of sense, considering the damage that it has done to so much of Los Angeles.
In a way, it's hard to write about my hatred of "Entourage" on account of my dislike of it being so complete, so realized, so full. However, for the good of us all, I will do my best to get into the finer points. This is a show that began as the brainchild of Mark Wahlberg. Apparently, Mark Wahlberg found his soulless, shallow and disdainful existence so fascinating that he felt as though the entire world should know about it. Before I get into anything else, I want you to spend a few moments contemplating this. An actor who on his best day is mediocre and spends his life lisping through crappy roles in almost uniformly shitty movies and is rewarded with millions of dollars, fame and all the youthful vagina he can subject his irish curse to, thinks that everyone should experience what this life is like first hand. Think of the level of narcissism necessary to come to that conclusion. Back in the "Golden Age" of Hollywood, I'm sure that much of the same awful self-aggrandizing was going on, however, the famous boneheads of that era had the decency to not share their awfulness when the cameras were off. Back then, Charlie Chaplin was free to seduce all of the child actresses he wanted and Fatty Arbuckle could kill all the hookers he wanted because back then, the cameras HAD "off" switches (Or buttons, or cranks depending on the type of camera) . These days, celebrities are celebrities 24 hours a day. However, that was just not enough for Donnie Wahlbergs's vastly inferior brother, who also required a fictionalization (Or is it dramatization?) of his life on top of all of the celebrity entertainment magazines, "news" programs and magazines. Why? Dear god, why?
While I'm on this point, here's another question for you, dear reader: If you were going to produce a television program based on your life, wouldn't you do everything in your power to make sure that the character that is based on you is in some way, shape or form likable? Even if your entire, unjustifiable existence is spent in a vapid vortex, why would you not at least invent pleasant character traits for you to have? Perhaps pretend that you donate some time to a charity, or do something nice for the less fortunate in some way. Part of me almost wants to admire the people who shit out this program for their decision to make all of the lead characters so unapologetically unlikeable. However, therein lies one of the truly frightening things about this show, in the eyes of the pure vileness of the show's audience, these people are perfectly likable because this is the very awfulness that they aspire to. That is what this show is: fantasy fulfillment for the modern asshole. The idea of going through life this counterproductive is not merely acceptable, it's the goal. The fact that this show has as many likeminded fans as it does is almost enough to make me want to fall on my sword. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of movies and TV show that are very watchable despite (or because of) the fact that their lead characters are unlikeable. One of the most criminally underrated TV shows of all time was "Profit", a 1997 Fox drama staring Adrian Pasdar as a sociopath corporate exec who climbs to the top of his company using deception, indulgence and seduction as his primary weapons. If this sounds familiar it's because it's essentially the exact same thing you see every week on Entourage, minus the insufferable celebrity cameos and white people listening to hip-hop as they cruise the tough streets of the Beverly Center.
Have a quick look at this scene from "Profit" and tell me how it differs from any of Jeremy Piven's myriad of blackmail subplots, other than the relative lack of misogyny and homophobia.
"Profit" does have one major thing that differentiates it from "Entourage", something that baffles me. It's an aspect of the story structure, an aspect that I once thought was critical. Conflict. Pasdar's Jim Profit is a deeply troubled man who will do anything and everything out of self-interest, but his plans and schemes always carry with them a level of uncertainty. There's always a chance that he will be out-smarted by his adversaries and he will not get what he wants. This is NEVER the case with "Entourage". Let's say an episode begins with one of the cast waking up in his room of the mansion, heading downstairs and saying to his fellow compatriots (Complete with translation for the caucasianally impaired): "YO(Hello), let's go get a dope(good) sound system installed in the H2(Automobile designed to help me come to terms with my small penis) and then get some mad(multiple) hotties(whorishly attractive women). You can bet your bottom dollar that by episode's end, dope sound system shall be installed and mad hotties procured. The only piece of drama is how the crack team of orangutans with IPads (the writing staff) can figure out how to make things even better for their fetish-object protagonists. Under the pressure of people I know whose opinions I no longer hold any stock in, I was asked a little while ago to give the show another chance. They claimed that the show was not like that anymore and that it had changed for the better. So I did...
The episode was all about the character "Turtle" trying to find a very rare and expensive pair of shoes for himself.
That was it.
Anyway, it did hold a little intrigue for me because I was curious how they were not just going to find a way of getting the undeserved schlub his shoes, but make them better than normal shoes? Was he going to win the entire shoe company in a poker match where he draws a royal flush? Would they be delivered by a pair of naked porn stars, each wearing nothing but one of the shoes? What? This tension is clearly why the show is so popular. Well, eventually I got my answer: The Wahlberg symbiote gets him a custom pair from a super cool urban graffiti artist who is so street that he's not even white. He was Asian. Curiosity satisfied. That was totally a productive thirty minutes of my life that I'm glad I will never get back.
Tell you another thing about why this show is helping turn our once great nation into the prolapsed asshole of culture that it has become, I resent this show most as a resident of Los Angeles. I've lived here since I was 13 years old and I can tell you from personal experience that it gets a bad rap. Hidden beyond the malls, Urban Outfitters and Silver Lake hipster vortexes there's a surprising amount of fun things to do on any given day and a handful of them are even cultural and educational if you pay enough attention. We have great food, music, theatre, museums and a very interesting array of different cultures living together in relative harmony. The only truly disdainful element is the temporary residents. The people who moved out here from (insert name of shitty, jerkwater town) to be a famous (something disposable that will one day involve them banging Wilmer Valderrama or Kate Hudson). These are the real blights on our city and they're not even from here. Most of them slink back to wherever the hell they're from after a getting kicked out of the Oakwood Apartments and blowing Scott Baio. Speaking of which, why is it always "pilot season"? These are the people that come out here because they've seen "Entourage". They slurped down the worst, most undigestible swill this city has to offer and decided that they should grab an apron and join the rest of the jerk squad in the kitchen. People tell me that those people were coming out here anyway and that I blame that show too much. While I will concede that they are already coming out here, "Entourage" is making them come out here faster. Go to any acting class in LA and you're destined to find some coiffed pretty boy without a crumb of talent or intelligence who was inspired to come here not for some artistic yearning, but to ride around in Cristal-fuled jet-skis with sluts. Go to the mail room of any management firm in this city and ask any kid what he's doing there. You'll most likely find some douche who wants to sit in a corner office and spout hateful things for their own amusement while handslap-hugging famous people. Why shouldn't they? Their ticket out here was punched by a show that never once talks about hard work, dedication to craft or talent. The lack of a depiction of work is one of the most insidious things about a show that is nothing but insidious. This entire thing a is self-fufilling prophecy of the most foreboding kind. It even ruins locations around town for me. If a place I have been and enjoyed is mentioned on "Entourage" I never go there again. It's forever tainted and exists only in the alternate reality Los Angeles that I choose to live my life blissfully ignorant of. I just tear the page out of my mental Thomas Guide, never to be seen again. It's really a shame too, I'd love a sandwich from Bay Cities again. PIty it burned down in that douche fire last year.
This represents something that "Entourage" is finally going off the air at the end of this season. My first instinct is actually that it may very well soon be forgotten. None of the characters are at all endearing and I don't see them making any permanent mark on us. They're crude stereotypes and people will soon tire of their catchphrases. It'll be like when Austin Powers finally and mercifully left the collective consciousness. When's the last time you heard someone quote that? When they did, didn't you think less of them? That's probably what we'll soon have with this. Of course talentless hacks will still reference it sometimes. Of course some poor girl will have to take Valley Cab back over Topanga Canyon after letting Jeremy Piven, waxed chest, hairpiece and all, jizz all over her newly installed implants, crying the whole time. However, they will slowly dry up, too. (By which I mean the number of girls, not the girls themselves).
Los Angeles exists on a permanent fault line, ready to fall into the sea at any moment. Every year there are fires, floods, droughts, Laker-fan riots and Dodger Stadium beatings. It's survived because the good people far outnumber the bad. The culture thrives all around town, the artists create. The morons can do whatever they want to on the Sunset Strip every Friday and Saturday night if they want to. That's an acceptable loss as far as I'm concerned. We're better than that. We're Los Angeles. We'll keep on fighting...
...We'll win the war