Trouble is brewing at Casa de Vince in HBO's Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season. Turtle's career skyrockets, Johnny sits in limbo and Eric feels personal and professional friction as Vince begins the kind of downward spiral expected of a young Hollywood actor. Entourage is still entertaining in its second-to-last season, but occasionally overwhelms its characters with contrived hurdles that hinder the show's usual easygoing flow.
After Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) performs a dangerous stunt on the set of his new movie, he catches the daredevil bug and begins risking life and limb at every turn, much to the chagrin of his agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), and buds Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). Thus begins the major conflict in season seven, which is Vince's headfirst plunge into temptation. Vince says he is tried of being handled with kid gloves, and wants to live a little. He begins dating porn star Sasha Grey, playing an uncouth version of herself, and the pair begins popping pills, boozing and getting down at various Hollywood locales. Vince's wild ways put his next movie, the potential franchise starter Air-Walker, in jeopardy when he shows up buzzed to a meeting with its director, Randall Wallace.
Truth be told, Vince is one of my least favorite characters on Entourage. Sure, the show revolves around the boy from Queens who made it big, but Vince is often too whiny and privileged for his own good. Fortunately, season seven gives the supporting players a lot more action. Turtle is running a car service business in the first episode but quickly follows girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez) into the tequila business after he impresses one of the brand's owners. Johnny is still looking for a project to revive his career, but a disastrous meeting with John Stamos seals the fate of his proposed sitcom. Fortunately, Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro) returns with a crude cartoon project that is right up Johnny's alley. Eric continues to work hard at his agency, but begins butting heads with associate Scott Lavin (Scott Caan), a slick talker who enables Vince's reckless behavior.
After a sixth season that many criticized for being trivial, Entourage turns the lives of its characters upside-down. Alongside Vince's addictions and Eric's agency drama is trouble for Ari, whose abrasive attitude finally catches up to him. Scorned ex-associate Lizzie Grant (Autumn Reeser) begins stealing Ari's clients, and someone leaks tapes of Ari's profane inter-office ranting, which jeopardizes his deal with the NFL. On top of that, Mrs. Ari (Perrey Reeves) is poised to move on to greener pastures after Ari's behavior embarrasses her in public.
While I welcome the increased screen time for Turtle, Johnny and Eric, I think some of the season's squabbling borders on overkill. Part of the fun of Entourage is watching these guys enjoy the Hollywood high life, and I didn't necessarily need to see each character fail over and over again. Vince's diva behavior grows especially tiresome, and the best thing I can say about Sasha is that at least her character is not as annoying as Ashley (Alexis Dziena) in season six. Vince and Sasha make each other worse, and at times I wanted to punch Vince in the face for being such a terrible friend to Eric, Johnny and Turtle.
There aren't a lot of glaring problems with the season, and most of the issues can be attributed to the show running out of steam after seven years. I applaud the writers for adding some more weighty drama to the mix, but I do miss the golden days of Entourage when everyone was living the good life. Season seven certainly is not the best of the series, but it nicely sets up what I hope will be a powerful final season for the show.
LIST OF EPISODES:
1. "Stunted" - Vince gets ballsy on the set of his new movie over the objections of Eric and Ari, and Turtle struggles with his new business.
2. "Buzzed" - Vince picks up some bad habits, which distract Ari from a highly lucrative deal with the NFL.
3. "Dramedy" - Vince and Scott pal around, Turtle has employee trouble and Ari continues his fight with fellow agent Lizzie.
4. "Tequila Sunrise" - Turtle and Alex go to Mexico to talk tequila while Johnny blows a meeting with John Stamos for a new sitcom.
5. "Bottoms Up" - Vince meets and hooks up with porn star Sasha Grey, Ari fights for his clients and Johnny becomes sworn enemies with Bob Saget.
6. "Hair" - Vince continues his downward spiral with online rants, Billy Walsh returns with an idea for Johnny and Ari's deal with the NFL is threatened by two women scorned.
7. "Tequila and Coke" - Vince shows up buzzed to a meeting with Randall Wallace, Ari and Lizzie make amends and Turtle runs out of tequila after promising several cases to local retailers.
8. "Sniff Sniff Gang Bang" - Vince tries to talk Sasha out of starring in a high-paying porn movie, while Turtle and Alex promote and build their tequila brand. Drama is slow to warm to any new projects, and Ari has trouble at work.
9. "Porn Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" - Vince tries to get Sasha a part in a Hollywood movie, and Ari learns the NFL deal may have gone to someone else. Johnny, Eric and Turtle discover Vince is using drugs.
10. "Lose Yourself" - Eric comes to an important junction in his career and life with Sloan, while Ari invites Christina Aguilera to his wife's birthday party to try to save his marriage. Vince melts down at Eminem's party and his friends stage an intervention.
PICTURE AND SOUND:
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season arrives on Blu-ray with capable 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfers for each episode. The image is crystal clear, with abundant detail to support the colorful California landscape. Skin tones run a touch hot, as does contrast in general, but I assume this is intended. Blacks are deep, colors rarely bleed, and crush is minimal. There is a bit of noise in parts of the image, as well as some ringing on buildings, but on the whole, the image looks good. Each episode includes a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that supports the dialogue-heavy series. Although most of the action comes from the front, there's a lot of directional dialogue and ambiance that comes through in the surround speakers. The series is known for its music, and the sounds of M.I.A. and Big Boi reverberate aggressively. French 5.1 DTS and Spanish DTS Surround 2.0 tracks are included, and English SDH, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season is a two-disc set from HBO and Warner Brothers. There are five episodes on each disc, and the extra features are on disc two. The discs are housed in a fold-out digipack with pictures of the cast, episode descriptions and a list of bonus features. The digipack slips inside a sturdy cardboard slipcover.
Audio commentary from executive producer/creator Doug Ellin, executive producer Ally Musika, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara and Adrian Grenier is available on three episodes: "Hair," "Lose Yourself" and "Porn Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." The cast and producers mostly goof around, but the tracks are enjoyable enough even if they don't provide a lot of detailed information about production on the series. Inside the Hollywood Highlife (13:40) is a fluffy featurette about the seventh season that includes interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and The Shades of Sasha Grey (5:47) is a short piece about the actress/porn star.
Vincent Chase goes off the deep end in Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season. Fortunately, his friends Eric, Turtle and Johnny are there to watch his back while each tries to build his own career. Some of the fun of Entourage has worn off after seven years, and the drama in season seven ranges from involving to distracting. While the season is imperfect, it sets up what should be a great final season for the HBO comedy. Recommended.
William lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.