Saturday, July 23, 2011

HBO's Entourage and Los Angeles

This weekend, HBO’s once-hit, still semi-popular series Entourage kicks off its 8th and final season.  I’ve personally gotten used to, and have enjoyed, watching the exploits of Vince, E, Drama, and Turtle each summer, but as time has passed, the public’s perception of Entourage has altered from excited and interested to passé, much in the trajectory of a trendy, new clothing design, and with it, the same tired thoughts and criticisms of Los Angeles have bubbled through the cracks and to the surface, using the show as an example as to why LA is a complete shithole.

And let's face it, most people who have never stepped foot in LA are certain it's a shithole.  Hell, even people who live here, but are not from here, often qualify their location status by saying something to the effect of "I live in LA, but I'm not really an LA girl/guy," implying that admitting they like living in this shithole would somehow be detrimental to their overall persona.  

But despite the often times nonsensical rhetoric, these people are right about one thing: LA is a shithole.  

It has to be the most aesthetically displeasing city on the planet. It’s smoggy, dirty, cutthroat, and sometimes plain gross. But, despite this, Los Angeles is also a metropolis with an incredibly unique culture.  You often hear the term “only in LA” uttered with either positive or negative connotation, and for good reason.  I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years and have had countless experiences that I can’t imagine having in any other city, both good and bad.  But regardless of the cultural or personal value of said experiences, they were all certainly compelling and interesting enough for a story told over a drink at a bar. And it's this lifestyle, this uniqueness that Entourage celebrates. The show is a humorous, fun tribute to the one of a kind, Los Angeles/entertainment-based culture and should not be ashamed of being what it truly is: a love letter to Los Angeles, and all the potential good and fun this city brings.

The Entourage narrative has consistently been criticized for the main characters always “winning.” After all,  for many of the seasons, the main issues plaguing the characters were certainly king’s problems, as the paramount issue generally concerned whether or not Vince was an "A-list" or "B-list" celebrity.  Though the show handled the "problems" as seriously as a comedy can, Vince's life was still better than 99 percent of the population, regardless of his relative success.  And though his crew would have ups and downs, most of the episodes ended with the characters rejoicing in their near misses, their successes, and would celebrate their accomplishments with snowboaring, drives to Vegas, counting money, and drowning in seas of large breasts.  

Year after year, critics have wondered why the creators of the show haven’t injected more pressing/detrimental problems on to Vince’s life, like a drug addiction, which finally was introduced in season seven, and to me, made it a crashing bore.  Because, though Entourage guised itself as a buddy comedy with four friends that genuinely cared about eachother (and they succeed somewhat on this level), it was never a story about the downfall of a star and his friends, it was always a celebration of Hollywood success.  And it shouldn’t have to apologize for that because it was as entertaining as any decent sitcom heading into it's twilight.

Chuck Klosterman (who I adore and respect) thought, for the final season, it might be interesting to see Vince’s career completely tank and the boys moving back to Queens, remaining friends, yet with none of the toys they have accumulated in Los Angeles.  But I respectfully disagree.  Entourage is at its best when it’s an escape.  It’s no secret that the entire world has an obsession with celebrity and how the other side lives.  If tabloid sales are any indication, people are often overly curiously about the glitzy Hollywood lifestyle and read these magazines in an effort to live vicariously, even if distantly, through their favorite celebrities.  And that’s what Entourage is.  A television tabloid about a fake movie star that gives audiences a glimpse into what a movie star may encounter during his daily day, without dealing with the minutiae of shooting films and the perils of being a celebrity.  Essentially, Entourage is probably like watching a highlight reel of Mark Wahlberg’s (an executive producer on the show’s) life.  It generally concentrates on the fun side and legitimizes people's desire to achieve celebrity.  It may not show all sides of the lifestyle, but I'd have to say that it's also pretty accurate.  In addition, the Entourage MO may cater to an audience's very superficial want, and if you want to take issue with that, fine, but it's still funny to watch Ari completely blow up and for Drama to stress out about a petty issue like the size of his calves. 

Listen, if you want a fictional show or book about the perils and seediness of Los Angeles, there is hardly a dearth of material.  The entertainment industry, for most, is a struggle.  It's a hustle.  It's a gigantic pain in the ass and 95 percent of the people involved never come close to living a life like Vince and his friends. But that life does exist, and it's fun to see it "first hand," even if its just a fictional TV show.  And sometimes we just want to watch a show where our heroes win.  We just want a half hour where cynicism doesn't infiltrate our storyline because we are so used to it in our real life, and don't always need brutal reality in our entertainment. 

So, in short, that's all Entourage is.  An escape.  And, sure, the show has gotten lamer over the years, but that said, I always liked hanging out with Vince and his friends and will miss it when it's gone. But, regardless, I will continue to enjoy living in their sunny setting, shithole and all, and refuse to apologize for it.

Oh yeah, and if it's below 65 degrees, I'm gonna complain that it's cold.   


  1. I definitely felt I would hate LA before I had been but it had nothing to do with the aesthetics. In fact the fact that you went to aesthetics first is the most LA possible thing you could do.

    I don't think LA is that ugly. I like old neon and 50s architecture. Strip malls and sprawl suck, but that's lots of cities.

    I like LA but the values that people hold as a city, and that the city is physically grown with are pretty antithetical to my values and that is why, after more than 2 days there, I would like to leave. In fact, in that way, I feel about LA the way I think most LAngelenos feel about Vegas. This virtues clash is shockingly more unavoidable than any city I've visited.

    I guess I feel about it this way: when I lived in NYC, no one I knew in their 30s was terribly worried about getting married. In Chicago, people in their 30s are mostly coupled. In CT, people in their 30s are having babies. If you asked all these people, they'd probably say they weren't influenced by everyone else to have a baby or get married. Because the people who disagree probably already left town or aren't friends with them.

    LA is like that. Even people who say they "aren't LA" will be like "oh shit we have to street park and then walk somewhere?" and every other stereotype we've all heard.

    RE: Entourage, I watched a few seasons when ill one weekend. It was when I lived in queens, so I found the portrayal of their upbringing laughable. Like "ooh they lived near THE MALL! How gritty! I AM Queens Blvd! Does that mean I am the Old Navy?" But I stopped watching it because every single character was a person I didn't like. It was just a group of awful people doing stupid shit to themselves.

    Reading your description makes me think you are right, because they very much espouse a ton of the qualities/virtues I hate about LA.

  2. I don't disagree with any of that