TV Review: ENTOURAGE, 8.4 - "Whiz Kid"

As Entourage seems to struggle with an identity crisis as its final season progresses, episode four finds Vince having to beat a drug test with the help of a rather unusual prosthetic.

€œThey used Kosher egg noodles and cottage cheese when I got shot in the head in New York Undercover€€ €“ Drama

rating: 2

Perhaps I€™ve set my expectations too high for Entourage€™s final season. Given that the show is set to end after this reduced eight episode eighth season I had visions of the show going €˜out with a bang€™ as an earlier episode in the season was titled. I imagined momentous storylines and a plethora of celebrities eager to guest star, but instead, thus far, season eight has pretty much felt like an average season of the show. In a way that€™s good, the show is staying true to itself and not going to extremes trying to be something it€™s not in order to garner attention, but there€™s part of me that feels a little sad that after eight years there seems to be no impetus to do anything of note with this final season. With every passing episode I keep thinking that the next episode will bring some major developments, yet they never come, and now half way through the season the lack of a sense of urgency is very apparent. Maybe there won€™t be any big send-off for the boys, perhaps that long talked about cinematic version will be the big send-off I was expecting to occur this season, and this final season will ultimately stand as more of an addition to the seventh season than a stand-alone season. Either way, it doesn€™t alter the fact that €˜Whiz Kid€™, after last week€™s season stand-out episode, was a huge let down. After dabbling in the dark arts last season it seems that the show now can€™t decide whether it wants to be a drama or a comedy; sure it€™s possible to do both, there are plenty of great dramedies out there at the moment, unfortunately Entourage just isn€™t one of them. Whether the improved critical response to introducing more dramatic elements in to the show has influenced the decision to stay with the drama this year I don€™t know, but I was fully expecting season eight to return to the male bonding light-heartedness that I associate with the show, and for the first couple of episodes that certainly looked to be the case. But the moment the show featured a coke-influenced suicide though, that all went out of the window and we were firmly back in dark Entourage territory. The problem with this is that because the show can€™t stray from its comedic roots altogether you get these supposedly big dramatic moments tinged with comedy and the two just don€™t mesh in this way. Black comedy works with drama, dick jokes do not. Case in point would be that opening scene from €˜Whiz Kid€™ as the body bag containing Ertz is carried out of the house as the guys look on, Vince is obviously deeply affected by what went on, and the influence this could€™ve had on recovering addict Vince would, whilst not exactly funny, have been quite an interesting study had they gone down that route. Turtle too is upset by the fact he saw €œbrains€ but instead of staying with the trauma of the suicide, we then quickly shift gears to Scott nonchalantly enquiring as to the constitution of said brains and Drama reeling off the opening gem about his time playing a gun shot victim. I appreciated the focus €˜Whiz Kid€™ had as opposed to other episodes this season where it kind of felt like we were jumping around all over the place, as we were just treated to the Vince and Ari storylines here with Drama, Eric and Turtle just passengers in the Vince arc. After being such a big part of last week€™s episode it kind of felt strange that there was no mention of the Johnny€™s Bananas issues though, but I was glad that the Turtle filler was nixed for once. The focus on the storylines made for a more rounded episode but it was the lack of focus on whether the show wants to be a drama making big social statements or a comedy offering thirty minutes of light-hearted escapism that really let this episode down. I personally prefer the show to be the latter, I enjoy wading through the sociological and psychological commentary in other dramas, but I enjoy Entourage for just being light-hearted fun €“ it€™s not going to win any awards or gain critical acclaim that way but it, to me, is what the show does best. Maybe I€™m being selfish here as the show might long to be well-received critically, hence the dramatic turn of late, I just always got the feeling that Entourage knew what it was, and that it did it well, and accepted that. Of course there€™s always been conflict within the storytelling, it€™s a narrative after all, but to really go down that route of suicides, addiction and marriage crises the show has to have made sort of conscious decision to do so, as the scope of the drama for the majority of seasons one to six was whether or not Vince would get a movie role. The lack of comedy and memorable lines from this week€™s episode proved that with such a short running time you just can€™t be both tension-filled and rip-roaringly funny, and the banter that filled some of the supposedly tense scenes implied that sacrificing big comedy moments and set-pieces ultimately wasn€™t worth it as the drama that took its place never quite felt high-stakes enough due to the light-hearted way in which certain characters treated it. The rating and review may seem harsh, and I€™m obviously longing for an Entourage that no longer exists, but as a fan of the show I just expected a lot more from the final season of a show that has consistently been one of the most enjoyable shows on television in the last decade. A Hail of Bullets: - After a less than flattering review of the episode it may seem odd to single out one of the writers, but it was surprising to see Jerry Ferrara (Turtle) credited as co-writer on this episode with show creator Doug Ellin. - I got a kick out of seeing Shauna (Debi Mazar) back, she€™s always a welcome addition to any episode she appears in and always makes me wonder what could€™ve been had she remained a regular character on the show. - Rob Morrow of Northern Exposure and Numb3rs fame had a blink-and-you€™ll-miss-it appearance as Vince€™s lawyer €“ another respected, veteran TV actor turning in a very small role, which one would€™ve thought would have been more pronounced. - In spite of the overall lack of humour in this episode, Drama still managed to be brilliant as always, including his reaction to Scott accusing him of seeing too much Law & Order: €œBeen on more than I€™ve seen actually€. Someone should really write a fake biography for Johnny Chase; that would definitely be a book I would read. - As predicted last week, there was to be no happy ending for Dana and Ari as Ari unwisely flaunted her in front of Bobby Flay (most wooden celebrity appearance this season) so his estranged wife would find out, after she was sceptical he€™s found someone else at therapy. - It was fun to see Billy painted as some sort of expert on passing drug tests: €œclose enough to identify a freckle on your cock€. The idea - €œit may take an hour to install€ - and the ultimate depiction of the €œfake cock€ was funny, and although it was puerile and immature I enjoyed the closing moments as Vince revealed the prosthetic to everyone and they proceeded to chase each other with it and generally act like any group of men surely would if one of them produced a prosthetic penis from his jacket pocket. Entourage continues Sunday @ 10.30pm on HBO in the US and Monday @ 10.35pm on Sky Atlantic in the UK
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