'Entourage' Season Seven Premiere

Equal parts satire and love letter, Entourage underscores how tenuous hegemonic masculinity is -- and how much it depends on everyone playing his part.

Airtime: Sundays, 10:30pm ET
Cast: Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Perry Reeves, Autumn Reeser
Subtitle: Season Seven Premiere
Network: HBO
Air date: 2010-06-27

Vince and the guys are back, revving their self-referential send-up of Hollywood and machismo. Equal parts satire and love letter, Entourage underscores how tenuous hegemonic masculinity is -- and how much it depends on everyone playing his part. Without his entourage, Vince (Adrian Grenier) isn't the golden boy. Without his "baby bro" to outshine him, Drama (Kevin Dillon) would lose his mojo. Without an authority figure to fight, Ari (Jeremy Piven) is a bored paper tiger. And where would Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) be if not subordinate?

The seventh season opens on a lavish mansion, tricking us into thinking we're looking at Vince's palace, where he's still king and his entourage is not. But when a close-up of the luxury cars parked in the driveway reveals "Turtle" plates, we know we're in for a topsy-turvy ride. No longer leaning as much on Vince, each man is trying to make it in his own way.

The auto fleet is indeed Turtle's own, as he's started a car service staffed by scantily clad female drivers. At the moment, he's feeling beleaguered: when one driver repeatedly arrives late to work or gets lost, Turtle humors her because he has a crush. When she spurns his advances, Turtle admits he misjudged her, but fears she will charge him with sexual harassment. While this sub-plotline suggests it will critique his objectification of women, instead, the camera ogles her right along with Turtle. In this context, it's no surprise that his success doesn’t change much in Turtle's life: he still wants to be around Vince and the boys. Repeatedly unable to manage his business by cell phone, he's more comfortable as Vince's driver.

Drama's drama is also much the same, his shtick as Vince's embarrassing, less successful brother still his most agreeable role. And Eric now finds himself playing with Ari and the big boys, which requires him to "man up" on a daily basis. This leads to some rough, comic lessons, as when Eric calls on Ari to stand up to Nick Cassavetes on behalf of Vince. Ill equipped to take on the role of enforcer, Ari's fearful of the director's tough guy performance, and can't convince the director to back off his expectation that Vince will do his own stunt in their movie. Cassavetes fights back in juvenile fashion, placing a picture of Ari in drag, drunk in lipstick and a wig, in a trade magazine.

As the chess piece in this power play, Vince ends up doing the stunt anyway. After a close call during the dangerous car jump, he sets off on his own existential journey, the adrenaline junkie as philosopher, looking for the meaning of his life. But Eric draws a more immediate and backwards-looking lesson, that even someone as powerful as Ari is just a "Wizard of Oz," a man behind the curtain hoping his shouting will fool everyone into obeying him. Even Ari's newfound status of the head of the "biggest agency in the world" means nothing when he's up against a more gonzo guy who questions his manhood. While Ari laughs off this lost showdown, he and Eric both seem disconcerted by the ever-shifting rules in their game.

Trying to keep up, Ari goes at another job in another way. A pitch to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones requires him to enlist junior agent Lizzy Grant (Autumn Reeser), who knows a lot more about football than he does. When he gets in over his head on the football talk, Ari's desperate capitulation to her highlights the daily tightrope he walks between actually knowing what he's doing and just pretending that he knows, a tightrope made even more precarious when a woman knows more than he does about the NFL.

Lizzy, so far, counters Entourage's usual presentation of women as passive wives, sexualized targets or "bitches." Yes, the show is focused on a specific subculture, but that's an easy excuse for perpetuating the problem. Sure enough, when Ari celebrates with Lizzy, Mrs. Ari (Perry Reeves) walks in on them hugging and glares at him: suddenly, Lizzy's success becomes a way to trot out the wife's jealousy and, not incidentally, refocus all eyes on Ari.


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