This Sunday will see the season finale of Entourage, HBO's candy-colored romp in the Hollywood fast lane. A seventh round is already lined up for next year, so this week's episode, "Give a Little Bit," will almost certainly end in a flurry of cliffhangers. Will Turtle and his girlfriend try for a long-distance relationship? Will Johnny Drama give up acting for good? Will superagent Ari Gold finally, finally refrain from hurling disgusting abuse at his underlings? (Let's hope not.)
The big mystery, though, hanging over this season is: What the hell happened to Vincent Chase? Blue-eyed Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) is the fictional movie star whose charmed success supports his coterie's girl-chasing, deal-hustling antics. He is the Tinseltown sun god around which everything revolves. At least, it used to be. Apart from a few vignettes bedding doe-eyed playmates, Vinny has all but disappeared this season.
Looking after a fictional movie star for five years is just as draining as taking care of the real thing, with the same dysfunctional pitfalls. Eventually, it’s easier to slide into deferential enabling than call them out on their crap.
The usual reasons for an absent TV character are that the actor is a) pregnant or b) in rehab. But neither of these applies to Grenier. So I tracked down the personable co-creator of the show and chief writer, Doug Ellin, to find out what happened. He sounded like he was in a roaring jacuzzi full of models. It could just have been bad cellphone reception. Either way, the question brought out his inner diplomat.
"After six seasons," he told me, "I just decided to take the focus off Vinny and let some of the other characters have their turn. I love all the guys in the show, so I wanted to spread it around."
That’s admirably democratic. Entourage is a show about male friendship after all, inspired by Mark Walhberg and his experiences of Hollywood success with his childhood friends. But I think Ellin has simply developed Vinny fatigue. How could he not, after 78 episodes? Vinny is not the most dynamic guy in the world. He's not even the most dynamic guy on the show. (That would be Ari, the Nijinski of the backstab.) And yet everything hinges on him and his star status.
Ellin is no fool about this. "Every since the show began, I've been saying once Vinny becomes a top movie star, where do we go? Where's the conflict?" His solution last season was to give Chase a big flop and make him work superhard (by Chase's standards, anyway) for a comeback. "I felt this season, Vinny had earned the right to take a back seat.”
In other words, Ellin needed a well-earned break of his own. Who can blame him? Looking after a fictional movie star for five years is just as draining as taking care of the real thing, with the same dysfunctional pitfalls. Eventually, it's easier to slide into deferential enabling than call them out on their crap.
Here then are some intervention strategies to get Vinny back into the limelight:
- The Full McConaughey—Enough with the babes. Vinny should plunge into a whirlwind bro’mance with an athlete who loves shirtless man-cations.
- Joaquin Talking Disaster—If Vinny like his joints and mushrooms so much, let's see some consequences. Give him the triple whammy to derail any acting career—bird's-nest beard, garbled chat-show appearance, ill-advised rap career.
- The Pitts—Vince was appealingly vulnerable when he got hung up on actress Mandy Moore in Season Two. Let's see him really fall this time—for a hot but scary co-star with a plan to save the world, and four adopted kids minimum.
- Eating Russell CroweThe combo of fat and angry would get the sparks flying again, especially when squeezed into a nylon tracksuit with a pocketful of bad poems guaranteed to disrupt any awards show.
- Hunk vs. Chunk—Bring on the hated rival for a mano a mano battle. Let's sign up offscreen nemesis Seth Rogan, who bashed the show in real life after it dared to call him ugly.
- The Charlie Kaufman Mindf—Let's drop Vince into the post-modern continuum by having him produce a TV show about his own experiences in Hollywood. And let's have him be played by Mark Wahlberg.
Sean Macaulay was the L.A. movie critic for The London Times from 1999 to 2007. He has also written for Punch, British GQ, and The Mail on Sunday. He was most recently creative consultant on the award-winning documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil.