Sunday, June 11, 2006

Why ask why?

Some thoughts "Entourage" and "Lucky Louie" (plus brief thoughts on "The 4400") after the jump. (I'll try to watch "Tourgasm" if I have a chance this week.)

I'm a bad liar, which always puts me in an awkward position when I'm out in Hollywood, a town built on lies and half-truths. Because I've been doing this a while now, when I'm at press tour, showrunners who know me will sometimes ask me what I think of their new show. If I didn't like it, the options are three, involving varying degrees of "Awk-WARD!" 1)Lie and say I liked it, then excuse myself quickly; 2)Lie and say I haven't seen it yet, then excuse myself quickly; or 3)Say I didn't like it, followed by "It's been nice knowing you."

But every now and then, I'm dumb enough to volunteer my opinion without being asked. A few weeks into the first season of "Entourage," HBO had a press tour session for the show, and afterwards I found myself having a long conversation with the creator, Doug Ellin, prompted by me saying, inelegantly, "I like a lot about your show, but the main characters are kind of assholes, you know?" Ellin, to his credit, didn't get pissy about it, but stood there and politely but firmly debated me on the matter, and by the end, I had agreed to look at the guys again with an open mind.

I'm still not sure Ellin was right back in the first season, especially about Vince and Turtle, but during season two and especially now, the show has really nailed that "Diner"/"Swingers" theme of guys who bust on each other but genuinely like and care about each other. Yes, Turtle's a moocher with no ambition but to swim in Vince's wake, but when Eric comes up with his plan to fly all their mothers out for the premiere just so Vince's mom will come, Turtle agrees to the plan, with only brief griping, even though it'll cost him his best shot at scoring in a long time. That's friendship right there.

I'm not saying the show is better only because the guys seem (to me) a little nicer to each other, but it helped. So did putting more of the focus on Ari ("Mouth like a Dyson vacuum!") and Drama ("Top-tall... torso's too long, legs are too short. She's inverted!").

I had thought, by the way, of not using that picture up top, since it gives away the outcome of the mom story, but then I remembered that, with the exception of Mandy Moore, Vince has gotten everything he's wanted for the entire run of the series. Another happy ending isn't exactly a spoiler, is it? Now, the fact that his every wish is fulfilled through very little effort or talent on his own part doesn't make me dislike Vince, but it does mean I don't really care about him. To me, he's a plot device, the reason why Drama and Turtle and Ari and (to a lesser extent) Eric get to have whatever adventures they have.

But that's all a lot of rambling about the show in general and little specifically about this episode. So some premiere observations:
  • Good to see Jimmy Woods sporting an excellent Clairol dye job. The casting of his top-heavy (as opposed to top-tall) girlfriend was one of those have your cake and eat it too kinda things; the show gets to make fun of Woods for toting around a bimbo who has to keep shoving her implants into her itty-bitty top, while at the same time showing said implants falling in and out of her top. (Update: It's been pointed out to me that she is Woods' real-life girlfriend, which actually makes it funnier.) And did I miss it, or was there no resolution to the stolen premiere tickets plot? Obviously, the tickets got used to get Turtle and Eric's moms into the premiere, but where was Woods realizing he got ripped off? The on-camera headlock on Drama didn't seem enough. Still, some fine scenery-chewing from the future star of "Shark."
  • Nice casting on the moms, especially Mercedes Ruehl as Mrs. Chase. (Would've liked to see more of Patti D'Arbanville as E's mom.) She really looks like she could be Adrian Grenier's mother. On the other hand, am I misremembering, or didn't Johnny and Vince share a dad, not a mom? Or is Chase just Drama's stage name that Vince adopted when he came out to LA?
  • More Ari also means more Lloyd, who's funny because he has to take all of Ari's abuse, and more Mrs. Ari, who's funny because she doesn't. Samaire Armstrong-to-Lloyd was a definite upgrade.
  • Seemed to be more classic rock than usual on the soundtrack, especially near the end, with a Joe Cocker/Doobie Brothers/Elton John trifecta.
  • Nice throwaway bit where the guys turn lemons (the broken elevator at Ari's new WeHo offices) into lemonade (a race up the stairs). For all the bling and babes available to them, sometimes it's just about the simple pleasures.
On to "Lucky Louie," which I panned in my review, but which I didn't hate completely. As I said in the review, I admired the bluntness about sex, the fact that Louie can say "jerking off" instead of whatever too clever by half euphemism the writers can coin, but that wasn't enough for me. And I like that Louie's allowed to be genuinely poor with a shithole apartment instead of the sort of million-dollar homes you see most working-class sitcom characters have.

But I think the first time I laughed out loud was when Louie said "We can't afford it!" to his wife's ass. And I laughed again when he threw her into the closet to have sex at the end. That was two solid laughs for me in a half-hour, which is better than a lot of crap out there but not good enough, especially for HBO.

What did everybody else think? Also, feel free to discuss the season premiere of "The 4400," about which I have little to say, save that I admire the producers for embracing their audience and introducing a hot new character (or, rather, aging a previously-infantile character into a hot babe) who prefers to walk around naked. Oh, and that I'm surprised and a little impressed that they didn't reverse the other half of the aging twist.


Alan Sepinwall said...

I should add, by the way: Why do neither Ari nor Shauna point out to Vince that bringing your mom to a movie premiere or awards show is the fastest way to get those Kevin Spacey-esque gay rumors started?

bill komissaroff said...

At first I gringed when they revisited the radio station bit, (not this again!) but I thought it turned into one of the warmest scenes, Vince on the phone with his mom, I have ever seen on the show.

Hype said...

See, I didn't have a problem with Vince's decision to take mom and I didn't even think about the Spacey-gay stuff because he's a young up and coming actor that looks good, but doesn't give off that 'boyish maybe gay look'.

Oh yea, and Alan, I hope you get to watch Tourgasm and comment on it. Not just because I'm a huge Dane Cook fan (I was pimping his show on my blog hehe), but because I'd like to see your honest take on it as a tv reviewer. I'm sure you give straight reviews anyway, but the reviews I've read from the mainstream press (Variety, Hollywood Reporter etc) all seem like there's a vibe of disdain against someone that got popular without their (the press' help) and mainly bash it using that theme.

I don't get HBO here, I can't wait for the DVDs but I'd like to see your take on it after being consistently catching up on your thoughts on others show I enjoy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And as a friend pointed out to me, Vince has enough of a public track record of sleeping with hot women (the Sara Foster bit on Jimmy Kimmel comes to mind) that I guess it wouldn't be an issue for him.

My only exposure to Cook was his SNL hosting stint, where I liked his monologue (drawn from his act, I assume) and hated the rest (which he didn't write). So I have no preconceptions about the guy.

Anonymous said...

alan - why do you rip off what is written in the fein print? you guys have the same opinion. do you pay him to steal his ideas?

Alan Sepinwall said...

anonymous, you got me -- there is no Dan Fienberg. He's a computer program I had a friend write based on my own personality engrams and writing style.

Please don't tell the IRS or Tribune Co.

Marsha said...

I thought the Woods head noogie thing was the resolution to the stolen tix. Woods was making clear to Drama that he knew what was going on, and that he knew he'd been had, but didn't like it much. I thought it was wonderfully real. Woods wasn't going to beat up Drama on the red carpet, but he made himself clear.

Now, the question is whether Woods will pop back up again and this will bite Drama on the ass. Say, Drama's finally up for a decent role and at the audition discovers Woods is the star and/or producer...

Vince is in no danger of being thought gay. The mom stuff was very sweet. "Don't curse!"

Jeremy said...

It seemed to me that since J Woods was able to score another set of tix to the event (since he was there), the 'noogie on camera in front of millions' was kind of just a reminder to Drama that (to steal a line from another show) 'any time i can screw you in the future, count on getting screwed'.

Also, although I LOVE the show, something that consistantly bothers/amuses me is that throughout the series, no matter who happens to be guest starring as themselves, they ALL know not only Vince's name but the names and backstories of all four of them. I mean, come on... They've never encountered Woods before, but he knows who TURTLE is? Are we supposed to believe that Ari shares that bit of information with all of his clients?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jeremy, did they say James Woods had never met Turtle before? I was under the impression that, because Vince goes to all the big Hollywood parties and brings the guys with him, they're fairly recognizable, even to somebody as relatively high up on the food chain as Woods.

elliott said...

I just assumed James Woods knew Turtle because he had spent time on set while Aquaman was being filmed.

After all, Turtle had previously hung out on set while Drama was filming the show with Brooke Shields.

So, it would be more than possible that Turtle tagged along to the Aquaman set too.