”Entourage”: Sweating out the ”Aquaman” debut
I can think of two people who will be supremely annoyed by this week’s episode of Entourage: big-screen webslinger Tobey Maguire and anyone who lives in the San Fernando Valley. The vendetta doesn’t seem personal, but in their quest to have Aquaman beat the all-time-record of Spider-Man‘s opening weekend — $114 million — Vince and the bros let a few choice expletives fly toward Mr. Maguire. (None will be repeated here in this family-friendly entry.)
The other butt of jabs and pokes is Los Angeles’ much-teased northern neighbor, the San Fernando Valley, home to strip malls, ”uptalk,” and suburban ranch homes. Titled ”One Day in the Valley” — a nice allusion to the 1996 B-noir Two Days in the Valley, which is best known as Charlize Theron’s racy U.S. debut — the season’s second episode trails the Entourage fellas on the opening weekend of Aquaman. Following Vince’s directives to find an out-of-the-way theater, Turtle picks out a 2:30 p.m. screening in Northridge, which sends Johnny Drama reeling. ”You know my policy, Vince,” he says. ”Except for work, I only go to the Valley November through March, and then only for Sushi Row!” Since I don’t want this TV Watch to become a mere transcript of Johnny Drama’s one-liners, I’ll stop quoting him here.
Drama’s sudden haterade for the Valley is a perfect example of SoCal’s geographic snobbery and also exactly what I love about the lunkhead. Despite the fact that he’s a washed-up actor, Drama lives his life as if he were a box-office-topping divo: There’s no guessing what sort of arcane rules and regulations — remember last week’s ”top tall” rant? — he’ll get all pissed about. In that sense, he’s a lot like fellow HBO regular Larry David, but without the Jewish angst or the giant bank account.
All that said, Drama’s anti-Valley campaign bordered on self-parody this week. The hydrating, the towel around his head, the cooler full of bottled water, in the end, it was a bit too much. Entourage usually walks the fine line between vérité and satire with grace, but this was kinda clumsy. And since no one else will, I’ll stand up for the Valley for a second, gosh darn it! The Valley is home to what might be America’s finest sushi spot (Sushi Nozawa), a few great malls (Sherman Oaks Galleria, in the house!), a flashy bowling alley (Pinz), and, um, strip malls farther than the eye can see. Okay, maybe Drama was right. North of Ventura Boulevard is ”Hell’s waiting room.”
Once again, this week, Entourage treated fans to some excellent inside-baseball showbiz wonkery. This week’s first lesson: Manage your client’s expectations. Until Turtle brought up Spider-Man‘s figures, Vince would’ve been happy if Aquaman had hit $50 million. Now our floppy-haired lothario is getting a bit greedy, with his eyes set on besting Spidey’s super take. It was good to finally see Vince acting a bit like a real movie star with a stadium-size ego, even if having to express some emotions besides his typical nonchalance tested the limits of Adrian Grenier’s acting abilities. On the plus side, Grenier clearly has experience with beer funnels, so let’s call it even.
The incomplete scene we see of Aquaman is a hilariously awful but perfect parody of a Michael Bay-style disaster flick — my favorite line is when the little girl drops her stuffed animal and screams, ”I dropped my monkey!” I’m dying to see more, but of course, the power cuts off right at the moment before Vince dives into the giant wave. Which leads us to Showbiz Lesson No. 2: You can’t predict a natural disaster. Though it all turns out all right in the end, the heat wave plays havoc with Vince’s expectations, Turtle’s lust for expensive toys, and, best of all, Ari’s heart. As we know, this equation is a proven law of comedy mathematics: Ari + aggravation = funny.
As the premiere episode hinted, we get to see some more of the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Ari. In a serious case of TMI, we learn that the pair hasn’t had sex in three weeks and that Ari refuses to give it up on ”game day” (i.e., opening day of a client’s movie). Which got me thinking, what other ”game day” rituals does Ari have? Does he always eat chicken like Wade Boggs? Does he not change his underwear? Does he wear the same tie all weekend? Just curious, that’s all.
Two other moments worth noting: A wonderfully geeky cameo by Samm Levine (best known as Neal Schweiber from Freaks & Geeks) as an Aquaman-obsessed fanboy was a nice callback to last season’s ComiCon episode. While most stars would ignore the nerds, Vince proves he’s a mensch, helping them pick up girls and lending them his Maserati. Um, yeah, right. In return, the Vespa-riding fanboys plant the Almost Famous idea in Vince’s head. So when Vince mounts the roof at the high school pool party, we’re treated to a wonderfully meta art-imitating-art-imitating-life moment. For one day in the Valley, Vince is definitely a golden god.
Some questions for next time: Will Mrs. Ari coax Ari back into the bedroom? Will Aquaman‘s $116 million gross numbers hold through the weekend? Will our fanboys get the girls? And will the too-short episodes get any longer?