Entourage commenced its seventh season with many of its characters’ careers in high gear. Adrian Grenier’s Vince was challenged to do a dangerous movie stunt; Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold was multi-tasking multi-problems; Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) had to keep corralling the dumb bunnies he’d hired for a business venture, a pretty-girl-driver service. (There’s about as much point in criticizing Entourage for blithe sexism as there is in accusing a Jason Statham movie of being nonchalantly violent — it’s what they do; you don’t watch if you don’t like.)

There’s a symbiotic relationship between Vince and Ari subplots. Vince is such a passive guy, he needs to be surrounded by pumped-up action and frenzied characters — this night, that meant director Nick Cassavetes playing director Nick Cassavetes, Professional A-hole. By contrast, Ari is such a volatile hothead, he needs to be grounded by sane characters such as Lloyd at the office and Mrs. Ari at home.

The season opener, written and directed by creator Doug Ellin, did its job in showcasing the core characters, including a reliably desperate Johnny Drama (no one does clueless woundedness like Kevin Dillon) and a soon-to-be-wed Eric (Kevin Connolly). Sorry, E; I just can no longer muster an interest in your happiness with Sloan.

On the other hand, a Vince whose manhood is challenged on a movie set is an enjoyably desperate, ego-driven Vince, and so his fiery stunt, while never letting us believe for a second would cause him physical harm, placed him in psychic harm: The guy’s ego is so easily crushed. I liked watching Cassavetes crush it. (After all, that’s why they call it Entourage — Vince needs the constant support of his buds; it’s only on a movie set that he becomes an interestingly vulnerable character.)

And about Ari, I do not worry. It often seems as though there are an infinite number of ways Piven can explode. (After all, that’s why the guy has won Emmys.) Thus, by giving up even more responsibilities, he’s under even more combustible pressure. Add Johnny’s new drama about needing to land a TV series quickly, and Entourage has what it didn’t have most of last season: forward momentum.

Yes, Entourage has become somewhat predictable. But that can be a good thing, since it means it’s reliably quick, verbally nimble, and casually vicious about the Hollywood world in which it revels. Bring on more guest-star cameos and the new season will be well under way.

What did you think of Entourage?

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