On the second-season premiere of ''Entourage,'' the superagent starts to lose control when Eric and Vince return to L.A. and no longer seem intimidated by him

By Charles Curtis
Updated January 14, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Entourage: Claudette Barius
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”Entourage”: Ari starts to lose control

I’ll be the first to admit it: After months of having my Sunday nights taken over by a bunch of desperate housewives, watching Vince and his crew pull a Reservoir Dogs and do the slow strut down a hallway was a welcome shot of testosterone. And after last season’s slightly cornball season ender (we all knew Eric was getting on the plane!), it was good to see the show return to its usual funny fare: foul-mouthed bickering (Johnny making a comment about Eric’s hymen being restored), manager-agent clashes (one of these days, Eric and Ari are going to have a throwdown), and, of course, in-depth, in-public conversations about what happens in the sack. Which reminds me: To anybody who’s ever called Entourage ”the male Sex and the City,” congratulations on finally being right. The boys’ little chat about whether Eric should try to earn his, um, red badge of courage with Kristen could easily have been Charlotte having a heart-to-heart with Samantha and Carrie on the very same subject. Ewwww.

But despite all the promising plot lines that were set up — the Aquaman question, Drama’s restarting of his career, Eric’s girlfriend problems — I’ve got a few problems with this season-premiere episode. I already see some warning signs of a potential sophomore slump:

If this is the way Ari’s going to be all year, Vince should find other representation What we saw tonight was a completely different Ari Gold. In season 1, he was a cocky, confident superagent who could make a pass at Sarah Silverman and then pretend he was merely discussing representing her. Now he appears to be not only subdued but almost pathetically desperate. Sure, he was frustrated by Eric’s sudden takeover last season, but the writers have taken away Ari’s swagger and sarcasm and made him into a finger-wagging father figure. He did have one of his trademark cracks, offering the sexual favors of his new assistant, Lloyd, to Eric as a replacement for the departed Emily. Now that’s the vulgar, homophobic Ari we all know, love, and want more of. Did I actually see Mr. Gold look hurt by Eric’s rejection of Aquaman? In season 1, he would have said to Eric, ”Good *@%! luck finding another *@%! agent who would care that much about Vince.” Hug it out, Ari!

The pop-culture references and celebrity cameos need improvement Having Eric call Turtle ”a regular Martha Stewart” was just plain lazy writing. And Amanda Peet’s blink-length scene looked as if her agent had told her she needs better exposure than, say, starring in another Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy. If her appearance doesn’t lead to a future romance with Vince, it was a waste. On the other hand, the return of Gary Busey, even for just a few seconds, was truly worth the price of admission, especially when he was ranting about his art (a piece of which was broken by Johnny Drama and Turtle last season). It almost seemed as if Busey had just walked onto the set and started randomly talking to Adrian Grenier and the cameraman had just started shooting without warning anyone. I’m even more excited about future celebrity appearances, including (spoiler alert!) Bono and the immortal Bob Saget, as well as the episode in which the gang will visit Sundance.

I demand better subplots for Johnny and Turtle Johnny’s muscle-bound personal-trainer girlfriend? Funny. Turtle getting free head shots for his buddy at an Apple Store? Chuckle worthy but not hilarious. And this whole Turtle-being-right thing? That has to stop. It’s a good sign that Drama’s agent actually has an office this year, meaning we should see Johnny getting a big part any day now. Frankly, I’d rather see his comeback than The Comeback. Okay, okay — I won’t comment further on the completely unfunny and just-plain-sad show that follows this one.

Where’s Emily? Like Vince and Turtle, I can’t stand Kristen. She’s too whiny for a show that already has Debi Mazar as Shauna, the annoying-but-in-a-good-way publicist. Emily, who left Ari for James Cameron’s office, had style, class, and the California touch Eric needs if he’s going to be a hotshot in Hollywood. Here’s a tip, E: Now that you’re not mixing business with pleasure, call up the King of the World’s headquarters immediately!

What happened in New York? Don’t you hate it when your favorite show pulls a ”three months later” on you? Yes, we know Vince filmed Queens Boulevard and now misses pizza and bagels. Did anybody hook up? (Okay, we know Eric didn’t.) And I’m sure the writers will answer this one, but at least give us a clue about why the boys think the indie movie is so mind-blowingly good.

So what do you think? Did the season premiere live up to your expectations? Does Entourage show signs of becoming the next can’t-miss HBO show? Will Vince continue to turn down the big bucks and blockbusters? And will Ari get his personality back?

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