On ''Entourage,'' Vince's mother refuses to accompany him to the ''Aquaman'' premiere; plus, Ari's new agency has growing pains

By Michael Endelman
Updated January 14, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Adrien Grenier: Claudette Barius
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”Entourage”: Vince can’t find a date

From the very beginning of the third season of Entourage, it’s clear that our fame-hungry Hollywood foursome hasn’t changed — at least not emotionally. And thank you, HBO, for that. They still seem to spend most of their time and energy ogling flesh-baring starlets (and scheming about how to bed them), cracking ego-popping one-liners, coining new phrases (”top tall” is Johnny Drama’s latest quotable term), and drinking iced tea at West Hollywood eateries. Is there really anything else to do in L.A. anyway?

But as we quickly learn, there has been some plot development since we last checked in with our Fab Four. Primarily, Aquaman is in the can and ”dates” must be arranged for the approaching premiere. And secondarily, hyperbolic superagent Ari Gold has taken his ”gaysian” assistant Lloyd and started his own agency, which is putting a strain on his wallet, his ego, and, most important, his marriage. (More on the deepening portrayal of Mr. and Mrs. Ari’s partnership later.)

There’s one additional change. And it’s for the worse. I’m referring here to Vince’s hair. Not an expert on follicular matters, I’ll turn this over to my wife, who thinks that Vince’s shaggier ‘do is not becoming of a (supposed) silver-screen stud. ”It’s not cute anymore,” she says. ”It looks like a mop! Looks like it would feel greasy. It’s not hot.” There it is, the wife has spoken. It’s a rare example of Entourage‘s verisimilitude falling short. My advice: Vinnie Boy, plop your $300 jeans in a salon chair soon or risk losing your Casanova-like powers.

And if the bad hair day wasn’t enough, Vincent’s failings seemed to be a theme of this episode. Despite his renowned powers of seduction — he’s slept with every ”skank” west of Sepulveda, in Ari’s estimation — Vince can’t get his travel-phobic mother to walk the red carpet with him. Naturally, it falls to manager Eric to fix the situation: He wisely peer-pressures Rita Chase to fly out to L.A. by inviting all of the fellas’ moms to come out on a private jet from New York. The ensuing reunion on the tarmac was a rare adorable moment in this dude-centric frat-com.

Maybe through Vince’s failure with mom, Entourage‘s writers are hinting that Vince has lost his mojo. In fact, a central question of the episode related to this exactly: Will Aquaman be the next Spider-Man or the next Poseidon? Is our golden boy a box-office draw or just another Leo wannabe with puppy-dog eyes? Next week’s show will surely answer the question, but for now, Entourage leaves us mulling over opposing Hollywood strategies: Should Vince have booked the next gig before or after Aquaman opened? Armchair showbiz analysts, please discuss.

In the end, however, this episode (like so many of them) belonged to Jeremy Piven, whose white-hot portrayal of blustery, frenetic agent Ari Gold has already made it into my personal TV Hall of Fame. (At this point, however, ”Let’s hug it out, bitch!” is the equivalent of ”Wassssup?” — a tired phrase that needs to be retired. If one more bro’ at a bar says it to me, I’m gonna pour a beer on his visor-clad head.) Piven’s over-the-top shtick could have quickly become a caricature, but in this episode we’re rewarded with a more multi-faceted, richer performance.

First we see Ari at work. Finally out of the evil Terrance’s clutches, Ari has set up his own agency. But in a town where appearance is everything, his new office space doesn’t radiate top-dollar confidence — James Woods, in a feisty cameo, calls it a ”shithole” — and Ari is clearly a nervous, Lloyd-abusing wreck. He’s so tense I started biting my nails in sympathy.

Then there’s Ari at home, where the husband-wife dynamic is fleshed out into something more than a Honeymooners-type cliché. Previously reduced to a shrill harpy, the wife known only as Mrs. Ari (an excellent Perrey Reeves) gets her time to shine. It’s clear from last season that she’s a ballbuster, but in a brief bedroom back-and-forth we get a whole lot more: Not only can she call bulls— on Ari, but the Mrs. is a loving, supportive woman who emptied her bank account for his new venture. (Ari argues that he’s doing his part by ordering the ”Gigi Salad” at the Palm — only $13; we looked it up — instead of the lobster.) The episode ends with the two embracing and professing that they actually (gasp!) love and trust each other. It was a disarmingly sentimental moment that left me psyched for a season of Entourage that’s going to be more than just another round of name-dropping, skin-baring, and fist-bumping.

What do you think? Will Aquaman sink or swim? Will Ari make it on his own? And did you like seeing the softer side of Ari, Vince, and the boys?

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