Here’s what I think: eight seasons, countless send-ups, and infinite snark. Tonight HBO’s Entourage ended with soap opera schmaltz but also a Hollywood cliffhanger surrounding our fave Ari Gold that obviously sets up the movie which Doug Ellin keeps wanting to write. We loved this show, we hated this show, we watched a lot, and then we watched a lot less. With the High Holy Days coming for Jews everywhere, I’m reminded of my favorite Entourage episode ever that had Ari doing business in the temple aisles during Yom Kippur services. (‘The Return Of The King’ was written by Brian Burns and Ellin.) I’m also grateful to Ellin et al for helping put Deadline Hollywood on the map. He asked me several times to appear on the show, including the finale, and each time I turned him down. But Carrie Fisher filmed a guest shot as a reporter working for ‘Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood’. And during Season 6, agent Terence did utter that infamous line to Ari Gold, “I’ll fuck Nikki Finke before I let her affect my business decisions” – which was pretty damn funny.
I’ve been mixed in my assessment of Ellin’s HBO series over the years, alternately castigating it for not showing the down and dirty Hollywood, and occasionally praising it for less predictability and more realism. But I always thought those early episodes were best because they showed ‘Plantation Hollywood’ and life among the wannabes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: go to any Urth Caffe or outdoor patio in this city that sells decent coffee, any line for an overhyped party or club where photographers are lurking, any power gym or yoga class that puts its name on tank tops for sale, and you’ll find them: Vince, Turtle, E, and of course Drama. The would-be actors thinking they’re just one showcase away from quitting their day jobs to star in the movie reeling in their heads. The would-be screenwriters who’ve finished 11 pages but can already recite the recent prices paid for spec scripts. The would-be managers suggesting ways to fix Gwynnie’s flameout before phoning the trainee program for an interview. The would-be producers dreaming of making their generation’s Pulp Fiction before scoring a part-time gig as a reader. All are the wannabes, sui generis to entertainment, and specifically to Los Angeles. Hopped up on hope. Drowning in dreams. Yet showbiz depends on their survival. Otherwise, the myth of Hollywood would seem a lot less elitist and glamorous. That club exists only as long as it won’t accept civilians like them as members. Sure, it was easy to wince at Vince’s, Turtle’s, E’s, and Drama’s naivete and enthusiasm. But their cluelessness also allowed them to put up with all the screaming, rejection, and slave wages that characterize the Industry. At their best, they were like adorable pets who continuously bestow unconditional love upon Hollywood even though they get mistreated over and over. At their worst, they were those masochistic plebes in Animal House bending over in their underwear and begging to be whacked on the ass: “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” It was this modern-day reality behind the Hollywood fable that Entourage introduced to America. What it’s like coming out here from with little money and no contacts waiting for stardom, success, or succor because it wouldn’t be as sweet without the sacrifice.