Best Episode Ever # 35: ‘Entourage’
With the Entourage movie finally in production, it’s time to look back at the eight years of the series and pick the Best Episode Ever. I want you to know I went into this week’s column thinking for sure the best episode was “One Day in the Valley.” That was the payoff to the whole Aquaman storyline, we got to see a clip of the movie and it was the ultimate fantasy of having a celebrity come to your high school party. I’m not the only one who had that dream, right?
It’s also a nostalgic look at the then-biggest movie opening of all time held by Spider-Man. In real life, it would be topped by first Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and then by comic book movies The Dark Knight and The Avengers. Great inside Hollywood mythology and it’s a great episode for sure, probably number two. The Las Vegas one is great too particularly for Drama (Kevin Dillon)’s subplot with the male masseuse, but this time double checking my research paid off and I averted a near tragedy had I gone on my memory alone.
The best episode of “Entourage” is called “What About Bob?,” a movie reference itself, but you wouldn’t have even seen the episode title unless you were reading the program guide or now looking for it on HBO GO. To me this is the finest example of how “Entourage” could explore Hollywood on the industry side and the celebrity side. It also illustrates the very themes of the show, has the best Drama subplot, and is actually one of the only episodes where there are consequences for bad decisions made. That was a bit of a pet peeve of mine, how everything would always work out. I know it’s a fantasy, but sometimes I think it’s good for even fictional characters to pay a price for breaking contracts and firing people who help them. Then they can be redeemed, which they were eventually.
“What About Bob?” picks up after E (Kevin Connolly) discovered a Ramones biopic screenplay owned by Bob Ryan (Martin Landau). Vince (Adrian Grenier) wants to do the film so Ari (And Jeremy Piven) starts setting up studio meetings. However, E insists on bringing Bob along since it’s his property. E’s intentions are good, but Ari is right. Bob is not capable of landing a studio deal and is more likely to turn the studio off. Who would buy a package that includes not only a fading star who’s broken his franchise contract and bet it all on an unreleasable indie film, plus an overbearing producer who wants a say?
Bob begins the first meeting by asking for a Sanka, a brand we hadn’t heard of for decades when “Entourage” brought it back. He also describes the project with his catch phrase, “is that something you might be interested in?” which you know you said around the office for weeks after. Bob is well meaning, but clearly he doesn’t get the business side of things. He doesn’t even understand when the studio says it’s “not for us,” that that’s code for “this sucks.” Bob actually thinks it’s a compliment and they’ll find the right studio for whom it is right. And he did magic tricks for the exec. E convinces Bob to let Ari handle the negotiating which is good diplomacy, but it gets worse.
Ari pulls a nasty trick to keep Bob out of the next meeting, and it works. Talking all business, Ari sells the film. Unfortunately, Bob takes it personally and sells the film to Warner Brothers, who have banned Vince for breaking the Aquaman contract. The Ramones may get made, but never with Vince.
This is a really poignant story about the importance of doing business right, but still not burning any bridges. Bob did need Ari to sell the script, but Ari needed to keep Bob happy. Ari didn’t imagine Bob had the resources to take the film to an inhospitable studio, but then we can rarely anticipate the consequences that our actions may reap.
I think E messed up here. It’s all nice to have honorable values and want to include everybody in the process, but some people are difficult people. Usually the well meaning ones are the most difficult because they’re trying so hard to be good. E should have said, “Bob, we love the script, we’re going to make you lots of money, and we’ll even include your creative input but the studio needs to feel it’s new and they’re making a deal with Vince.” That’s only the beginning of a much more complicated conversation to be had with Bob, but E was inexperienced and these are the things you learn by working in the real world. That’s the risk Vince ran by letting his buddy be his manager, although Vince himself never actually got to weigh in on the Ari vs. Bob matter.
Vince’s storyline is with Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) trying to acquire a pair of the hot new sneakers designed by Fukijama. The designer may be fake but it is a very real portrait of a fashion trend. Vince tries to use his celebrity connections to reserve Turtle a pair, but he appears to get scooped by a bigger star (real cameo by DJ AM) who offers the store manager even more tempting services. Vince agreed to appear at a birthday party, but DJ AM can host the party and perform there. This storyline pays off nicely when Vince uses his clout to go directly to the source, Fukijama himself (Dante Basco, Rufio himself) though he spends $20K on a personalized pair of sneakers, thinking the Ramones film is a lock.
All of this makes a great episode, but what puts “What About Bob?” over the top probably has to be the Drama subplot. Drama is shooting a new TV show for director Ed Burns (himself), but having trouble working through his nerves. Listening to some bad advice from the boys, Drama jerks off in his trailer, but his microphone is still on so the crew hears the whole thing. I always thought “Entourage” went a little overboard on the Drama humiliation, but this one is very well played. It’s that perfect combination of Drama’s own fault, but also endearing because nobody’s really mad at him for jerking off. It’s more like they’re celebrating him for forgetting to lock the door, metaphorically, as it were.
“What About Bob?” would have far-reaching repercussions for “Entourage.” Vince and E would ultimately fire Ari, while Drama’s show would end up being a hit. I think a lot of good storylines came out of this, which another good reason to name the source of those storylines the Best Episode Ever. On its own individual story merits though, I think this episode nailed everything “Entourage” did best, with Hollywood drama, humor and the lifestyle.
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