Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I have ranked the top 68 television shows of the '00s, and will be presenting them, one-by-one, starting with 68 and working down. The rankings are more or less based on the show's popularity, it's cult status, it's critical acclaim, and my personal liking of it, with a heavy dose of arbitrariness added in. If a show was a big enough phenomena, I'll keep it on the list - but if I don't like it, I may drop it some spots. One other caveat - these are primetime shows (I apologize if I put a cable show that wasn't, I thought they were all primetime shows - the main point of this is just that no talk shows, no Colbert and Daily show that would be on otherwise).

14: Entourage

You know, a while ago, whenever I wrote this list up, this seemed to make sense here, and now it kind of looks like a strange outlier. And maybe that's just right. Maybe Entourage is a perfect type of program which had its little moment in the sun but was forgotten about quickly, even before it really officially ended (which it will this summer - and then maybe movie?). It was supposed to be HBO's next big breakout half hour hit, it's next Sex and the City, and it pulled off kind of a Vinny Testaverde type of career - never quite did become a star but was a very productive player for years and years.

And while I admit this is high, these type of careers are deserving of notice and Entourage was an important player on a big time team (HBO?) for many years. At its heart it's a male fantasy show, and I've often tried to put it off as the male equivalent of Sex and the City, though some women have said they enjoy Entourage and claim that my analogy is forced for that reason - women enjoy Entourage in general more than men enjoy Sex and the City (not that men can't, or shouldn't, of course). But it's like the bubblegum pop of shows, it's short, it bounces up and down but generally up at the end, and part of the reason you enjoy the ride is because, overall, you like to see them do well, and make money and sleep with hot chicks.

Vinny Chase has the rare fortune to play one of those characters who is more famous in the fictional universe than the actor Adrian Grenier in our universe, something that, even with Entourage ending soon will be relatively difficult to change (Vinny Chase did star in Aquaman, and The Great Gatsby after all). Entourage has wonderful fictional movies, particularly my favorite which is the scene of the Vinny Chase in the black-and-white art film Queens Boulevard saying "I Am Queens Boulevard" (I know it doesn't sound funny, but it just kind of is great). Entourage also does a good job in generally using celebrities well - it's a platform for celebrities to mock themselves by playing ridiculous exaggerated versions of themselves, and show viewers at the same time that they have a sense of humor.

What's unfortunate in a way as well, is that now, when many of its fans have written it off - probably more of fatigue than any particular jumping-the-shark arc or moment, Entourage had its best season in years actually delving into something Entourage had never really done - a seriously dark plot for Vinny Chase that wasn't simply solved over the course of an episode. I was a little bit conflicted in that I watch Entourage to see the boys having fun, facing little problems, coming out ahead and having a huge party, but this season the focus was on some actual serious shit, and they almost played into what you expected, but throwing a couple of moments, where you though Vinny would snap out of the funk, but he just fell further. If you described it to me before hand I'm not sure I would have been thrilled about it but I actually really liked it (the same way I felt about watching recent How I Met Your Mother episodes dealing with Marshall's dad's death - I watch the show to laugh, so I don't want to be sad, but all things considered, they've handled the death plot very well).

In the days of hilarious but sometimes hard-to-watch comedies, Entourage is a different breed. It's popcorn. It's not funny, but it's really easy to watch, and enjoyable and that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it's really not.

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