TV postsTuesday September 13, 2011
Entourage's “The End”: Good Riddance
Was any final episode worse than “Entourage”'s final episode, which aired Sunday night, Sept. 11th, but which Patricia and I didn't watch until last night? I barely made it through the final 30 minutes. You saw where it was going, even if where it was going seemed impossibly stupid, which it was.
So Eric gets back together with Whatsherface, who is pregnant with his child, but who left him because her father hated him. Vince decides to marry the uptight British Vanity Fair writer, but why, and why does she choose him, and did we even see them dating? Ari gives it all up for his awful, awful wife wearing her awful, awful dress. It ends with the breakup of the entourage and multiple marriages. Cute. It thinks it's Shakespeare but it's closer to Conrad. The horror, the horror.
“Entourage” started out as a charming, boys-will-be-boys show about the Hollywood minutia between the moviemaking—the premieres, the talk-show appearances, the reviews, the girls—with everyone focused on the just-taking-off career of Vinny Chase. Ari, the agent, pushed for the big-budget blockbuster; Eric, the friend and manager, pushed for good scripts; he pushed for indie and respectable. That was the dynamic. What became the dynamic? There wasn't any. Instead of revolving around Vince, everyone twisted in an orbit of themselves and the show couldn't keep it all together. It became charmless and the boys became assholes. Eric started an agency, Turtle started a company, then another, then another. He became svelte, dated impossibly good-looking women, talked to lifelong friends as if they were clients. Everything sounded like a business deal except the business deals. It all felt false.
It began with four guys from Queens stumbling their way toward Hollywood stardom and ended with charmless, successful men giving it all up for charmless, shrewish women. It steals its big scene from “Shawshank”: the aria, swelling through Ari's offices, and setting him free from work. Everyone quits their job. In the middle of a recession. For women. Is that the Hollywood line? You can't have a J-O-B if you want to be with me?
This is Ari, to his wife, way back in season 2:
You can have it if you want to live in Agoura fucking Hills and go to group therapy, but if you want a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership, and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, then I'm gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a motherfucking Wednesday!
In the end, she wins. She gets it all. They move to Italy. Lord. Or maybe I should say they're about to move to Italy. Apparently there was a coda after the credits in which Ari is finally given the chance to run a studio, which he's always wanted to do, and the camera closes in on his face. In that second, I imagine, he becomes Ari again: calculating, ready to convince his awful, awful wife to give up her dream of doing nothing for his dream of doing something. That's key, actually. He becomes Ari again. Because in these final episodes he stopped being Ari, just as Vince stopped being Vince. So does Vince become Vince again in another coda? Does Turtle gain 50 pounds?
Hollywood changed our boys. Only Drama stayed true to character. Only Kevin Dillon continued to charm by bumbling.
The show closed with Led Zeppelin, “Going to California,” but it should've closed with The Doors:
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
The boys-will-be-boys beginning.
The end: So very tired.
Peter Falk (1927-2011)
I reference him every now and again. I'll be in email correspondence with a subject I'm writing about, asking maybe a follow-up question, and then I'll realize there's another. So I'll write back, and apologize by way of a 1970s TV reference: “Not to sound like Lt. Columbo here, but I have one more question...”
Do people under 30 get that? Under 40? It was an indelible character, one of the most indelible characters of the '70s, but I don't think it'll live on much longer. Do new fans go for it? Or are the production values of the show not high enough?
What of Peter Falk's long career will survive? According to IMDb.com he was in 127 movies and TV shows. After “Columbo” I immediately thought of “Wings of Desire” and then “The In-Laws.” There's the Cassavettes stuff, most of which, I'm ashamed to say, I haven't seen. I liked him in “Murder by Death.” But it was my colleague Evan who mentioned the obvious. “I loved him in 'Princess Bride,'” he said. “He made a great grandpa.”
The New York Times fills in the details I didn't know or forgot:
His death was announced in a statement from Larry Larson, a longtime friend and the lawyer for Mr. Falk’s wife, Shera. He had been treated for Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.
Mr. Falk had a wide-ranging career in comedy and drama, in the movies and onstage, before and during the three and a half decades in which he portrayed the unkempt but canny lead on “Columbo.” He was nominated for two Oscars; appeared in original stage productions of works by Paddy Chayefsky, Neil Simon and Arthur Miller; worked with the directors Frank Capra, John Cassavetes, Blake Edwards and Mike Nichols; and co-starred with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis and Jason Robards.
And now that I've looked at IMDb's list, maybe I was wrong about Columbo not lasting. Rarely watching TV anymore, particularly network TV, I didn't realize Falk kept playing the part: 24 times since the show was originally canceled in 1978; into the 21st century. It kept going and going. Just when you thought that was the end of it he'd turn around and tell the audience, “Just one more thing...”
Not a bad line to carry with you. Rest in peace, Lt.
Which Star Trek Series Would You Like to Guest On?
In one of those increasingly popular polls on Facebook, my friend Tim, of StarshipTim, who was also Captain of the U.S.S. Brock during that big Romulan-Borg hullabaloo, answered the question “What [Star Trek] series would you like to guest on?” with “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” No surprise. He's been big on that series for a while.
I answered the original series, the one with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, TOS to fans, and relayed my reasoning to Tim in a series of posts:
- The miniskirts alone answer that question for me.
- Plus I want the pointy sideburns, the boots, and my shirt torn and the trickle of blood during a fight. Hopefully with Finnegan.
- Plus I want to ignore the Prime Directive at my discretion.
- But it's mostly the miniskirts.
I'm not saying it wouldn't be dangerous...
“Klingons? Attacking? What?”
'Make It Go'
The Pakleds, for the non-geeks in the audience, are a race of low-browed humanoids from a fourth season episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” entitled “Samaritan Snare,” who manage to travel through space. They do this by kidnapping members of more advanced species—such as Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton)—and utilizing his advanced technology. They gather around him and say things like “We look for things” and “Make it go.”
Here's the question of the day: Are the Pakleds a metaphor for all the non-techies in the world, such as myself, who gather around the techies of the world with our broken smartphones and TV remotes and laptops and say, “Make it go”? Was that the intention of Robert L. McCullough, the writer of the episode?
I have no idea. I just know this: teeth are for chewing.
Make us strong.
What's Good in “The Pacific”
I‘ve been watching “The Pacific” without being a fan of “The Pacific.” We don’t know these guys well enough, and they don't know each other well enough. In “Band of Brothers,” to which “The Pacific” will forever be compared and found wanting, the characters had gotten past the get-to-know-you stage and engaged on a deeper level. Here, they‘re always introducing themselves. Guys come, guys go. We watch guys cry for guys we don’t know, so we don't know why they‘re crying. We’re not always following the same platoon, either, so cohesion is an issue. The stories are as spread out as the Pacific islands they‘re invading.
Worse, the series feels slightly off, slightly false. In the midst of unspeakable horrors—which the series handles well—we get a speech that feels like a speech; like it was drafted by Henry Luce.
The one bright spot for me is a dark spot: Rami Malek as Merriell Shelton. When we first see him, part of the same platooon as Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge, our innocent Southern boy, he’s an annoyance. He's got a faraway look and a sing-songy voice that implies the world isn't as neat as Eugene thinks. One gets the feeling the war didn't do this to him, either; he showed up this way. But the war ain't helping.
With every episode he's grown on me. He's the one guy who feels real. Last Sunday we watched him toss pebbles into the open skulls of half-decapitated Japanse soldiers. At one point our boys ran into a non-combat soldier who asked them, these exhausted Marines, if anyone had a souvenir, a Jap sword or flag, he could bring home with him; and while the others were silent or combative, Shelton was matter of fact. “Nobody's going home” he said, almost joyfully.
I doubt it's a star-making turn but I hope it's a character-actor-making turn. “The Pacific” is slightly off, but Malik's Shelton is gloriously off.