Sometimes "Entourage" seems like a mirage. If you're paying attention, you feel yourself approaching the season premiere, wondering what "the boys" (as they're invariably referred to) will be up to this time around. You'll mull the different cameos, vacations, "love" interests and Johnny Drama-fails that comprise the familiar mix of debauchery and camaraderie that makes the show the fun, end-of-the-weekend 30 minutes you've been waiting for.
And then eight or 12 weeks of 30 minute episodes pass by (being an "Entourage" fan requires minimal commitment), and you're left with the same familiar sentiment: That wasn't as good as it used to be.
Those seasons, ripe with stories of hardworking, somewhat young actors, faux-agents, washed-up older siblings and stoner friends marveled with a sense of newness. Watching Vince & Co. discover success in Hollywood felt fantastic, and there were no main characters that anyone could really dislike. The lifestyle was interesting to watch because it seemed so new to the four boys from Queens.
But for most of the past few years, the series tumbled over itself, recycling industry trials and tribulations and expecting its viewers to feign surprise and engagement. Trying to recall interesting moments from those middle seasons is taxing, with almost all plot lines abandoned by the show's writers when they became too involved (remember Jamie-Lynn Sigler?). At one point the show tried to convince us that Vince drinking expensive wine that he shouldn't be was drama, or that a broken fossil or animal skull mattered in their world. It felt lazy.
But then the series finally started to pick up again. Though the Sasha Grey storyline was horribly predictable -- it couldn't have surprised anyone, for example, that Vince didn't want her to perform in porn anymore -- and her acting was a little clunky, she at least provided Vinny with everything he needed to actually mess up in a meaningful way. The dive down the coke hole led to his confrontation with Eminem (although, what actors really fight rappers?) and his eventual outing as a Hollywood Junkie.
And, judging from the first episode of the eighth season, things aren't that different. Sure, last season ended with him in a hospital and being exposed as a Hollywood Junkie. And, yes, he's not supposed to drink or do drugs this season. But that doesn't change anything.
"Entourage" was never really about drugs, drinking and debauchery. It's about one of your buddies -- your Johnny Drama -- making you breakfast the next morning while the rest of you hurl half-ass insults at each other about the decisions each of you made the previous night.
Once again, every relationship with a female -- from Ari and Mrs. Ari to Eric and Sloan-- is strained, because that's the golden rule of the show. The show is about being a young guy living in a college-apartment-like state, but feeling like an adult because suddenly your car costs significantly more than it used to.
Some things do seem more pronounced in episode one of the eighth season: Scott Lavin (played by Scott Caan) demonstrates still more comprehensive commitment to irritating body language, there's an especially lazy reference to a potential threesome, Ari's scenes with his wife border even more dangerously on soap opera emoting, and Vince's hair is bigger than ever.
So whether Vince is in the hospital, rehab or hosting a dry party at his manse, rest assured that nothing will surprise you. If the early episodes of season eight are any indication, you can be confident that you'll get exactly what you came for.
If you've made it this far, you really might as well push through season eight -- because then you can take part in the "Will they make a movie?" game we like to call "Arrested Development."