I was just having a discussion with my friend about shows that may be perceived as problematic today and one of the series that came to mind first was HBO’s ENTOURAGE. I would like to lead this off by saying I don’t personally think it’s problematic and that it just captures personality types that definitely exist in the world it was creating. That doesn’t mean that others haven’t found that the show hits a bit different in the post #MeToo era and now its creator, Doug Ellin, is coming to its defense.
Entourage ran from 2004-2011 and followed a Hollywood boys club of sorts that chronicled the acting career of Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier), a young A-list movie star, and his childhood friends from Queens, New York City, as they attempt to further their careers in Los Angeles. The show has been looked at differently in recent years for being what some call a “vulgar boyfest” and for its sometimes masochistic depiction of male and female relationships but Ellin, while speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, says this is coming from a “wave of righteous PC culture.”
“I’m proud of everything we did on Entourage, and I certainly don’t think it’s something that should be a lightning rod. It should be looked at for what it was.”
Ellin accuses HBO of minimizing Entourage’s presence online by saying “For a while, we were hiding in, like, Wish-Fulfillment Shows.’ We were nominated for the Emmys or the Golden Globes almost every single year, so to not put us on the ‘Must-See Comedy’ list was pretty bizarre.” To be fair, while this may have been the case in the past, HBO Max does currently have Entourage under the ‘Must-Watch Comedies’ tab between Sex and the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm. That’s not to say that the tide has not turned on Entourage a bit in the public domain. I do believe it’s looked at much differently today than it was during its original run.
When asked about he feels about HBO giving the series the perceived cold shoulder, Ellin says “I resent it tremendously. Nobody says that about The Sopranos, where they murder people, that maybe we should readdress whether murdering people on TV is OK. I don’t want to sound obnoxious or that I’m looking at Entourage as high art, but it was a pretty accurate portrayal of how people behaved at that time in Hollywood.” Ellin eventually goes as far as to say that the retroactive backlash to Entourage made them pass on his 2012 follow-up, 40, starring Michael Imperioli, Michael Rappaport, and Ed Burns. The show never made it beyond the pilot stage and it’s something that Ellin still hasn’t forgiven HBO for.
According to Ellin, Entourage was a “show…about friendship and loyalty and family” and it’s something that he thought was “extremely realistic” in its depiction of Hollywood dynamics at the time they were doing the show. Ellin goes on to say that “I don’t think Entourage was this vulgar boyfest that people like to paint it as now. When we came out, the New York Times said we were the smartest show on television!”
Ellin isn’t necessarily wrong. While there might have been a vocal minority that criticized the show for some of its narrative and characterizations, the show was a critical darling during most of its run and earned numerous awards, including six Emmys and a Golden Globe. The show was also hugely popular with viewers and some gave it the distinction of being the male Sex and the City on HBO’s lineup. HBO once embraced the show fully but in the post #MeToo world we live in, so many things are being reexamined with a fine-toothed comb and this has led to, how Ellin sees it, HBO distancing itself from the series in recent years.
Ellin does want to stress that while he calls the backlash against Entourage to be an “overcorrection”, he does acknowledge the importance of #MeToo and other social justice movements. Ellin believes “There needs to be a reckoning and social injustices need to be addressed in certain ways. Hopefully, we’ll get to a place where there’s equality for everybody, but there’s also room for people to create their art and not be judged so harshly.”
Even digging through some of the personal hostility Ellin might have with HBO for professional reasons, I think he does have a point. So much art is being compromised because it’s being reevaluated in this wave of cancel culture. Entourage premiered, lived, and breathed during a very different time and I don’t think it’s fair to really look at it through today’s lens and suddenly make the show a problem. Instead of trying to make the series problematic, maybe look at some of the narrative plot points that didn’t age well and try to have a civilized conversation about how things have changed for better or worse.
Do YOU think Entourage is problematic today?