The Rise And Fall Of ‘Entourage’: How The HBO Show Went From Critical Darling To Universally Panned

It was summer of 2006 and the boys from Entourage were at the top of their game.

Coming off a successful debut run and a critically lauded sophomore season, the boys from Queens were ready to take over the world. That summer, they graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly as the TV viewing public eagerly awaited the third and most successful season of Entourage yet.

Fast forward to 2015 and the much hyped Entourage movie fizzled after a strong start. And with a sequel now in doubt, it appears the misadventures of movie star Vinnie Chase and his four friends are mercifully at their end.

So, how did this once critical darling go from sparkling reviews to the New York Times calling the show “staler than last night’s Axe body spray?” Here are the Top 5 reasons (in no particular order) Entourage took a critical nose-dive:

1) Medellin
While the fourth season was by far not Entourage‘s worse, (and even contained some of the most memorable episodes like the amazing Cannes season finale) it was the beginning of the proverbial end creatively. The Medellin plot line, which spanned the entire season, created a bit of a tonal shift to the show (save for classic episodes like episode nine’s “The Day F*****s” which rescued an otherwise uneventful season). But more importantly, Season 4 marked the first full season in which Seinfeld vet Larry Charles removed himself completely from the show. Could it have been his influence that was the magic ingredient all along?

2) The Producers Relegated Vince To The Background
By the time Season 6 rolled around, Vinnie Chase was no longer the central figure in the story. And while he wasn’t always the main plot point for every episode, it was always his career that drove the lives of those around him, including E, Turtle, Drama. By season six and the horrific Season 7 and 8, Vinnie had less purpose on the show than the cadre of women he slept with. What’s worse, without him, the producers took away the number one element that gave the show it’s only substance: stakes. Choose the safe picture or risk it all on Aquaman? Keep your artistic integrity or sell your soul to corporate Hollywood and take the easy way out? The early seasons gave us high stakes with a more than occasional happy ending. By the end of it’s run, they simply stuck with the happy and gave us no reason to enjoy the ride getting there.

3) The Story Lines Went Nowhere (or Too Many Cameos)
Remember when Turtle was a rap mogul? Of course not, it only lasted a few episodes. Remember the ground work to Season 6 that was laid where Vince was home alone and looking none to happy that the rest of his crew had lives all of sudden? Of course you don’t, they never addressed it again. Or E’s stint as a self-made manager? Or drama’s cartoon show? Or Vince’s (forgettable) drug habit? You get the picture. By the end of it’s run, it seemed like creator Doug Ellin had storyline ADD and couldn’t decide where to go. So, instead he filled it with as many celebrity cameos as he could find. When stars like Mandy Moore show up and actually contribute to the plot, it worked. When E bumps into Michael Phelps for no particular reason on the street, it didn’t.

4) Turtle Became A Business Man
We love Jerry Ferrara and his character Turtle. And he deserved to have a more substantial plot line as time went on, rather than just be relegated to role of Vince’s loyal driver. But quite frankly, when Turtle’s exploits carry more weight (and take up equally more screen time) than everyone else, there’s a problem. His rap mogul storyline worked because it seemed like a logical niche for him to explore. When he’s suddenly the owner of a limo business or is trying to bring Don Pepe’s to California, the show officially jumped the shark

image via HBO

5) Ari Stopped Hanging With The Boys
Everyone knows Jeremy Piven’s portrayal of super agent Ari Gold was and always will be legendary. But what made it even more legendary was when his super cool agent persona was put to the test against the youthful exploits of the Entourage boys. Remember the Las Vegas episode where half a mil rest with the flip of a card and Ari is ready to explode? Or when Ari gets thrown in the pool during Vince’s Almost Famous spoof? It was moments like these when Ari let his guard down and interacted with the rest of the crew that made for the most special moments of Entourage. By the time Season 8 rolled around, Mrs. Ari was about the only other character on the show to be seen with the once prominent super agent. And for that reason alone, the rest of us suffered.

[Entourage photo credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images]