Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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TV O.D. : Return of the Macks

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 9, 2007

(Mega spoiler alert, of course)

So last night brought with it the return of the two best parts of summer television, The Sopranos (in the second half of its sixth and final season) and Entourage (in the second half of its third of hopefully many seasons to come). The last time I was this excited for a new release doubleheader might’ve been May 14, 2002, the Tuesday when the new albums by both Moby and Weezer were released. Of course both of those albums (18 and Maladroit, as most of you have probably already forgotten) ended up sucking–would last night suffer a similar fate?

First up was The Sopranos. When we last left the family, it wasn’t at a cliffhanger or anything that was really begging for resolution, but the uneasy calm that hung over pretty much the whole season had reached an almost unbearable point of tension. It felt like it might finally result in an explosion, and since we’ve already been informed that this will be the show’s last season, expectations for cataclysmic events to finally hit the family are higher than ever–so high that fans have started holding group “Soprano Death Polls” predicting who would be the inevitable family member to take the hit.

That hit didn’t quite happen in last night’s episode–in fact, most of the episode was spent continuing to build on the crazy tension of the season’s first half. It’s Tony’s birthday, and his first presnt comes courtesy of the local cops, who haul him off one morning on a two-year-old gun charge. The charges are quickly dropped (for now, at least), and Tony is free to drive up with Carmela to Janice and Bobby Baccalieri’s lake house to celebrate. The four have a blast, drinking, sailing, even doing karaoke (Carmela’s tremendously off-key rendition of “Love Hurts” is an episode highlight), but as it often does, a game of drunken monopoly goes sour when tensions escalate between Tony and Janice, and in a misguided attempt to stand up for his woman, Bobby pops Tony, starting a brawl that ends with Tony crashing through a table.

Few, if any shows could make a game of Monopoly seem as nerve-wracking as The Sopranos, and to see the tension finally actually end in an explosion for once is immensely satisfying. As should be instantly clear, Bobby’s decision to slug his boss has grave ramifications–Tony spends the rest of the episode sulking over his defeat, and sends Bobby on his first-ever hit out of revenge. Bobby performs the hit dutifully, but sloppily–he leaves part of his shirt with the victim, as well as the gun, plenty of DNA and possibly even a witness. Needless to say, this probably won’t be the last we hear about the hit.

Much of the episode is frustrating, but with a show like The Sopranos, a little frustration is almost inevitable–there’s just too many characters and too many plot threads going at any one point in the show to satisfactorally cover all of them. “Soprano Home Movies” probably does the smart thing in not even trying–Christopher, Sylvio, Paulie, Meadow, Uncle Junior, Johnny Sac and Dr. Melfi are all barely touched on, if at all, instead focusing on one of the show’s most underrated characters, Bobby Baccala. Bobby is, with the possible exception of Sylvio, the only really “nice” guy left in the family–he doesn’t hold grudges, he doesn’t do anything on the side, he doesn’t lose his temper and until last night, he didn’t kill people. To see Tony start to lead him on the path towards soullessness is heartbreaking, if unsurprising.

Heartbreak was the prevalent theme of last night’s Entourage premiere, “Less Than 30,” as well–that of Ari Gold, spurned agent. Since Vince fired Ari last summer, Vinny and the boys have shacked up with a new sugar mama, Amanda, played by Carla Gugino of Sin City and “Karen Sisco” fame. Amanda shares Ari’s ballsiness and his intense dislike of competition for a client’s attention and affection, and she doesn’t take kindly to Ari’s attempts to win Vince back–including his promise of hand-delivering Vince the lead role in Medellin, the Pablo Escobar biopic that Ari had blown for him earlier in the season. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual with the other three boys–E is wary of everyone’s clamoring for Vince’s attention, Turtle is put in charge of planning Vince’s birthday with E’s funding and goes overbudget, and Drama tries in vain to get noticed in connection with the billboard for his Ed Burns-produced show “The Five Towns” (which looks a whole lot like “The Black Donnellys”–let’s hope it does a little better, though).

As the old saying goes, episodes of “Entourage” are like pizza and Ramones songs–some might be better than others, but there’s really no such thing as a bad one. The show displays little to no interest in character development, far-reaching story arcs or really anything besides showing you the lives of a group of friends who have it way better than you and your friends do, and by now I doubt anyone still watching the show expects anything more. So did last night show you a bunch of dudes having a better time than you most likely did this weekend? Check. Therefore, a successful “Entourage” episode.

There were some genuine laughs to be had in the Ex-Agent-as-Ex-Girlfriend parallel, though, even if it was at times a little too easy. Ari’s seething about Amanda’s birthday gift to Vince (courtside Lakers tickets, which Ari claims he used to get Vince “‘coz it was a Thursday”) being infinitely inferior to his, E pointing out that Ari was the longest relationship Vince’d had outside of his bros and his mother, and Lloyd attempting to inspire Ari to “go get back his man”–it’s all pretty convincing that in fact, Vince’s relationship with Ari probably was more meaningful, and with greater fallout, than the great majority of his girlfriends. Hopefully the show won’t take it too much further–I can already see the show having Ari do drive-bys at the boys’ commode, making Cusackian tearful declarations of devotion in the rain, etc.–but for now, it worked fine.

So, all in all, not the strongest efforts either show has put up, but definitely way better than 18 and Maladroit. Even though I still think 18 had its moments.


2 Responses to “TV O.D. : Return of the Macks”

  1. […] Original post by Andrew Unterberger […]

  2. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt(Mega spoiler alert, of course). So last night brought with it the return of the two best parts of summer television, The Sopranos (in the second half of its sixth and final season) and Entourage (in the second half of its third of … […]

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