Written by: Jennifer Stoy, Special to CC2K
Entourage is a show that earns a lot of flack for all the wrong reasons. The show is what it is: a materialistic man-boy fantasy with a significant number of entertainment industry in-jokes. Yeah, it stinks that Jeremy Piven gets those Emmy nominations regularly, but I rarely see critics flip out about the regular appearance of Mariska Hargitay or Two and a Half Men on those same nomination lists the way they do about Entourage. The show is created by and made for immature man-boys and hipsters who enjoy their industry in-jokes with a side of testosterone irony. Maybe you should spend some time wondering why that audience has so much power in Hollywood instead of all the posturing about the sexism and shallowness in Entourage.
The real and sadly ignored flaw with Entourage has always been and will always be the character of Eric Murphy, better known as E. As the “realistic” character, E gets a lot of screen time and story lines. Yet the writers of Entourage have created a character so cartoonish with Eric Murphy that Johnny Drama and Ari Gold look like Ibsen characters next to him.
That takes some doing.
Why is E such a drag on Entourage? First, he is part of the pernicious cult of the Everyman Who Is Always Right. Everyman characters who are always right despite having less specialized knowledge or experience than designated sidekick characters are about as old as you can get in television drama. One example of this was in Angel; no matter how wrong an action seemed to be, like locking a group of humans in with two vampires in a fit of rage, if Angel did it, it would always prove to be the correct action in the long run. Everyman protagonists suck the wind out of a show because they destroy suspense.
In Entourage, the “serious” plots revolve around whether Vince will Have Integrity by choosing whatever half-cocked indie E has found versus whatever whitebread studio project that Ari wants Vince to star in. It doesn’t matter that Ari is loyal to Vince and his career to the detriment of his own – E will always be right in the end. He even knows before anyone else that Medellin will be a failure and that Vince should extract himself from the director’s grasps, even though the previous film collaboration between the two was excellent.
There is also the problem of E’s ethnicity. On a show primarily full of men of Italian, Jewish, and Asian descent, E is the whitest one of them all. He’s Irish, which in industry shorthand means he is working-class, loyal, and a “good guy” as compared to the elitist and WASPy studio heads who are usually shown as antagonists to Italian-American Vince. Yet in most confrontations between Irish E and Jewish Ari, E will be more correct, despite Ari’s superior experience in finding work for actors.
Another tiresome character trait of E’s is his relative Puritanism; he is eternally reluctant to be promiscuous and often badgers the others about their sexual exploits. But this is where E is especially unforgivable because his wheezes about maturity and romance are both hypocritical and dull.
Instead of direct action with an ex, E becomes a “Nice Guy” and is always shocked and resentful when Sloan points out his past mistakes and is wary to re-engage. In a recent episode, he seemed ready to get passive-aggressive revenge on Sloan by hooking up with an emaciated hottie he has no true interest in.
And this guy is the character the audience is supposed to identify with? The Vincent Chase way of exuberant manwhoring looks blissful in comparison.
Ultimately, Eric Murphy is a moral fable of a character that sounds a sour note not just because he inhabits a Hollywood fantasy chock-full of broad stereotypes, but because few of his actions on the show are especially praiseworthy. Instead of helping Vince, his friend and employer, find paying work, he indulges Vince’s notion of himself as a uniquely honest artist, leading to last season’s angst-fest of an unemployable Vincent Chase moping toward near-irrelevance. Instead of providing natural conflict in the story, he is always right, killing the suspense. Instead of providing a less-sexist alternative to the adolescent fantasy of endless one-night stands with beautiful women, E seems like the guy from this XKCD comic, who wants to be friends because he fears rejection.
Ah, well. Maybe the next time he tangles with Seth Green on the show, a hilarious accident can put him in the funny traction for a season and rid us of his presence for a while.