Entourage 7.1 – Stunted

For anyone that read my preview of the new season, you probably weren’t too surprised by the events that took place in tonight’s premiere, but I still enjoyed the episode a lot and think that it’s a strong start to what could be another great year for the series. With Eric more or less taking a backseat this week, the bulk of the episode revolved around Vince on the set of his new action film. And if you thought Vernon, the fictional German director of “Smokejumpers,” was intimidating, wait until you get a load of real-life actor/director Nick Cassavetes. Worried that the audience will know he’s cheating by using stunt doubles for Vince, Nick begs him to do an upcoming car chase sequence himself, and he agrees. That is, only because he doesn’t want Nick to think he’s a pussy, but the minute that Nick leaves his side, Vince goes running to Eric and Ari for help in breaking his promise without Nick knowing it was him who spurred them on.

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Ari has more important things going on in his life as the new head of the biggest agency in the world. He’s got big plans for the company, including a possible deal with the NFL regarding the league’s TV rights, and yet instead of sending someone else to get their hands dirty (much to the annoyance of Mrs. Ari), he visits the set to speak with Nick himself. It doesn’t quite go as planned, however, after he threatens Nick to get the studio involved when he learns that they haven’t been insured for the stunt because he hasn’t told them about it. Nick threatens Ari to keep his mouth shut, and then delivers a little payback later on by taking a full-page ad out in Variety with a picture of Ari in drag and the following text below it: “Ari Gold. My Friend, My Agent, My Bitch.” Has Ari Gold finally met his match? Apparently, because I don’t think we’ve ever seen him step down from a challenge before – and that includes the aforementioned “Smokejumpers” director, whom Drama once referred to as a “cocksucking Nazi bastard.”

Nick piles on the pressure, though, and Vince decides to do the stunt, which doesn’t go as planned when the car fails to brake properly after jumping off a ramp through a gauntlet of pyrotechnics. Vince emerges from the wreck unharmed, and though he appears to be a little shaken at first, once he realizes that he’s okay, he wants to go again. The look on his face seems to say otherwise, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Vince’s big storyline this season involved him becoming a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie. It would definitely be an improvement from previous years, as Vince tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to character development.

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Greetings to the New Season: The CW – UPDATED

And so we come to the last of the big network upfronts…if, that is, you consider The CW to be a big network. I’m not saying I don’t, you understand. I just mean that there are still some people out there who haven’t yet accepted Fox as being a real network, so you can only imagine what they think of The CW.

But I digress.

Sort of.

It probably is worth noting that, unlike ABC, CBS, NBC, and, yes, even Fox, The CW held their upfront without providing photos, let alone videos, to accompany their new fall series…and since there are only two of them, you’d think they could’ve at least managed to throw together logos for them to serve as preliminary artwork. Instead, I’m stuck falling back on the tried and true network logo.

Yawn.

Okay, sorry, that really was a digression…and, as it turned out, a mostly unnecessary one, since the photos had appeared on The CW’s press site by 10:30 AM EST. Still, that was well after the press release about the fall schedule went out…a press release which, FYI, required two revisions due to various accidental omissions. I’m just saying.

Anyway, on with the show(s)…

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: 90210

9 – 10 PM: Gossip Girl

TUESDAY

8 – 9 PM: One Tree Hill

9 – 10 PM: Life Unexpected

WEDNESDAY

8 – 9 PM: America’s Next Top Model

9 – 10 PM: Hellcats: a coming-of-age story about Marti Perkins, a young, pre-law student at Lancer University in Memphis, Tennessee. Marti is cool, hip and alt, but her world flips upside down, literally and figuratively, when she loses her scholarship, and realizes the only way she can stay in school is by reigniting her dormant teen gymnastic skills to win a place on Lancer’s legendary cheerleading team, The Hellcats. Against her every instinct, Marti goes for it and makes the squad, and is thrust into a world of camaraderie, backstabbing and the intersection of sports, backroom academia and big money.

Marti’s new roommate, Savannah Monroe, a petite, peppy Texan, is among the diverse cast of athletes, undergrads, family and friends, all set on the sprawling campus of a powerhouse college football program in the deep South. The series stars Aly Michalka as Marti Perkins, Ashley Tisdale as Savannah Monroe, Heather Hemmens as Alice Verdura, Robbie Jones as Lewis Flynn, Matt Barr as Dan Patch, with Sharon Leal as Vanessa Lodge and Gail O’Grady as Wanda Perkins. “Hellcats” is executive produced by Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”), and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”). The pilot was directed by Arkush.

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Entourage 6.10 – Berried Alive

Consider this just another case of art imitating life, but I couldn’t help but think about T.R. Knight’s recent decision to leave “Grey’s Anatomy” during tonight’s episode. Drama has been put through the wringer ever since his altercation with Dan Coakley, and now that his character on “Five Towns” looks to be headed for Comaville, his screen time is sure to be reduced. Just like Knight, Drama is more concerned with the work than the paycheck, and when he learns that the producer of the new “Melrose Place” has him in mind for a role, he goes to Lloyd for help getting out of his contract.

What Drama doesn’t realize is that Lloyd has just left Ari for Adam Davies. Ari, meanwhile, has to find out about the betrayal from Vince, and in an attempt to spite Lloyd, he personally goes to Coakley to help out Drama and entice him to stay at the agency as one of his clients. It works at first, but when Lloyd tries to win back his only client with, I must admit, a damn good speech, Drama discovers where his best bet lies. Ari isn’t even mad about it since he wouldn’t have the time to properly invest in Drama’s career anyway, but it will be curious to see how far they take this new rivalry. I can’t imagine Lloyd will be gone for too long, but they’ll definitely drag it out until either the season finale or next season’s premiere. Drama, on the other hand, is taking a big risk by leaving “Five Towns,” and it would seem almost too easy if he did get the gig. Then again, maybe he’ll be able to win over the network by proving that he really can act – at least, when compared to the standards of other likeminded shows on The CW.

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While Drama ponders a career move, Eric decides to confront Ashley about why she’s been giving him the cold shoulder. As expected, it all boils down to her trust issues. When Eric laughs off the most recent incident involving a misunderstanding about Vince’s alias (check out last week’s post if you’re confused), she decides that if they’re going to stay together, he has to promise that he won’t screw Brittany the Assistant and give her the freedom to read his e-mails. Eric agrees at first, but after conferring with a few sources and realizing that Ashley may be crazy, he decides to break it off. As it turns out, Ashley is a little nuts (as evidenced by her mini breakdown in the middle of a restaurant), and it’s probably smart for Eric to get rid of her before things get worse. It’s a shame, because Alexis Dziena is pretty easy on the eyes. Then again, Kate Mara isn’t too bad herself, and we all know Sloan will be back before long.

Turtle’s current predicament might seem just as cut and dry, but he’s certainly making it more complicated than it needs to be. When Jamie Lynn admits to being jealous about his new admirer (which, for the record, I find totally ridiculous), Turtle begins second guessing his ability to stay loyal. While I understand where Turtle’s coming from in that this is the first time he’s ever had one woman interested in him, let alone two, it’s absurd to think that any sorority girl would trump Jamie Lynn Sigler. For starters, she’s obviously only interested in him because he’s famous (Best line of the night: “Is that Vincent Chase? Who are you?”), and second, he’s already dating Meadow freaking Soprano. Granted, her new job offer is certainly going to throw a wrench into their relationship, but if given the choice between Jamie Lynn and the new girl, is there even any doubt as to who he should pick? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  

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The CW: What’s New for Fall 2009

Melrose Place (Tues., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)

Starring: Laura Leighton, Shaun Sipos, Thomas Calabro, Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz
Producers: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (“Smallville”)
Network’s Description: In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck. Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini. Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms, once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick. After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung, a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller, an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond, a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster, has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.
The Buzz: There hasn’t been nearly as much excitement about this reboot as there was for “90210.” After watching the pilot, there appears to be good reason for that.
Pilot Highlight: The temptation is to say either the discovery of the body or the discovery of who David’s father is, but by the time the show premieres, it’s a fair bet that both pieces of information won’t be nearly as much of a surprise for you as they were for me. As such, let’s go with the closing moment, when we’re handed a shot which implies that we’re looking at the murderer.
Bottom Line: The characters and scenarios feel clichéd, and as it stands right now, the connections to the original series seem tenuous at best. You can appreciate The CW’s desire to have lightning strike twice, but this just couldn’t feel more rushed…or unnecessary.

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TCA Tour: The CW Executive Session

Dawn Ostroff, President of Entertainment for The CW, just took the stage for her executive session, during which time she had these things to say:

* After a year which found some pretty impressive increases in the number of young women viewers (77 percent on Mondays, 26 percent on Tuesdays), they’re going to try and build on that momentum and make their schedule more cohesive. They’re viewing themselves less as a network and more as a magazine, where people come to see what’s going on in the world. That perhaps would explain why I always feel so horribly out of touch whenever I tune in.

* The CW has stepped away from sitcoms at the moment because they can’t seem to find any which are “loud enough or noisy enough to get the attention that we get from our drama and reality shows.” In fact, they didn’t have a single sitcom in the running this season.

* Why the move of “Smallville” to Friday nights? “We felt it was the best way to open up the night,” she said, since Fridays had previously been more of a standalone night for the network. Is this the last season for the show? “I hope it isn’t. Zod is going to be the big villain this season, and Clark has to save the world, or we’re all going to be kneeling before Zod.” She says the cast and producers are excited, and she has high hopes that the show will stay on the air for awhile.

* What about seeing Michael Rosenbaum return as Lex Luthor, since he’s still talked about constantly? “I don’t know if we really had a conversation with Michael, but I think the talk was to keep the character alive and make his presence felt.” She I don’t know if (a return) will happen this season.”

* Similarly, the hope is that “Supernatural” will also continue. “Eric Kripke has done a great job creatively, and the show’s gotten better every year.”

* What does she say to a 35-year-old guy who wants to know what he can find on the network? Her response was to reel off most of The CW’s lineup and suggest that guys watch almost all of them, even “America’s Next Top Model,” even if they don’t necessarily want to admit it. But with that said, she also defended their decision to be specific about the demographic they’re courting…which is good, because, wow, talk about a total cop-out of an answer. (A 35-year-old guy can find something to watch anywhere if he doesn’t want to admit that he watches it!)

* The much-hyped “Gossip Girl” spin-off that never got off the group has now officially been given the status of “not likely.”

* “Body Politic,” the pilot which took a look at Washington politics through the eyes of up-and-coming staffers, is officially dead.

* How about a “90210” crossover? “Technically, we could do that,” she said, “because both shows are shot in L.A. I think down the road, after ‘Melrose’ gets up and running, we would consider that. It would be a big event for us.”

* As far as Mischa Barton’s health, the only real concern was that she was ready for production…and she was. “We’re happy that she’s better,” said Ostroff, “and what went on in her personal life is her business.” A question about the fact that she looks heavier in current photos than she did in the original presentation we saw for “The Beautiful Life,” asked in the context about whether re-shoots would be required, was met simply with assurances that “she looks great.”

  

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