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Entourage: Thinly Veiled Mary J. Blige Infomercial

There was a time when Sunday was Entourage night.  Forget the DVR.  We watched it live.  The next day neighbors dissected the latest episode, hilariously comparing their favorite scenes.

Entourage is deliciously naughty.  The boys smoke a lot of dope.  Sometimes they use a bong and sometimes they roll their own.   I’ve never seen them wear seatbelts.  They’re bad, bad role models and that’s why we love them. 

Unfortunately, the forward momentum has slowed this season, the series’ fourth.  Some Sundays I actually forgot to watch or set the DVR and found myself playing catchup on on-demand, a sure sign that my interest was waning.

Two Sundays ago, the series hit a low point when a Mary J. Blige cameo was written as a thinly veiled infomercial for the singer.

I actually cringed while screening the episode, something that’s never happened before.

I was hooked on Entourage early on, by the fifth episode.  When a marijuana shortage hits the west coast, Vinny’s vegan fling introduces him to a supplier - a marijuana growing Maharishi.  It took me a couple of minutes to identify the actor hidden behind the beard but a peek at the lips finally gave it away - Val Kilmer

My favorite episode to date is still "Exodus," when Ari is manhandled by none other than Lloyd, his gay assistant played by Rex Lee.   Lee is one of the few actors in the series who can hold his own against Jeremy Piven’s madcap energy and, occasionally, Lee steals the scene.

An attempted take-over of the agency ends badly for Ari but Lloyd comes to the rescue in his 2003 tricked-out Hyundai Tiburon and tells him to snap out of it.   (Lloyd and his much-discussed Hyundai are the inspiration behind Motorqueer.)

How can you not love Lloyd? 

And last but not least: "Aquamom." James Woods parodies his  tantrum-throwing, cradle-robbing self and shows up with his barely legal, real (soon to be dumped) girlfriend at Vince’s house, demanding tickets to the Aquaman premiere.  Woods was brilliantly shameless and his cameo still stands out above all others.

These days, the boys random hook-up style is starting to feel a little meanspirited and cheap.  The cameos are stale and some, like Stephen Gaghan’s brief appearance, were little more than walk-ons.  The Medellin story line - the movie within a television series in which Vince is cast in an indie film as Pablo Escobar - has been uneven.

(Nevertheless , if you missed the two minute fake trailer for the Medellin film, it’s still available via On-Demand or on youtube.  The trailer is a spot on spoof, complete with the famous deep-voiced narration: "Behind the murder!  Behind the greed!…Was the man!")

It’s not unusual for a television series to hit the doldrums in the fourth season but last week the series positively tanked when the Mary J. Blige cameo turned into a thinly veiled infomercial for the singer.  And poor Lloyd got stuck delivering an embarrassingly awkward line about Blige’s "six Grammys. "

No infomercial would be complete without the music behind the end credits:  Blige’s "Grown Woman Complex."

And Ari Gold is over-doing the wild gesticulating.  Ari Gold is becoming a caricature of Ari Gold.

I’m not sure if the Mary J. Blige misfire was due to inept writing, if perhaps Blige’s peeps made demands in exchange for her brief appearance or…whatever.   But it was an Entourage nadir.

Still, any Sunday night spent with Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama -  mess sergeant to the boys and strutting narcissist -  is a good night of television.  Dillon finally landed an Emmy nom. this year as best supporting actor (comedy).  We wish him godspeed at the Emmys because he deserves the win.

Now that Entourage has finally bottomed out, perhaps the writers will be forced to re-discover what made the show so much fun in the first place - a no-holds barred mockumentary of Hollywood.  We can find cotton-candy adulation of Mary J. Blige on any number of her fan blogs.

I miss the show’s former brilliance.  But I’m not giving up.  No way.  I look forward bigger and better things season five in hopes that Doug Ellin and crew will return to their regularly schedule skewering of the entertainment biz.  (Nevertheless, Ellin’s attention may be bifurcated.  His untitled project - Wall Street Meets Entourage comedy - was sold to HBO.)