TV | April 29, 2021 4:05 pm

No, It’s Not “PC Culture” That Hurt the Legacy of “Entourage”

Perhaps creator Doug Ellin has the two cast members accused of sexual assault to blame for that instead?

The cast of Entourage
Is it possible this show was just bad?

HBO is largely responsible for jump-starting what many critics like to refer to as the “Golden Age of Television,” but some of its earlier offerings like Sex and the City or Entourage have aged pretty poorly. Doug Ellin, creator of the latter, gave an interview recently where he blamed HBO for not promoting the show in recent years and accusing them of caving to the “wave of righteous PC culture” that has led to backlash over the series.

“I don’t think Entourage was this vulgar boy-fest that people like to paint it as now,” Ellin said. “When we came out, the New York Times said we were the smartest show on television! If we did reboot the show, it’s not that I would make it any more PC, but I would write it to the best of my abilities to reflect the reality of the world right now.”

Entourage, which originally aired on HBO between 2004 and 2011, has been criticized for the misogynistic way it depicted women and the ways it glamorized all the worst aspects of Hollywood life. Since it went off the air , we’ve been confronted with all the ways in which industry big-wigs like the fictional Ari Gold abuse their power, thanks to high-profile allegations against Harvey Weinstein and, most recently, Scott Rudin. It makes sense that a show that romanticizes that kind of behavior wouldn’t land the same way today that it did in 2004. But Ellin claims the show was never meant to be an endorsement.

“At the time, it was an extremely realistic depiction of this town, but what the show was about was friendship and loyalty and family,” he said. “Those are the things that I hope people will take away from it long after the rest quiets down. I think there’s an overcorrection that happened, and hopefully we’ll get to a place where there’s equality for everybody, but there’s also room for people to create their art and not be judged so harshly.”

Ellin also took issue with HBO for “hiding” Entourage by not featuring it prominently on its streaming platforms and for not giving him another show. “For a while, we were hiding in, like, ‘wish-fulfillment shows,’” he said. “We were nominated for the Emmys or the Golden Globes almost every single year, so to not put us on the must-see comedy list was pretty bizarre.”

“I did a pilot with Michael Imperioli, Michael Rappaport and Ed Burns that [HBO] passed on, which I’ll never forgive them for,” he continued. “Whether they thought it was good or not, I earned my chance to have a second shot, and they put some other pretty crappy shows on [instead].”

That is, of course, insane. No one is entitled to have their own TV show whether it’s “good or not,” and if Ellin wanted HBO to pick his up, perhaps he should have made a better pilot. But beyond that, even when you set aside the idea that Entourage is extremely dated (which, to be clear, it is), HBO has a perfectly good reason to shy away from promoting the show these days: two out of its five main actors have been accused of sexual assault and/or rape. In 2017 and 2018, Jeremy Piven was accused of sexual assault by eight different women, including an advertising executive who claimed that in 2003 he attacked her and “exposed his genitals, held her hands down and began rubbing against her body until he ejaculated,” and actress Cassidy Freeman, who accused Piven of preying on her when she was “far too young.” Last year, Kevin Connolly was accused by costume designer Gracie Cox, who claimed he raped her at a 2005 wrap party for The Gardener of Eden.

This isn’t complicated. HBO understands what a bad look it would be to actively promote a show in which two actors who have been accused of sex crimes by coworkers in real life (several of the women who accused Piven were extras on projects of his) portray characters who objectify women and generally embody the worst of stereotypically predatory “Hollywood” behavior. But even if it wasn’t a case of life imitating art or vice versa, HBO is still wise to distance itself from accusations like that; there’s a reason we don’t see reruns of The Cosby Show anymore. And yet Ellin somehow can’t wrap his mind around that, likening his situation instead to the misdeeds of Tony Soprano.

“Nobody says that about The Sopranos, where they murder people, that maybe we should readdress whether murdering people on TV is OK,” he said. “I don’t want to sound obnoxious or that I’m looking at Entourage as high art, but it was a pretty accurate portrayal of how people [acted] at that time in Hollywood.”

The big difference, of course, is that The Sopranos was obviously critical of its characters, presenting them as deeply flawed, troubled individuals and painting their actions as grisly atrocities instead of glamorizing their behavior. And if James Gandolfini was ever accused of being a murderer in real life, we’re willing to be it’d be a different story.