As Entourage, Rescue Me and Men of a Certain Age wrap up, is TV losing its great male friendship series?
If there is an alpha male among alpha males, it must be Type A big shot Hollywood agent Ari Gold on HBO's showbiz comedy Entourage.
Gold has stormed through the offices of his talent agency, lobbing paintballs at the staffers he intended to fire. And when the show's lead character, Vincent Chase, wanted a role, Gold psyched an agent for star Heath Ledger into dropping out so his guy could get the part.
As Entourage begins its final season tonight, Gold will face the ultimate test for a rich, powerful player who seems to have it all.
Losing his wife and children in a painful divorce.
"He makes a real transformation based on the fact that he's losing his wife and family," said actor Jeremy Piven of his character, who learns that his wife of 19 years is sleeping with a famous chef during their separation.
"The character is completely gutted this season and lost," added Piven, who has won three Emmy awards playing the driven, in-your-face Gold. "For seven years he's been incredibly focused on his career; Ari can be a force of nature, but to reveal that he's really human is a great opportunity."
For creator Doug Ellin, Gold's challenge is the crowning moment for a series that has always been more about friendships and personal connections among a group of guys than Hollywood satire — even with guest performances by players ranging from Andrew "Dice" Clay to Avatar director James Cameron.
"I realistically wanted to show what a divorce could be like for a powerful guy in this town," said Ellin, who created the show in 2004, loosely based on the life of executive producer and film star Mark Wahlberg. "I wanted to get back to the show's roots, the friendships from the first season . . . that feel of the guys all really coming together for each other. I always saw it as a show about guys who are lifelong friends with the backdrop of Hollywood." (at left, producer Steve Levinson, Wahlberg and Ellin, l-r)
Entourage isn't alone in its creative exploration of guyness. FX's Rescue Me, which began its final season July 13, soars while tracking the dysfunctional efforts of a house full of firefighters to cope with the aftermath of Sept. 11.
But with both Entourage and Rescue Me headed off into the TV sunset, coupled with TNT's great discourse on male aging, Men of a Certain Age, being officially canceled this month, fans of these real men on TV are stuck with a niggling question:
Where will we still see such finely tuned male relationships like these on the small screen?
Click here to read the rest of my story on the quickly vanishing state of quality dramas featuring male friendships on TV.