Say goodbye to Hollywood.
Well, almost. The whip-smart and Emmy-winning HBO show-biz-insider comedy series "Entourage" starts its eighth and final season Sunday at 10:30 p.m., while rumors abound about a possible feature-film spinoff a la HBO's "Sex and the City."
For the time being, a movie figures in, anyway, as just-released-from-rehab actor Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) gets excited about launching another project that those around him aren't quite as sold on: a drama about trapped miners.
His manager and close pal, Eric (Kevin Connolly), now works with former nemesis Scott Lavin (Scott Caan, reprising the role he began before joining CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"); Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) goes into business for himself; and Vince's half-brother and fellow actor, Drama (Kevin Dillon, who moves on to CBS' "How to Be a Gentleman" this fall), does everything possible to reinforce Vince's newly sober state.
And, of course, there is Ari Gold, the ferociously whirling dervish of a talent agent played by Jeremy Piven, who has earned three Emmys for the role. Ari's marriage to the so-called Mrs. Ari (Perrey Reeves) is on the rocks, prompting him to make some moves unexpected even for him -- with mild comfort from Lloyd (Rex Lee), formerly Ari's browbeaten assistant but now an agent in his own right.
"There's definitely a sad undercurrent, because this is really a close group," says "Entourage" creator Doug Ellin, also an executive producer of the show with Mark Wahlberg. "Everyone's a little sad, so everyone stayed a little longer. Nobody was rushing home."
Back to where they started
If the situations in the final "Entourage" season seem familiar, that's exactly what Ellin, who grew up in Merrick, was aiming for. "I was really trying to get back to the roots of season 1. What the show ultimately is about is relationships, friendships and family. We're dealing with some deep stuff with Ari, but with the guys, we're getting back to guys hanging out and trying to look out for each other."
Piven appreciates the depth of his material in the "Entourage" victory lap, such as Ari's uncomfortable steps back into the world of dating, and he's glad for the chance to take a different tack with the frequently short-fused character he has made iconic.
"This year has been like no other," the actor confirms. "You have all the trademarks of Ari in terms of his blustery and incredibly abrasive behavior, but now, his world is turned upside down. The thing that means the most to him is his family, and it's being taken away from him.
"You get to explore this transformation with this guy. He's incredibly vulnerable, and it's what you live for as an actor. If you hang in there and wait eight seasons, it'll happen.
Look who else is back
Also back for the "Entourage" swan song are Emmanuelle Chriqui as Eric's ex-fiancee Sloan; Beverly D'Angelo as Ari's agency partner, Barbara "Babs" Miller; Constance Zimmer as studio executive Dana Gordon; and Rhys Coiro as unpredictable moviemaker Billy Walsh. Guest stars include Christian Slater, Andrew Dice Clay, Johnny Galecki, sports figures Carmelo Anthony and Alex Rodriguez, fashion's Rachel Zoe, and entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
For Caan, returning to "Entourage" meant coming straight off a long and physically demanding first season of "Hawaii Five-0," but he maintains he wouldn't have missed it. "Essentially, it was like a vacation," he says. "CBS was cool about letting me do it," he said, but only for a few episodes. "I actually fought to be able to do the whole season.
"I don't know how to explain it," Caan adds, "other than to say that you're literally happy to have to get up early to go to work on 'Entourage.' I never saw a bad vibe or an argument go down there. They had eight years -- five of them without me -- so maybe there's stuff I didn't get to see, but it's been a really pleasant place to work."
And it could be again. In weighing a possible movie version of "Entourage," Ellin reasons, "If the script could come together, which is on my shoulders, of course I'd love to do it. I'm not really ready for this to end; it's been almost 10 years since I started this, and eight years with the guys and the crew. We've shot big episodes that felt like movies, so it could be interesting to see what we do with this on a bigger screen."
Piven also would welcome such a revisiting, but he's satisfied with where Ari and "Entourage" are ending up for television purposes.
"To even have the chance to play a volatile character, and then get to the other sides of him, is just very rare," he says. "This opportunity is not lost on me. I've been kicking around for a while, so I have enough perspective to know how lucky I am."