September 21, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Television: When Real Life Isn’t Enough

Last year when Mark Wahlberg was nominated for his first Oscar for The Departed, I immediately felt like congratulating Vincent Chase.  HBO’s Entourage follows the ups and downs of the daily life of a Hollywood superstar and the buddies who hang with him.  Vince is loosely based on executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s career, which is why when Wahlberg is nominated for something you can imagine how his own entourage would celebrate it.  Last weekend on Ebert and Roeper, guest critic Robert Wilonsky brought up how Vincent Chase’s new film, Medellin, went to the Cannes Film Festival.  Co-host Richard Roeper suggested that maybe they just talk about Entourage instead of the films they were reviewing.  Such is the strange parallel world we find ourselves in: fake movies, fake movie stars, real movies, real movie stars.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is another such parallel world, with our fake look into Larry David’s real/fake life as Larry David, but with a fake wife and fake situations he finds himself in which are probably based on real situations.  Recently, David and his real-life wife Laurie were separated.  It was rumored that Laurie David was having an affair.  My mind immediately leapt to the fake Larry David and his fake wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines).  Would she cheat on him?  Are they going to show marital problems in the new season (debuting September 9)? Could they make divorce funny?  Will the show still be believable if the real world falls apart but the fake world prevails?

Complicating matters is that real people guest star on the fake shows playing themselves in fake situations.  David Bowie on Extras singing about Ricky Gervais’ character as being the “little fat man with the pug-nosed face” would never happen in real life, but in fake real life anything goes.  The famous and the non-famous brush up against each other all the time.

This isn’t really that new.  The band Spinal Tap played as a band in LA as fake characters who then made a fake documentary about themselves.  The band members are so real to us they could show up anywhere, at any function, and people would accept them as their characters. In fact, it’s often easier for the unfamous to relate to the famous as characters rather than who they really are.

Perhaps these shows, then, and these fake little worlds are a way for the famous to relate to the real world once more, and for the unfamous to get a glimpse into what they imagine the life of a celebrity might be.  In reality, you know it’s far more depressing – Larry David is getting a divorce!  The fake Larry’s wife would never leave Larry!

We who live here in LA encounter famous people all the time. I recently stood in line in front of Tommy Lee at a gas station.  We are trained not to bother them because we’ve grown up around them.  They’re like wild animals you see but pretend not to see for fear of scaring them away.  Perhaps the TV fake world is a way to pierce the membrane a bit.  It’s a way for celebrities to send messages to their fans and to show that they know they are famous and that they know how ridiculous it all is (it really is all very ridiculous when you think about it). 

I hope that we get more real fake worlds on TV – not reality shows where we follow people around in their lives, but cleverly written shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage that function as a running commentary on the imagined life of celebrities.  We need it the way vodka needs vermouth to cut the intensity and add flavor. 

Entourage just aired its season finale.  Curb Your Enthusiasm returns September 9 on HBO.

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