June 4, 2008 Jill

One of my favourite things about Entourage‘s fourth season is the way it is both arced and episodic.

The season starts on location during the shooting of Medellin, starring Vince and produced by E. The season ends with the premier of the film in Cannes. During all twelve episodes of the season the stakes are high: if the film is great, Vince’s career is on track and everyone’s well being is assured.

Despite the clear and defining arc, each episode in the season stands alone as a complete and satisfying piece of entertainment. You don’t need to follow the whole the arc to enjoy an episode. But you want to see them all because you want to find out how it will turn out.

That’s the beauty of an arc. It pushes you forward into the story, makes you want to see the next episode. It gives a series an addictive quality and moving characters through a longer story is a satisfying exercise for a writer.

And the beauty of an unarced show is that you can drop in any time in the season and get a hit of entertainment. That’s part of the success of shows like Law and Order, CSI and most sit coms whereas shows like Gossip Girl, Damages and Intelligence don’t welcome the casual viewer.

Entourage manages to capture the best of both worlds. I just worked my way through the fourth season in two days (ignore the dark circles under my eyes). I couldn’t stop watching. When an episode would end, I wanted to roll right into the next. That’s, in part, the arc at work. Another part is the great writing.

I hope when showrunner Doug Ellin speaks at the Banff Television Festival, he addresses the topic of arc vs episodic. According to eonline, Ellin said that

they don’t cement storylines or story arcs ahead of time. They just go with the flow: “Each episode is written, we see [how it plays out] and then figure out what would naturally happen next.”

Ellin, who created the series, wrote the first and last episodes of the fourth season and co-wrote two other episodes. He has a standup comedy background and worked on the series “Life with Bonnie”.