HBO continues to impress with its Sunday night lineup. By maintaining a constantly rotating stable of fine comedy and drama—“The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “Six Feet Under,” “Carnivale,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Deadwood”—the network is able to keep viewers glued to the day, even if the top shows are canceled (“Sex ...”) or on painfully extended hiatus (“Sopranos”). The newest show to hit HBO's Sunday Night “must see TV” slate is the Hollywood exposé “Entourage.”
Produced by actor Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, Planet of the Apes) and created by Doug Ellin (“Life with Bonnie”), the show is an amusing, eye-opening look behind the scenes of hip young Hollywood. It's always a fine line between intriguing and self-indulgent when film and television makers explore their own art. “Entourage” succeeds, however, because its purpose is neither to mock or to exalt. “Entourage” simply shows us what it's like to be a hot young actor, juggling talk shows and dodging paparazzi.
The show concentrates on four best friends from Queens. Adrian Grenier (Drive Me Crazy) stars as Vince, a young actor who moves to Hollywood and suddenly becomes the flavor of the month. Keeping him grounded (or not, as the case may be) in this vapid land are his so-called “entourage,” Eric (Kevin Connolly, Antwone Fisher), Drama (Kevin Dillon, The Doors) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrarra, “Grounded for Life”). Kevin is the smart, loyal but in-over-his-head best pal; Drama is the charismatic wannabe B-movie actor; Turtle is the easygoing party boy.
The show chronicles Vince's attempts to make it big in Tinseltown, but also to “keep it real” with the help of his pals. Quickly, we see how diametrically opposed these two goals are. Vince's shark of an agent (Jeremy Piven in a great role) is poised to push Vince into Hollywood's A-list by any means necessary, but he finds himself at odds with Vince's “manager” Eric, who wants his friend to maintain some kind of integrity. Drama, meanwhile, starts growing a little jealous of Vince's easy fame. (Teaming up in acting class with David Faustino for a “gender-reversal” version of The Vagina Monologues doesn't seem like the best path to stardom, though.) And Turtle, well, he just wants to spend Vince's money and get laid. (Watching him use Vince's outrageously expensive new Rolls Royce as a tool of seduction is a wonderful exposé of Hollywood vanity.)
Our four main protagonists aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. There's a lurking fear that Vince will soon become a breakout star, leaving his old pals behind in the gutter. There's also the possibility that one of them (through scandal or ineptitude) will cost him dearly. But, for now, there's a great vibe of camaraderie among the boys, making this whole Hollywood trip seem like some grand adventure. (As when the boys take time out of trolling for chicks at an industry party to simply marvel at the lights of H'wood.) Cameo appearances by real stars (Wahlberg, Jessica Alba, David Faustino, Jimmy Kimmel) give the show a very real, very topical feel. It's kind of like “Access Hollywood,” only funnier, more dramatic and blissfully devoid of Billy Bush.