Entourage Seasons One and Two
Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Debi Mazar, Jeremy Piven
Series Creator: Doug Ellin
Entourage is the latest HBO show to garner buzz and acclaim, loosely based on the Hollywood experiences of executive producer Mark Wahlberg. The show follows up and coming movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his crew of friends that form his entourage as they traverse through Hollywood, living it up on Vincent's newfound fame and fortune.
The entourage is made up of Vincent's childhood friend Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), who is the most sensible and conscientious of the group, and winds up becoming Vince's manager as a result. Kevin Dillon plays Johnny "Drama" Chase, Vince's older brother who was once a TV star and now is a washed-up celebrity living off his residual cheques and his brother's fame. This is amusing not only because Mark Wahlberg's older brother Donnie used to enjoy fame as a member of the New Kids on the Block, but also because Kevin Dillon is the less famous, less successful older brother of actor Matt Dillon, so he's pretty familiar with what his character is going through. Rounding out the crew is Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), also a childhood friend of Vince and Eric, who has no qualms about living off of Vince's scraps, serving as a gopher and all-around comic relief.
On one hand, the show is yet another Hollywood insider show filled with celebrity guest stars doing cameo roles as themselves, poking fun of themselves. It attempts to give an inside look at the industry, with contract negotiations and wild parties being constant events in the show. However, Entourage isn't just another jaded look at Hollywood, but rather is the story of four buddies from Queens in their twenties (well, all but Drama, who is indeterminably older than the other three) having the time of their lives living off the perks that Vince's fame brings with it. Gifts and groupies abound for these guys, who are well aware of how lucky they are to be enjoying their time with it all. Basically, imagine what the guys in Swingers would be like if one of them made it big, and you get a feel for this show.
Their life is very appealing, making each half hour episode a fun ride of escapist thrills. They do the sort of things most of us would were we in their position, and manage to come off as likable and appealing while doing it. It's hard to begrudge the boys their fun, instead the audience just lives vicariously through them. It helps that they spend most of their time giving one another a hard time, the way only guys can with their buddies. Also, the show wisely centres on Eric, the everyman of the cast who softens the edges of the other guys. Otherwise, the show could easily devolve into frat boy shenanigans.
While Kevin Connolly does an excellent job as Eric, the highlight of each and every show is the absolutely brilliant comedic stylings of Jeremy Piven as Vince's sleazy agent Arie Gold. The shit that comes out of the guy's mouth is as hilarious as it is crude. There is no scene in which Arie is in that Piven doesn't steal. It is truly a tour de force performance by Piven, one that has earned him an Emmy nomination as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
All in all, the show is highly addictive, fun, and fast-paced. The cast is uniformly excellent, the writing sharp, the world they inhabit appealing, and even the cameos work (a small sampling of actors playing themselves include Wahlberg, Jessica Alba, Mandy Moore, Jamie Pressly, Bob Saget, Gary Busey, Larry David, Scarlett Johansson, James Cameron, Pauly Shore, Richard Schiff, and others). Season one is currently available on DVD, and at 8 episodes it is an easily digestible and affordable size to give a try. Season two was extended to 14 episodes, and manages to improve on the first. It is not yet available on DVD, since it just finished airing in early September, but is available elsewhere for the net savvy. I highly recommend the series, which stands alongside Scrubs and Arrested Development as one of the funniest shows on television.