like an entourage – messy, aimlessly, shark-like, looking for trouble and
always finding it. The next great HBO series screeches up next to you and
dares you to jump in the ride.
According to this savvy
show, it seems that The New Hollywood is nothing new at all. Times may have
changed, but sex and power drives have not. The clichés of making it in The
Big Orange are put through the juicer here, and they come out freshly
squeezed and deliciously reconstituted. Essentially, it’s nothing we haven’t
seen before, yet we get to process it through hipper, more observant eyes.
We cheer on four ordinary
guys – the new Beverly Hillbillies – as they snake their way through
LaLa Land. Living in a sprawling mansion that they convert into a frat house
(and probably costs a million times as much as the homes they grew up in
back in Queens), the four lads’ back story hangs over every episode. We
sense their modest beginnings, and knowing it sharpens the conflict and
enriches the tone.
Vincent Chase (Adrian
Grenier) gets thrown into the Hollywood machine and becomes an overnight
sensation – the pretty boy of the moment in American multiplexes. He
generously invites his two friends from back East and his struggling-actor
brother to share in the blast off as his star begins to rise.
Chase knows deep down that
it’s not going to last, and he plans to savor every moment of his fifteen
minutes of fame. He asks his best friend, Eric (Kevin Connolly), to act as
his manager. Before this huge promotion, the only thing Eric ever managed
was a local Sbarro restaurant.
Trying not to look like a
deer in the headlights, Eric is thrown into the mega-aggressive world of
filmdom’s big dealings. Of course, he is not the least bit prepared,
especially for the centrifugal force that is Chase’s super agent, Ari Gold,
played with relish by Jeremy Piven.
Ari has the humiliating,
humbling task of consistently having to go through Eric to get an audience
with the very star he represents. An envious Ari tells Eric, “The point is
that [Chase] is an insecure fuck, like all
beautiful-but-handed-everything-on-a-silver-platter people. He doesn’t trust
anyone in the world but you. You’ve been born into royalty, baby. You know
that you just gotta be thankful and wear the crown.”
A grudging respect forms
between agent and manager as Eric learns how to play with the big boys and
not back down, no matter how intimidating it can be swimming with the
What feels too sitcom-y on
paper rises way above when translated to visual image, thanks to some very
heartfelt performances and competent actors who are extremely careful not to
let a good thing sink. They very likely may even be working from personal
experience, since this is a show about show business. Either way, they nail
Stealing the show, as
always, is Kevin Dillon as actor Johnny Drama. Drama is actually Vincent’s
older brother, who was the first in the family to get a tiny taste of fame
about ten years back (on an obscure series on The Sci-Fi Channel).
In a bold career move that
may mirror Dillon’s own real-life circumstance, he plays – with lines around
his eyes – an aging ne’er do well who has to settle for riding on the
coattails of his younger sibling’s wild ascent. However, Vincent never rubs
it in Drama’s face or consciously makes him feel shitty. Vincent is
respectful and careful; he often tries to give Drama’s career a boost
whenever he can.
Vincent Chase often comes
off as an enigma – an almost zen-like creature (we learn that he never even
got his driver’s license). Drama,
on the other hand, carries the real flesh and blood,
the true emotion and the obvious frustration, perhaps even the real talent
in the family. That’s show biz.
Drama’s story is just that
– drama – and tragically so. Although he is not as dumb as we immediately
guess, he telegraphs his misfortune episode by episode. “When I played that
cokehead stoolie on Miami Vice,” he remembers, “Don Johnson – Don
Johnson – said, ‘nice job, kid.’ Or was it the black guy?”
Unlike Sex and the City,
Entourage feels real and unscripted, and it lacks the pretentiousness
that Sex kept slipping into. This is with good reason: their
co-executive producer is Larry Charles of Seinfeld fame and who,
along with co-producer Doug Ellin, provide a smooth, enthusiastic commentary
track. Even Larry David stops by to have a Curb-Your-Enthusiasm-like
trademarked awkward confrontation with Johnny Drama.
Debi Mazar, still trying
to escape the too-easy Fran Drescher comparison, demands attention as a
street-wise publicist (when she winces, it’s classic). Also winning
Kilmer and Gary Busey, playing assorted nuts.
For The Kids, there is an
odd but captivating soundtrack mix of well-chosen classic rock and rap, and
when it plays, it’s party time.
Vincent, who is only
separated from his buddies by his face, continues to soak it up, even going
as far as to insist on starring in an independent movie project that may
negatively influence his budding career.
Still, it’s all the same
to him. He sums it up as he says to his buddy, “Look where we are! Did you
ever think we would have this? Enjoy it. Have fun!”
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted:
May 9, 2005.